Demolition Man is a 1993 action/science-fiction/comedy movie in which Sylvester Stallone plays loose cannon policeman John Spartan, who is dedicated to capturing L.A. warlord Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes), causing havoc and property destruction each time they face off. This earns Spartan the nickname "Demolition Man". Their final confrontation goes a little too far, resulting in the deaths of several dozen innocents. Though Phoenix is finally snared in the chaos, both men are condemned to cryonic prison.
Flash forward 36 years to the year 2032. Thawed out for a parole hearing, Phoenix is mysteriously able to escape from the ice prison and set loose in "San Angeles", a brave new world free of guns, crime, bodily contact, and anything that can possibly offend anyone, ruled by the seemingly benevolent savior Dr. Raymond Cocteau. The only thing the city authorities ever had to deal with are the Scraps, a gang of vandals led by Edgar Friendly who do no worse than spray-paint buildings or steal food.
So when Phoenix goes on a killing spree, spreading mayhem and destruction where he walks, nobody knows what to do. Phoenix's old-school brutality is unheard of by the wimpy police force of the future, and soon the entire city is at his mercy. Figuring they need an old school police officer to deal with an old school thug, the SAPD thaws out Spartan. Needless to say, he finds himself disgusted with how sanitized the future is, and expresses discontent with the ways of this new society, but is still willing to work with them to catch his nemesis.
The rest of the film is a blend of Fish out of Temporal Water satirical comedy exploring the deep flaws hiding under the surface of this supposedly utopian society, and gun-toting action-adventure, which, as the title would indicate, results in a city-wide insurance nightmare. Spartan wouldn't have it any other way.
Demolition Man provides examples of:
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Edgar Friendly's lair is located in the San Angeles sewers. Justified because the "Big One of 2010" sank the old Los Angeles and San Angeles was built on top of it.
- Actor Allusion:
- Spartan's (i.e. Stallone's) expression on hearing the phrase "President Schwarzenegger".
- When Spartan takes a gun off a mannequin at the museum he calls it Rambo.John Spartan: Excuse me, Rambo, I need to borrow this.
- Edgar Friendly's rant in the film is almost identical to the rant in the middle of Denis Leary's "Asshole".
- Adam Westing: Edgar Friendly basically is Denis Leary in a dirty coat.
- Affectionate Parody: A subtle one of 80's sci-fi action movies.
- Ambiguous Situation: The city is apparently Dr. Cocteau's personal fiefdom, but we get no indication of what the rest of the world is like or whether his influence reaches beyond that.
- Americasia: Many San Angelinos are seen in robes and pinned haircuts. Phoenix even mocks a group of schoolchildren dressed this way at one point.
- Anarcho-Tyranny: Dr. Cocteau initially unfroze super criminal Simon Phoenix after he'd been brainwashed to kill Edgar Friendly, a resistance leader against his benevolent despotism. Once Phoenix wreaks havoc in the process, he decides this is great as it will instill further fear in his people and permit him to be even more totalitarian so he can shape them into a "utopia". He had explicitly enabled Phoenix to escape and didn't stop him from injuring people or killing them on the way to his target already. This soon bites him in the ass when Phoenix unfreezes more criminals, then has Cocteau killed.
- Arch-Enemy: John Spartan and Simon Phoenix are this to each other.
- Artistic License Biology: The cryoprison uses a system wherein electrical impulses keep muscles from atrophy while prisoners are frozen. However, atrophy is caused by the body intentionally reducing the mass of unused muscles in order to improve efficiency. While cryonically frozen, atrophy would not occur, so there would be no need to stimulate the muscles. This is doubly egregious when you also consider that electro-stimulation would only prevent atrophy if the body's standard metabolic processes were actively maintaining the stimulated muscles. Since the cons are cryonically frozen, this wouldn't happen either.
- Artistic License Gun Safety: The museum has displays filled with working guns, ammo for the guns, a loaded cannon that is in no way kept from being used, and laughably useless security in the form of glass that isn't even bulletproof. The lockdown doors might have been immune to small arms, but that didn't stop the cannon. Arguably invoked, as San Angeles is so pacifistic that the mere idea of stealing these guns is unthinkable to someone of that time. Only a psycho like Phoenix would actually go as far as to steal them.
- Ascetic Aesthetic: The city of San Angeles has less charm than a hospital waiting room, and physical contact between citizens has become an archaic practice, replacing "fluid exchanges" like kissing and intercourse with VR simulations.
- Ask a Stupid Question...: A reporter is tactless enough to ask Spartan how he can feel justified in destroying a mall worth far more than the ransom of the hostage being held inside, right in front of said hostage — who happens to be a little girl. Her response: "Fuck you, lady!" (earning a comment from Spartan of "Good answer!").
- Asskicking Equals Authority: Simon Phoenix's plan. Possibly justified, since Might Makes Right is a pretty easy system to establish if you're ruling over a city full of Actual Pacifists where nobody is capable of stopping you.
- A-Team Firing: Used abundantly by both Phoenix and Spartan, but most notably when Phoenix fires an automatic weapon at Spartan while he's confined in a vise, and still doesn't hit him — although that may have been deliberate, to prolong Spartan's torment. This does backfire, though; Phoenix empties the magazine and finds himself having to devise an alternative method of killing Spartan.
- Automated Automobiles: All 2030s vehicles have autopilots, though manual is still an option. It becomes a plot point when Huxley is the only one present that can drive a stick-shift (but not well) because she watches a lot of old movies. It also leads to a darkly funny Oh, Crap! moment when the police cruiser John is riding (at the moment) takes damage while pursuing Phoenix; the autopilot engages and refuses to disengage even though he can clearly see that it's over a dozen seconds away from crashing if it won't turn or brake. Luckily, the car's safety features are better than the autopilot.
- Awesome Mc Coolname: John Spartan and Simon Phoenix.
- Badass Boast: "You're gonna regret this for the rest of your life... both seconds of it!"
- Badass Longcoat: Edgar Friendly's is very long and quite badass.
- Bad Future: Los Angeles, 1996, looks as devastated by violence as Sarajevo. Among other things, we see the Hollywood Sign in flames, as well as plenty of large swathes of city are burning. Phoenix's gang members have anti-aircraft capabilities and it's said that it's too unsafe for commercial airlines to travel into LAX. It's gotten to the point that the police now have to drive around in Humvees instead of Ford Crown Victorias, and at one point in time, Phoenix had to be tracked by satellite surveillance. According to Dr. Cocteau, between 1996 and 2032, it went From Bad to Worse.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Early on, Huxley expresses "what I wouldn't give for some action". Immediately we cut to a freshly defrosted Simon Phoenix, ready to provide it.
- Beneath the Earth: Home of everyone who doesn't want to be a part of San Angeles, in the ruins of Los Angeles from the last earthquake.
- Big Bad Ensemble: Simon Phoenix is a ruthless Diabolical Mastermind whose escape from the cryoprison and subsequent criminal activities set off the plot, and John Spartan is recruited to stop his crime spree in San Angeles. In truth, he's also an enemy and unwilling asset of Dr. Raymond Cocteau, ruler of the False Utopia of San Andreas who set him loose to wipe out the lawless Scraps living beneath his "perfect" city, and the two spend as much time trying to dominate each other as they do fighting Spartan. Eventually, Phoenix finds a way around his programming and usurps Cocteau's seat, becoming the final enemy.
- Big Brother Is Watching: There are cameras everywhere in San Angeles, ready to catch a criminal on the move, and its citizens are more than happy to live with it.
- Bilingual Bonus: When Phoenix is thawed out for his parole hearing, he starts reciting a Spanish translation of the warden's spiel about the parole system being abolished, just to mess with him.
- Black Market Produce: You can find in the Underground City of the Scraps stuff you can't find on the surface city of San Angeles. Including (otherwise banned) real burgers... just as long as you don't mind not asking what's in them. Still doesn't stop John Spartan reckoning it's the best he's had in years.
- Blunt Metaphors Trauma: Variant; Huxley doesn't get 90s slang, and neither does anyone else from San Angeles.
- "Send a maniac to catch a maniac."
- "Is it cold in here, or is it just me?"
- The movie starts and ends with Phoenix and Spartan fighting in a building full of frozen people, if Phoenix's "cold as Haagen Dazs" line is literal.
- Borrowed Biometric Bypass:
- Phoenix escapes the cryoprison by gouging Warden Smithers' eye out and holding it on a pen for the retinal scanner.
- The SAPD notes that Phoenix is at an extreme disadvantage in the No-Paper Future; all transactions are done using a microchip implanted in the back of a person's hand. Spartan immediately points out the workaround; "All right, so actually he can't buy food or a place to stay for the night. It'd be a waste of time to mug somebody... Unless he rips off somebody's hand. Let's hope he doesn't figure that one out."
- Borrowed Catch Phrase: John Spartan borrows one of Simon Phoenix's Catch Phrases.Spartan: You forgot to say "Simon says"!
- Both Order and Chaos are Dangerous: This movie's theme. A cop is brought from the past to enforce order, but quickly shows everyone that strict order can be just as evil as absolute chaos. In the end, the two leaders that represent chaos and order find they have to negotiate with each other in order to find a good balance.Spartan: [to squeaky-clean San Angeles cop] You need to get a little dirty, and you [to literal underground leader Edgar Friendly] a lot clean. And somewhere in the middle... I don't know, you'll figure it out.
- Both Sides Have a Point: Both Cocteau's and Friendly's version of San Angeles have their merits, but suffer from being too far on the edges of the Order Versus Chaos dichotomy. Once Cocteau is taken out of the picture, Spartan encourages the two sides to reconcile and find a middle ground.
- Bottomless Magazines: Spartan grabs two guns from the museum; A Sawed-Off Shotgun and a Beretta Inox. He fires the shotgun a couple of times, even reloading once, but switches to the Beretta after that, which he has no problem keeping fed with ammo, even long after Spartan is away from the museum and, presumably, the only source of ammunition that isn't the Scraps.
- Brainwashing for the Greater Good: The rehab programs for all cryo-cons except Simon Phoenix, who has been brainwashed for the greater evil.
- Break Out the Museum Piece:
- Done literally with the firearms by Phoenix and Spartan.
- And with Phoenix and Spartan themselves, since they both represent a culture that seems almost prehistoric to the citizens of San Angeles. It doesn't take either of them very long to revert to their old destructive ways after being thawed out.
- Edgar Friendly's 1970 Oldsmobile 442 is commandeered by Spartan and Huxley when Phoenix steals their car. In the book, it is explained that civilian cars have severely restricted engines so they can't travel at the same speeds as police vehicles (and said police vehicles can only achieve top speed if the computer detects an emergency — Phoenix has to make up a lie involving an incredibly absurd high-alarm situation with multiple rapes and fires in order to keep the computer from placing the limiter in the middle of the car chase).
- Brick Joke:
- Set up during the initial confrontation in 1996:Spartan: Where are they, Phoenix?!
Phoenix: Now where did I put them? I swear, I'd lose my head if it wasn't attached.
Spartan: I'll keep that in mind.
- A subtle one: the prisoner who's up for parole before Phoenix returns as the pianist at Taco Bell (or Pizza Hut, depending on the localization).
- Set up during the initial confrontation in 1996:
- California Collapse: Downplayed. Huxley references "THE earthquake", the proverbial super-quake that (in-universe) hit California in 2010. Rather than explain how it tore a chunk off the coastline, it's implied that it merely destroyed most of the entire San Diego/Los Angeles area, leading to the merger of those two cities and Santa Barbara to create San Angeles.
- The Cameo: Actor Dan Cortese appears both as a pianist in Taco Bell and a cryo-prison guard.
- Camera Abuse: Done in-universe by Phoenix, who shorts out a computer kiosk camera with a glow-rod while the police are watching him through it. The power surge disables every surveillance camera in the vicinity.
- Car Fu: The chase sequence with Phoenix and Spartan near the end.
- Catchphrase: Simon says...Phoenix: Simon says BLEED!
Phoenix: Simon says DIE!
- The Cavalry Arrives Late: And useless! They demand that Huxley and Spartan be put under arrest. At least Friendly's uprising has an excuse, being, uh, underground and without vehicles. Not to mention the fact that Phoenix caused a mess back at their home. And the police only turn up because Spartan crashed into the fountain at the front of their HQ.
- Celebrity Paradox:
- Changing Clothes Is a Free Action: Simon Phoenix changes from something that looks like a cross between scrubs and prison fatigues to a pair of overalls and a bright orange mesh shirt (it was The '90s) between scenes with no explanation while on the run from the cops, and we can't chalk it up to being his original duds from before incarceration, as it's not the same outfit he had on then.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- Phoenix says he'd lose his head if it wasn't attached. Guess how he dies?
- Spartan laments that kissing is illegal because he was a good kisser. After the Final Battle he plants one on Huxley, and from her reaction, he wasn't lying.
- Da Chief: Chief George Earle (SAPD, 2032) and Chief Healy (LAPD, 1996); they both disapprove of Spartan's brutal and heavy-handed methods of capturing criminals, but rarely offer alternate methods.
- Cluster F-Bomb: John Spartan to the machine that dispenses fine slips so he can use them as toilet paper, since he doesn't know how the three seashells work.Spartan: Thanks a lot, you shit-brained, fuck-faced, ball-breaking, duck-fucking pain in the ass. [with every swear word, the fine dispenser issues another slip, and the onlooking cops wince]
Machine: John Spartan, you are fined five credits for violations of the Verbal Morality Statute.
[Spartan grabs the slips]
Spartan: So much for the seashells, see you in a few minutes.
- Coca-Pepsi, Inc.: Taco Bell, the only survivor of the Franchise Wars, is now the only restaurant chain in existence (in some cuts and localizations of the movie, it's Pizza Hut instead). Spartan notes that, ironically, whatever they're serving isn't tacos (or pizza).
- Cold Sleep, Cold Future: Inverted. The future city of San Angeles is pretty utopian next to the warzone that was L.A. in 1996. The biggest complaints that both men that come from the past have is how pusillanimous everything has become and the jackass that is to blame.
- Comic-Book Adaptation: Gary Cohn wrote a four-issue one for DC.
- Comic-Book Time: A ridiculous amount of things have happened and been forgotten in just 36 years, but it's necessary for the humor and plot.
- Computerized Judicial System: The omnipresent computerized speech monitors that fine citizens for uttering profanity.
- Convection Shmonvection:
- In 1996, Phoenix holds a blowtorch inches away from a pool of gasoline, notwithstanding that the fumes are far more flammable than the liquid itself.
- Also a rare example of this trope applied to extreme cold temperatures: when Spartan is frozen, a computer display lists the temperature of the cryo-blocks at 1 Kelvin (in other words, 1ºC away from absolute zero), yet technicians are shown standing within touching distance of them. And an example of Artistic License Physics as well. If they were that cold, the air should be freezing onto the surface of the blocks. Rapidly.
- Cool, but Inefficient: When Simon Phoenix finds an energy gun, it takes 2.6 minutes to reactivate. Also, its firing rate is quite slow, if overpowered. He doesn't actually manage to hit much with it. Even the first time he fires it, his reaction is one of such awe that it gives Spartan a huge opening to get the drop on him.
- Cool Car:
- The awesome (doomed) Oldsmobile 442.
- The novelization specifically refers to one customer at the dealership staring after it and, some innate car-lust of yesteryear stirring and igniting inside him, declares "I want one of those!"
- Cool Old Guy: Zachary Lamb, the only cop at the headquarters who remembers and appreciates the way policing used to be, and who convinces the chief to get Spartan to combat Phoenix.
- Corpsing: During his Motive Rant, Friendly's allies are clearly cracking up. Justified since they're likely just as into it all as he is. Considering how similar said rant, and Friendly's overall character, is to Denis Leary's stand-up persona at the time (compare and contrast to Leary's No Cure For Cancer, released earlier the same year), it's a toss-up as to how much of that Motive Rant was scripted, and how much was Leary riffing in character as Friendly. The other actors may have been genuinely reacting to Leary riffing on the fly.
- Crapsack World: Los Angeles, 1996. And how. The opening sequence shows the Hollywood sign on fire, along with maybe 10% of the entire city, and anti-aircraft fire all over the place.
- Crapsaccharine World: The future city of San Angeles looks just rosy. No crime, no war, everything is bright and shiny... Yeah, it's a real Sugar Bowl. Too bad sugar is banned by the government because it's bad for you. In fact, absolutely anything that might be the least bit harmful, offensive or disruptive to anybody is. No meat products, no alcoholic drinks, no contact sports, no swear words, no spicy food, no uneducational toys, and no physical contact (up to and including sexual intercourse). In the words of the film's villain, it's like if Oceania was run by an evil Mr. Rogers. This namby-pamby, "oppressing you for your own good" society is why there's a gang of well-armed but actually pretty friendly hobos trying to avoid it all by scraping out a free living in the city's sewers. In turn, the city's founder groomed the villain in cryosleep to exterminate undesirables like them, to keep his idea of a perfect society alive.Friendly: I've seen the future. You know what it is? It's a 47-year-old virgin sitting around in his beige pajamas, drinking a banana-broccoli shake, singing "I'm an Oscar Meyer Wiener"!
Phoenix: All right, gentlemen, let's review. The year is 2032 — that's two-zero-three-two, as in the 21st Century — and I am sorry to say the world has become a pussy-whipped, Brady Bunch version of itself, run by a bunch of robed sissies.
- Cryo-Prison: Both Spartan and Phoenix were cryocons, frozen as punishment.
- Crystal Spires and Togas: The upper crust of San Angeles. The sewer refugees live quite differently.
- Cyberpunk: An interesting example, in that although society is oppressive and totalitarian (featuring technological elements such as mandatory tracking implants and brainwashing of criminals), it's primarily portrayed through a benign Political Overcorrectness rather than violent suppression of thought and action.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Edgar Friendly is as close as San Angeles has to a real criminal, while eschewing the typical bright colors they wear for a drab dark look (although this may be because he wears whatever can be scavenged rather than an intentional choice) and all he is doing is fighting for the right of the people to eat real food, listen to real music, have real sex and generally make their own choices. Cocteau wants him killed for this. The only thing he and his people do is graffiti some resistance slogans or steal food.
- Dark-Skinned Blond: Simon Phoenix. Of course, he dyed it.
- Decon-Recon Switch: The film does this to the Cowboy Cop. LAPD cop John Spartan is so bold and reckless in stopping criminals that his superiors hate him (earning him the titular nickname). As he finally takes down psychotic criminal Simon Phoenix in such a destructive manner that it leads to the deaths of a busload of hostages (though it's later revealed that Phoenix had killed them earlier), he gets decades in prison alongside Phoenix. Decades later, Phoenix is released into a violence-free society where police officers are so by-the-book (always turning to a handheld device for information) that they are absolutely unable to think for themselves, and Phoenix easily overtakes them. The police decide to release Spartan to stop Phoenix, accepting that a less by-the-book, more intuitive policeman would do better in bringing down an Ax-Crazy criminal like Phoenix.
- Designer Babies: It's not made explicit that babies are vat grown to be "better" than normal babies, but the absence of physical sexual relationships ("Eeewww, disgusting! You mean... fluid transfer?") rather heavily implies that sex is discouraged to avoid the spread of STDs (Huxley states that STDs that made AIDS look like a picnic started appearing). However, the world has become such a joyless "nanny state" that another highly plausible reason is Sex Is Evil won to the degree that a less "naughty" way of having children had to be found. Presumably it was also a means of population control. "Abortion is illegal, but so is pregnancy without a permit."
- Didn't Think This Through:
- The museum's 20th century weapons exhibit has functional and loaded weapons on display with relatively light security. Even discounting Simon Phoenix as an Outside-Context Problem for the setting, Edgar Friendly could have done a lot of damage if he'd ever decided to do a smash-and-grab on them.
- Cocteau feels comfortable freeing Phoenix because Phoenix's conditioning prevents Phoenix from killing Cocteau... but Cocteau never considered that Phoenix could order someone else to kill him.
- Distant Prologue: Most of the film takes place in the year 2032. The prologue is set 36 years earlier, in 1996.
- Dolled-Up Installment: In Kuwait, this movie was called Rambo the Destroyer.
- Double Take: Spartan does this a few times. First outside the museum when he spots a periscope, and again after getting the topless wrong number.
- Do You Want to Copulate?: Lenina's proposal for sex (or what is considered "sex" in San Angeles, anyway) is quite blunt, to say the least.
- Dramatic Gun Cock: Averted. They tried this in the museum; we see Spartan reload his shotgun as he walks towards the next room and we get the crescendo, telling us that it's about to get awesome. It culminates in Spartan darting around the corner and snapping his barrel back up... and it falls back down, forcing him to do it manually.
- Dub Name Change: The major food corporation that took over all restaurants in the French version of the movie is... Pizza Hut, since French audiences are not familiar with Taco Bell (it has no presence in France). It's still Taco Bell in the Quebec dub, even though Taco Bell has no presence there either.
- Dystopian Edict: Anything that is not good for you is bad, and therefore illegal. This includes meat, spicy food, swearing, kissing, etc.
- Electronic Telepathy: In the future, people use this for having sex. The idea of doing it the normal way disgusts them (partly out of prudishness, and partly because there were apparently numerous additional HIV-type outbreaks in the intervening decades).
- Energy Weapon: When Phoenix goes looking for "phaser guns" in the weapons wing of a museum, he finds a Heckler & Koch G11-shaped "magnetic accelerator gun" which "displaced the flow of neutrons through a nonlinear cycloid electromagnetic accumulator." It's even fusion-powered. And it doesn't just burn holes in things, it makes anything it hits explode like a hand grenade.
- Enforced Plug: For Taco Bell, or Pizza Hut depending on the edit (it's the same corporation, either way).
- Eternal Prohibition: Anything not good for you is outlawed. Alcohol, caffeine, contact sports, meat, bad language, chocolate, uneducational toys, and spicy food. Abortion is also illegal, but so is pregnancy if you don't have a license.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Once Simon Phoenix comprehends the ideals of his new employer, he shows nothing but contempt for Raymond Cocteau's "perfect society" where free will is non-existent. He also shows pity for Bob, who is implied to have been castrated by Cocteau.
- Evil Is Deathly Cold: Invoked verbally by Spartan during his last fight with Phoenix with the classic line:Spartan: Is it cold in here, or is it just me?
Phoenix: Good memory.
- Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: After Spartan tells the chief that Phoenix will be looking for a gun, the chief responds that such a thought is ridiculous. The only place anyone can even find a gun is in a museum...
- Eye Scream: Simon Phoenix pulls the eye out of a warden with a pen and uses it on an eyescan to escape. We see the moment when the pen nears his eye, and then (after, thankfully, a Gory Discretion Shot), a close-up of the eye getting scanned. We then see the eye still stuck on the pen. Later we see the warden laying on the floor writhing as he dies from, among other injuries, severe eye trauma.
- Facepalm: Spartan has a minor "two fingers to the forehead" facepalm when he hears the "oldies" station on the radio, which is nothing but old commercial jingles."Somebody put me back in the fridge..."
- Failed Future Forecast: Phoenix makes a crack about "I love that guy!" when he finds serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer's name on a list of CryoCons. The Real Life Dahmer was killed in prison the year after this film was released.
- Falling Chandelier of Doom: Spartan tries this trick unsuccessfully against Phoenix during their gunfight at the museum.
- False Utopia: There is no crime or violence of any kind in San Angeles... because it's ruled by a dictator that has effectively suppressed the free will of its citizens.
- Famous, Famous, Fictional: A one-famous two-fictional variation, with AIDS, NRS, and UBT mentioned as reasons why "fluid transfer" is no longer practiced.
- Fan Disservice: The 2032 method of having sex, via virtual reality headsets, as bodily contact is banned. It's less erotic than a block of wood, and can cause epileptic seizures.
- Stallone's Fetal Position Rebirth. He's naked in it.
- While admittedly they're in no way prominent, Sandra Bullock's yoga pants uniform.
- Fanservice Extra: The nude video call wrong number.
- Fantasy Gun Control: Guns only exist in a museum in San Angeles. Unsurprisingly, Phoenix and Spartan head straight for it.
- Fast-Food Nation: Ever since the Franchise Wars, Taco Bell is the only place to eat (at least in the U.S.).
- Fetal Position Rebirth: John Spartan as he's unfrozen from cryosleep.
- Final Solution: Dr. Raymond Cocteau is fully aware that his "utopia" will never be perfect and will quickly crumble after his death if the Scraps continue to exist which is proven completely correct as the Scraps successfully revolt against the upper world with little to no resistance so ultimately decides that the only true way his "utopia" can really be perfect is for the Scraps to be exterminated.
- Fire Means Chaos: The movie starts with the Hollywood sign on fire, among other things, to show the status of the society.
- Fish out of Temporal Water: Spartan and Phoenix. Spartan catches the worst of it because despite his reputation as "the Demolition Man", he is still a law-abiding cop for the most part and does his level best to fit in to society, even a society that views him as a primitive and insanely violent ex-con. Simon Phoenix, meanwhile, doesn't give a damn about society at all, has no desire to fit in, revels in the fact that with nobody who can even put up any sort of resistance to him (save Spartan) the future is basically a criminal's playground. It also doesn't hurt that he's been literally programmed with all the knowledge and skills he'd need to carry out Cocteau's orders, including knowledge of computer systems and survival training.
- Five-Second Foreshadowing: When Phoenix tells Cocteau that he can't take away the people's rights to be assholes, there is no Swear Jar machine beep. We heard the machine the first time Phoenix was there, meaning he disabled them as a sign of getting out from under Raymond's thumb. Sure enough, seconds later...
- However, Spartan did destroy the only one in the room earlier, having gotten sick of hearing it go off.
- For Inconvenience, Press "1": Parodied when someone calls into the police station:Officer: Greetings and salutations. Welcome to the emergency line of the San Angeles Police Department. If you would like an automated response, please press '1' now.
- From Bad to Worse:
- The crime situation at the opening of the film was just the start. Los Angeles was apparently leveled by "The Big One" sometime while Spartan was frozen, and it was so bad that they basically just built San Angeles on top of the ruins. And apparently there were two more STD epidemics as bad as AIDS in the same time frame.
- Phoenix himself. In the beginning of the film, he is just a violent psycho. In the future, he is a violent psycho who has been programmed with skills in weapon use, urban warfare and other skills, making him even more dangerous.
- From the Mouths of Babes: In the video of Spartan rescuing a girl.Reporter: How can you justify destroying a seven million dollar mini-mall, to rescue a girl whose ransom was only twenty-five thousand dollars?
Rescued girl: Fuck you, lady!
Spartan: [laughs] Good answer.
- Full-Name Basis: Everyone in the future refers to each other by their full names.
- Future Imperfect: Apart from 20th-century buff Lenina Huxley, the younger officers have no idea what toilet paper is and people think that advertisement jingles are music while real oldies are unknown.
- Future Music: A.k.a. Top Ten Jingles.
- Genre Shift: There's nothing funny about the prologue of the movie, taking place in 1996 in Los Angeles. It gets funnier than hell in 2032 in San Angeles, though.
- The Ghost: Spartan's wife, who died in 2010; and his daughter, who was still alive.
- Gone Horribly Right: Cocteau wanted to create the perfect assassin who was smart, strong and resourceful. He implanted these traits in Simon Phoenix. Phoenix later uses his skills to manipulate Cocteau into thawing out his buddies, whom didn't get the same mind control as him and simply ordered one to kill him.
- Gosh Darn It to Heck!: The light-hearted San Angeles is mostly profanity free, due to swearing being illegal and can cause a fine to anyone who slips it out.
- Graffiti of the Resistance: The Underground has automatic sprayers for painting the walls in seconds. The government has paint vaporizing devices which can undo the work just as fast... which they have to, as the graffiti is demonstrated exploding if it's left on!
- Grievous Harm with a Body: In one scene, Simon uses a museum guard not actually as a weapon, but as a tool to break a glass box.Guard: What seems to be your boggle?
Phoenix: My boggle? Oh, brother. [Beat] Hold on... how much do you weigh?
Guard: Well... I happen to weigh exactly... [Phoenix grabs him and swings him at the display window]
- Groin Attack: Lenina Huxley kicks one of Simon Phoenix's goons twice between his legs in order to escape his grip.
- Guns Akimbo: Zig-zagged. Phoenix does this once or twice and Spartan wields a pair of pistols during the climax. However, it's actually averted in both the film's Action Prologue and at the point where Spartan borrows two guns from Edgar Friendly. In the former situation, he carries a pair of pistols, but only uses them one at a time, switching to the second pistol when he loses the first. In the latter, he wields a revolver (though it's Huxley that actually fires it) and keeps the semi-auto holstered until the final battle.
- Had to Come to Prison to Be a Crook: With a sci-fi twist. The prisoners in cryostasis were implanted with behavior modification to give them skills which would make them productive members of society. Phoenix was turned into the perfect criminal. Spartan learns knitting.
- Ham-to-Ham Combat: Between Simon Phoenix and Spartan, who is normally reserved but rises to meet Phoenix's ham with his own when they have a confrontation.
- Hand Cannon: Edgar Friendly's massive double-barreled pistol.Huxley: We're looking for a murderdeathkiller. Are you going to help us or just bully us with your primitive weapons?
[Friendly shrugs and fires his pistol into the ceiling, blowing a massive hole in it]
Huxley: Okay, maybe they're not so primitive.
- Hero Insurance:News reporter: How can you justify destroying a $7 million mini-mall to rescue a girl whose ransom is only $25,000?
Girl: Fuck you, lady!
John Spartan: Good answer.
- Hollywood Law: There is no legally justified reason to put John Spartan in cryo-prison at the start of the movie. A high-school graduate could have taken the case against him apart. When a criminal engages in a violent felony, the legal culpability for any and all casualties falls squarely on the criminal, even if the casualties result entirely from the police response (since, if there was no criminal violently breaking the law, the police would have no need to respond, thus no one's lives would have been in danger in the first place). Second, any punishment that John Spartan would have faced would only result if John Spartan acted with gross negligence, and that is clearly not the case. He had no way of knowing that the hostages were still in the building, since a heat scan turned up only the gang. It turns out they were already dead, something an autopsy likely could have established. And finally, the entire case against John Spartan consists of nothing but the word of a mass murderer with a known grudge against Spartan.
- Humans Are Morons: The film provides the unique depiction of a future where humanity has eradicated all the things that make humans bastards but has become more paranoid, inexperienced, and clueless as a trade-off.
- Hydrant Geyser: One erupts when Phoenix decapitates a hydrant with his BFG. Impressive since it was in an archaeological dig of an LA street buried when the Big One struck.
- Hypocritical Humor: After his fight with the Scraps and Huxley's gushing, Spartan declares "Hurting people's not a good thing!" He pauses for a moment, then adds "sometimes it is." His objection is to attacking a bunch of starving homeless people.
- "I Am Great!" Song: "Demolition Man" by Sting.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Spartan and Phoenix fire hundreds of rounds at each other and get no hits.
- Indubitably Uninteresting Individual: The film takes this to its logical extreme, where the population of San Angeles are as meek and nonviolent as monks. No junk food, sex (in the traditional sense), tobacco, violence (in the form of contact sports), or weapons are allowed, radio and TV commercials are considered the height of fun music, everyone outside of the police force wears something that would look better as your house's curtains, Taco Bell (or Pizza Hut, in international versions) is considered haute cuisine, everyone is polite even when rude, freedom of thought and emotional coarseness is restricted and fined, and the police force has lost all defensive value because of all of these. Sylvester Stallone's character, John Spartan, is unfrozen from suspended animation note , to defend the city against his arch-enemy, Simon Phoenix. One man, Edgar Friendly, seeks to rebel against the modern idea of meek and dull peacefulness, wanting to be able to do what he wants, eat what he wants, and say what he wants, with reasonable restriction. Dr. Raymond Cocteau, the leader of San Angeles, wants to control it with absolute power. Even Phoenix, his personally programmed assassin, thinks there's something wrong about it.
- When Spartan finally meets up with Edgar Friendly:Edgar Friendly: I'm the kind of guy who wants to sit in a greasy spoon and think, "Gee, should I have the T-bone steak or the jumbo rack of barbecued ribs with the side order of gravy fries?" I want high cholesterol. I want to eat bacon, butter and buckets of cheese, okay? I want to smoke a Cuban cigar the size of Cincinnati in a non-smoking section. I wanna run through the streets naked with green Jello all over my body reading a Playboy magazine. Why? Because I suddenly might feel the need to. Okay, pal? I've SEEN the future. Do you know what it is? It's a 47-year-old virgin sitting around in his beige pajamas, drinking a banana-broccoli shake, singing "I'm an Oscar Mayer Wiener.
- When Phoenix has had enough of Dr. Cocteau:Dr. Cocteau: Yes, but this time, the're really intimidated. Now I'll have carte blanche to create the perfect society. My society. San Angeles will be a beacon of order with the purity of an ant colony, and the beauty of a flawless pearl.
[meanwhile, Phoenix is aiming at him and attempting to pull the trigger of a gun, but because of Dr. Cocteau's implanted programming, he can't]
Simon Phoenix: Look, you can't take away people's right to be assholes.
Dr. Cocteau: Hmm?
Simon Phoenix: That's what you remind me of, an evil Mr. Rogers.
[Phoenix throws his gun to a teammate]
Simon Phoenix: Will you please kill him? He's pissing me off.
[the teammate shoots Dr. Cocteau multiple times]
- When Spartan finally meets up with Edgar Friendly:
- Innocent Innuendo:
- In-universe: Huxley often mangles 20th century sayings into... something else, prompting Spartan to react with irritation/disgust and correct her.Huxley: OK, I'm with you. Let's go blow this guy.
Spartan: [frustrated groan] Away! Blow this guy away.
Huxley: He finally matched his meet. You really licked his ass.
Spartan: It's met his match, and kicked, kicked his ass.
- Until she manages to do so in an acceptable way.John Spartan: Take this job... and shovel it? Close enough.
- In-universe: Huxley often mangles 20th century sayings into... something else, prompting Spartan to react with irritation/disgust and correct her.
- Insecurity System: The Hall of Violence in the museum goes into lockdown when someone is killed. This lasts all of two seconds because they have a working cannon as one of the exhibits.
- Insistent Terminology: If only to highlight how smug all of the assholes of San Angeles are even further, when they insult Spartan they like to label him as a literal caveman.
- Instant Emergency Response:
- Kinda. The cops were already on their way, but Phoenix has very good timing in his discovery of the automated swear jar.Simon Phoenix: Where are the goddamn guns?
Fine Dispenser: You are fined one credit for a violation of the Verbal Morality Statute.
Simon Phoenix: What? Fuck you! [tosses the ticket over his shoulder]
Fine Dispenser: Your repeated violation of the Verbal Morality Statute has caused me to notify the San Angeles Police Department. Please remain where you are for your reprimand.
Simon Phoenix: Yeah, right. [sirens are immediately heard] Fuckers are fast, too.
Fine Dispenser: You are fined...
Simon Phoenix: Beep! [crumples the ticket and throws it away]
Fine Dispenser: ...one credit for a violation of the Verbal Morality Statute.
- Crosses into The Producer Thinks of Everything territory when you notice that the dispenser doesn't preface the fine with Phoenix's name like it does with Huxley and Spartan. Because he was released from cryo by Cocteau as opposed to through lawful channels and, presumably, wasn't entered into the population database, he technically doesn't "exist". The people of 2032 only learn about him through police databases and Spartan/Lamb's prior knowledge.
- Kinda. The cops were already on their way, but Phoenix has very good timing in his discovery of the automated swear jar.
- Interplay of Sex and Violence: Huxley discusses this trope before asking Spartan if he wants to have sex. He readily agrees. It leads to something with virtual reality headsets that is so different, and disturbing, it freaks him out.
- Intimidation Demonstration:
- While John Spartan is fighting Simon Phoenix in the museum's underground exhibit, Phoenix picks up a shovel and spins it repeatedly before attacking Spartan with it.
- When John Spartan charges out of the Taco Bell to fight Edgar Friendly's men, one of them approaches him and waves two swords around in an attempt to show him who's boss. Spartan takes him down quickly.
- Ironic Echo: Spoken by Phoenix before blowing up his fortress in 1996, and later by Spartan during their final fight in the Cryo-Prison: "Is it cold in here, or is it just me?" Lampshaded when Phoenix growls "Good memory."
- Irony: "We're police officers... we're not trained for this kind of violence."
- Is That What They're Calling It Now?: Inverted. The thing with the headsets and possible seizure-inducing flashes freaks Spartan out.Huxley: I thought you wanted to make love!
Spartan: Is that what you call that?!
- I Warned You: "I told everyone not to come down here! Postmen figured it out! Policemen figured it out! But the goddamn bus drivers just wouldn't listen!"
- Japan Takes Over the World: San Angeles has a very Japanese feel, from high society wearing kimonos to computers running everything to the mannerisms of its citizens. After Spartan knits her a jumper Huxley smells it, an Asian trait.
- Jingle: In the future, the only music that exists are commercial jingles. Armour Hot Dogs is the most popular. (This is likely because real music might offend someone, or stir up emotions that are taboo in the new society.)
- Let Me Get This Straight...:
- Spartan and Phoenix both get one.Phoenix: [to Spartan during the gunfight in the museum] So let me get this right. They defrosted you just so you could lasso my piddly ass? Damn, you been had!
- Later:Spartan: [after rescuing Cocteau] So let me get this right. Spacely Sprockets here, the man in charge, the Mayor-Gov, who wants to take me to dinner at Taco Bell — and Lord knows I wouldn't mind a burrito — is also the guy who built the goddamn cryo-prison?
- Spartan and Phoenix both get one.
- Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: Simon Phoenix is trapped in the Museum of History by blast shields following his casual MurderDeathKill of two guards. However, the specific wing of the museum he is trapped in is the "Hall of Violence", so this lasts about as long as you'd expect.
- Long List: Phoenix's "rehab program."
- Loophole Abuse: It doesn't take long for Phoenix to realize that the Restraining Bolt preventing him from offing Cocteau only applies to him specifically. There ain't no rule saying he can't off Cocteau by proxy, so he just asks another member of his gang to do it.
- The Lopsided Arm of the Law: It zips by fast, but Spartan receives a 70-year sentence and was declared eligible for parole no earlier than the year 2046. The plot kicks off because Phoenix, the guy who turned his corner of LA into a Beirut-level war zone, gets a parole hearing fourteen years before Spartan. Of course, this is because Cocteau had decided to turn him loose to assassinate Edgar Friendly, but Lamb should probably have mentioned that paroling a mass murderer before the cop who managed to capture him is grotesque.
- Lounge Lizard: Taco Bell has a guy singing the "Jolly Green Giant" song. He's one of the cryo-prisoners being thawed at the beginning of the film.
- Made of Explodium:
- Up to Eleven in the beginning of the film, when Simon stabs a knife into 55-gallon drums labeled "C-4", which he later detonates spectacularly with fire from gasoline on the floor. (C-4 can only be detonated by percussive blasting caps, and won't explode when set on fire; American soldiers in Vietnam were known to use it as cooking fuel in a pinch. It also doesn't come in 55-gallon drums, though Phoenix being crazy enough to pack drums full of it is a possibility.)
- In 2032, when Simon shoves one of the police's nonlethal stun wands into the "gas tank" of a police car. Watching it live, one of the cops notes "That's pure capacitance gel..." On cue, the car explodes.
- Magical Security Cam: Spartan watches footage of Phoenix and Cocteau, which is lifted straight from earlier in the film and contains several impossible camera angles and zooms.
- Malaproper: Lenina Huxley frequently attempts to use 20th century slang, resulting in accidental innuendos, making Lenina an early prototype for her actress Sandra Bullock's later law enforcement character Linda Ashburn from The Heat released twenty years after this film. Huxley: He finally matched his meat. You really licked his ass.
Spartan: That's met his match, and kicked, KICKED his ass!
Huxley: Let's go blow this guy!
Spartan: Away. Blow this guy away!
Huxley: Chief, you can take this job, and you can shovel it.
Spartan: ...Close enough.
- Mental Affair: Spartan and Huxley, until he realizes that's all there is to it and promptly removes his headgear.
- Mirrored Confrontation Shot: In the poster.
- Monumental Damage: As we swoop over the hell of 1996 Los Angeles, our first sign that this is a world of chaos is that the Hollywood sign is on fire.
- Motor Mouth: Edgar Friendly. Not surprising since it's Denis Leary.
- Neural Implanting: Part of cryo-rehab is giving people skills and the desire to use them. Spartan gets knitting, Phoenix gets a lot of much more useful skills...
- Nice Guy: Thanks to Cocteau's society-wide indoctrination, everyone under 30 years old in San Angeles is this by default; while this unfortunately left even police officers woefully unprepared for the harsh realities of violence when it finally comes knocking on the door, on the upside San Angeleans all have a universal love and respect for life and human dignity.
- Nice Hat: Spartan's military beret, which was part of his old police uniform. Huxley smuggles it to him along with a ball of yarn and a pair of knitting needles, and he dons it again when he's preparing to face off against Phoenix for the last time.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Simon Phoenix framed John Spartan and got him locked in cryoprison, thereby unwittingly providing the future SAPD with the only man who could stop him. If he hadn't framed Spartan, best case scenario, Spartan is a septuagenarian. More than likely, Spartan would have died when the "real disturbances began", as Cocteau put it, when "civilization tried to destroy itself."
- Nobody Poops: Notably averted — Spartan excuses himself to use the bathroom, starting the Running Gag of the "three seashells" that have replaced toilet paper.
- No Sense of Time: The entire mainstream society gets completely overhauled, eradicating violence, swearing, and anything deemed hazardous to one's health, within 30 years. There are people (or at least one police officer) who were working adults in the ultra-violent past society, who are still in the workforce.
- Non-Standard Kiss: In the future city of San Angeles, even simply high-fiving is thought as being intimate there; people are taught not to do any meaningless physical contact.
- Noodle Implements: "You don't know how to use the three seashells?"
- Noodle Incident: The Franchise Wars that are the reason why all restaurants have been replaced with Taco Bell.
- No OSHA Compliance: The museum in the 21st century has guns on display that are not only kept fully functional, but also loaded with live ammo. The future has become so sanitized that the idea someone would steal them is unthinkable. There are at least bullet-proof blast doors that slam down if someone actually tries stealing the weapons, but then they left a cannon in there...
- No-Paper Future:
- Dollars have been replaced by credits, and currency is exchanged through subcutaneous microchips in people's hands. Toilet paper doesn't exist, either.
- Subverted by the swear fine system, which provides a paper receipt every time someone uses harsh language. Swear enough, as Spartan does, and one need not worry about using the seashells.
- No Sex Allowed:
- Sex is performed via electronics, since fluid transmission causes horrible diseases (extremely feared in San Angeles, partly because of past STD epidemics) and pregnancy (now illegal without a license).
- Kissing is not allowed either. Presumably, not even a peck on the cheek. Even the word "kiss" disgusts Huxley, like an elementary school student would be disgusted by the word "penis".
- Even touch is avoided; two characters even give a "high-five" without hand contact. When Spartan gives someone an actual high five, the other guy is visibly revolted by the physical contact. You can hear him exclaiming "Germs!" in disgust, as if he has been instantly contaminated.
- Nothing Is Scarier: Think HIV is bad? There have been two even worse STD epidemics during the 36-year interim called NRS and UBT; the details are not given, but if they were worse than HIV, the fear of sex the society has may well be justified.
- Oh, Crap!: John specifically snaps out an "Oh, hell!" when he hears Phoenix's blaster rifle reach full charge. The look on Cocteau's face when Phoenix tosses a gun to an unrehabbed cryo-con is a suitably epic one as well.
- Old-Fashioned Copper:Huxley: I want a visual. Now! Every corridor in the museum. I want full sensors routed to me, and I want it ninety seconds ago!
- Order Versus Chaos:
- Cocteau is a "benevolent" dictator who has built a future world where anything that can offend or harm anybody is banned and maintaining civil, peaceful coexistence has usurped the value of life in importance, to the point where everything from guns and sex to contact sports and spicy food are banned. Edgar Friendly is an iconoclast leading a gang in the sewers against the Cocteau regime and fights so people have the freedom to eat real food, listen to real music, have real sex and generally make their own choices. Cocteau wants him dead for it.
- Between villains, Cocteau versus Phoenix, a dangerous psychopath who hates rules because they stop him from behaving like a dangerous psychopath. After he murders Cocteau, he and his unfrozen gang want to turn San Angeles into a lawless hellhole where they rule through might and can commit crimes all day, everyday.
- Outrunning the Fireball:
- Pretty much why Spartan is called the Demolition Man. It's even lampshaded by his fellow cops, Phoenix and himself.
- At the end, Spartan runs away from the cryo-prison as it blows up in flames.
- Outside-Context Problem: Simon Phoenix. The "context" being that the SAPD hasn't had to deal with an actual psychotic murderer for a very long time before the movie's events (Friendly's faction is heavily armed, but the guns are mostly used to scare people away during food raids).
- Overly Narrow Superlative: While eating a rat burger, and learning what it was made from, Spartan tells the cook that it was "the best burger he'd had in years." Only Huxley knows the context; after thirty years of cryo-suspension and a few days in San Angeles, he can't possibly have any real meat for decades. Nevertheless, Spartan's praise is sincere, and he finishes the ratburger. Notably, Huxley told him not to ask what it was made from, but Spartan went ahead and asked anyway.
- Override Command: Simon Phoenix tries to activate an electrical anti-graffiti system to zap a cop behind a wall. It detects the policeman and refuses to activate, so Phoenix overrides it with the password 7777777 and skewers the cop. "Lucky Number Seven!"
- Parenthetical Swearing: Dr. Cocteau's dismissive "Be well" to Spartan, after their unpleasant moment at gunpoint. Spartan wouldn't mince words, though...
- The Password Is Always "Swordfish":
- In a downplayed example, the voice password (which is not coded to specific voices) for the restraint chair at the cryo-prison is "Teddy Bear". While hardly something one would expect a hardened criminal to say, it's nevertheless a common phrase that could conceivably come up in conversation, which is rather silly considering these are dangerous felons being interrogated.
- The Override Command for the electric graffiti cleaner is all sevens, with some dashes and dots thrown in.
- Perfect Pacifist People: Subverted and deconstructed. Due to the lack of crime and war, neither the police nor anyone else have any idea how to take care of Phoenix, and shit hits the fan.
- Percussive Maintenance: During the final battle between John Spartan and Simon Phoenix, Phoenix tries to use a laser cutting device on Spartan but its power output drops. Phoenix bashes it against a column and its power massively increases.
- Percussive Prevention: Spartan knocks Huxley out with a glow rod before going to fight Phoenix at the cryo-prison in the climax.
- Pet the Dog:
- While the Chief has shown that he openly dislikes John, he was nice enough to say thank you to Spartan for (sarcastically) agreeing with his plan.
- Pheonix is surprisingly kind to Administrative Assistant Bob and sincerely sympathizes with him when he tells him that Cocteau had him castrated.
- Police Are Useless:
- A variant; the police genuinely do want to do their jobs and protect the citizens, but their society has grown so pacifistic that they honestly have no idea how to actually deal with violent criminals. This is most obvious during the police's first encounter with Phoenix, where the lead officer has to be walked step-by-step by a handheld computer through the process of just approaching Phoenix — and is completely at a loss when Phoenix disregards his order."Maniac is imminent; request advice."
- When they try to actually apprehend Phoenix, it goes downhill from there.Erwin: We're police officers! We're not trained to handle this kind of violence!
- Zachary Lamb, who served with Spartan in the LAPD during the 1990s, makes the comment at the top of this page to express his opinion of the police department's effectiveness.
- Even Cocteau doesn't think highly of them, and he's the one that made them that way.Cocteau: Utmost confidence... [scoffs]
- A variant; the police genuinely do want to do their jobs and protect the citizens, but their society has grown so pacifistic that they honestly have no idea how to actually deal with violent criminals. This is most obvious during the police's first encounter with Phoenix, where the lead officer has to be walked step-by-step by a handheld computer through the process of just approaching Phoenix — and is completely at a loss when Phoenix disregards his order.
- Polite Villains, Rude Heroes: Cocteau vs. Edgar and later Spartan.
- Politically Correct Villain: Cocteau is the kind of man that thinks fascism and murder are the best ways to deal with "terrorists" (read: people who want salt in their meals and not act like germaphobic ultra-polite milquetoasts all the time).
- Political Overcorrectness: Essentially the entire plot setup. San Angeles is a place where attempting not to offend anybody and maintaining civil, peaceful coexistence has arguably usurped the value of life in importance. San Angeles is what would happen if the people who organize proper workplace behavior seminars had absolute power and went mad with it.
- Population Control: Implied; pregnancy is illegal without a license, and fluids are cleaned and transferred only by authorized medical personnel.
- Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: "You're gonna regret this the rest of your life, both seconds of it."
- Precision F-Strike: Spartan, of all people, after Cocteau threatens to send him back to cryo-prison and told him to "be well".Spartan: Be fucked. [shoots a nearby censorship sensor when it warns him of a profanity ticket]
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "Hey, Simon! Heads up!"
- Product Placement:
- The only existing restaurant chain is Taco Bell, unless you're watching the European version, where it's Pizza Hut. (Taco Bell barely exists outside the USA. Oddly enough, the British version is unchanged; Britain didn't really have Taco Bell when the movie came out, but does have Pop-Cultural Osmosis.) Spartan is noticeably confused when everyone dresses up. Taco Bell also modified their logo because they liked the version in the film. In some TV versions, the name of the restaurant is unmentioned altogether.
- All the futuristic looking cars in the film are actually concept cars from GM, most famously the GM Utralite concept that was used as the squad car of the SAPD.
- The first thing Spartan wants after being defrosted is a Marlboro. Too bad smoking is among the things banned.
- John Spartan just happens to crash through the floor of an Oldsmobile dealership... driving a 1970 Oldsmobile 442. Also serves as Zeerust since Oldsmobile went defunct in 2004, and the movie is set in 2032.
- Profanity Police: There's the verbal morality monitors, machines that give out a small citation for breaking the no swearing law in San Angeles. When he's first thawed out, John Spartan, not knowing how to use the three shells, curses out a storm near one to get a quick supply of toilet paper.
- Pronoun Trouble: In order to avoid using the "wrong" pronoun, the standard is to use a person's first and last name when addressing them, or talking about them.
- Punched Across the Room: When Phoenix first attacks the S.A.P.D. officers at the information booth, some try to flee in their car. Phoenix smashes the windshield, grabs one of them by the jacket one-handed and throws him across the street. His strength was tripled during cryo-sleep by the electrical stimulation meant to keep cons from shriveling up, mentioned briefly when they put Spartan under.
- Putting on the Reich: The S.A.P.D. uniform includes leather jackets, jodhpur breeches and jackboots, appropriate enough for an authoritarian system. Subverted all to hell in that they're largely just as wussy as the regime they maintain, and have no plan for non-compliant suspects beyond adding "Or else!" to verbal commands (they carry stun batons, though clearly rarely have to use them).
- Ragnarök Proofing: Friendly's 1970 Oldsmobile works just fine 62 years after it was built, thanks to constant repairs.
- Rank Up: William Smithers is the assistant warden when Phoenix and Spartan are frozen, and the actual warden when Phoenix gets his parole hearing.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: As Huxley looks up Simon's LONG list of crimes during his reign of terror in the '90s, one of them unfortunately is rape which helps drives home just how much of a monster he is.
- Rare Guns: The "Magnetic Accelerator" Rifle that Phoenix steals is a Heckler & Koch G11.
- Real Men Wear Pink: During their ice rehab, the cryo-cons were programmed with skills to be more productive to society. Spartan was trained in knitting. The prisoner up for parole gets piano playing and plays at a Taco Bell. Phoenix is not programmed to do anything useful for society, only what's useful for Cocteau.
- Reconstruction: The film does this for the Cowboy Cop. While Spartan is infamous In-Universe for causing massive amounts of damage when catching crooks to the point of being cryogenically frozen for a bunch of deaths that wasn't his fault, it is clear that his brand of violence is sometimes necessary, since the soft-hearted methods of the San Angeles don't work against a dangerous psycho like Phoenix. Also Spartan can distinguish between hardcore criminals like Phoenix and petty criminals who only steal out of desperation.
- Red Alert: The Chief, surrounded by the police force, calls for a "Defensive Red Alert" when Edgar Friendly and the Scraps start coming. (Spartan chills them out.)
- Reduced to Ratburgers: Spartan briefly pauses when finds out just what his delicious hamburger is made of; but then remembering the poverty and hardship that the poor cook and her fellow under dwellers have to endure, he graciously smiles and compliments her, bringing a warm smile of gratitude to her face.Spartan: Not bad. As a matter of fact, it's the best burger I've had in years.
- Restraining Bolt:
- Phoenix is unable to kill Cocteau. (He gets around it by having one of his goons do it for him.)
- The cars also have restraining bolts to prevent them from exceeding the speed limit. When Phoenix has to steal a police car, he repeatedly feeds the computer various crime reports to get it to remove various levels of restriction. In the novel he goes Up to Eleven by describing an elaborate situation in which a family is being trapped in a burning house while they're being raped and stolen from, prompting the computer to finally remove the restraint completely. Spartan and Huxley, meanwhile, have commandeered a 1970 Oldsmobile which has no such limitations.
- Rip Van Tinkle: Spartan has to use the bathroom once he fully got over the freezing.
- Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: Cocteau (Enlightenment) is a totalitarian technocrat who has built a city that is clean and morally upright... and also joyless and obsessed with being politically correct. Friendly (Romanticism) is a pseudo-anarchist who wants people to be free.
- Running Gag: The machine which dispenses fine slips for saying bad words. Spartan and Phoenix each notice it the first time, but ignore it thereafter (except when John abuses it to get some toilet paper). The buzz can be heard at all the right points. Gets a lampshaded ending when Spartan shoots one such device, causing it to short out.
- Sadistic Choice: The people of San Angeles are subject to one; either submit to Cocteau's interpretation of purity and utopian society by sacrificing much of their humanity but be accepted nonetheless or reject Cocteau's rules and descend into the depths of the city, retaining their freedom but becoming a poor, feared, and hated society who is likely to die from starvation unless they regularly attack and raid San Angeles above for food.Edgar Friendly: You wanna live on top, you gotta live Cocteau's way. What he wants, when he wants, how he wants. Your other choice: come down here, maybe starve to death.
- Sarcasm Mode:
- The initial encounter between Phoenix and the SAPD officers:Simon Phoenix: What's this? Six of you. Such nice, tidy uniforms. Ooh, I'm so scared!
[the police officers look at each other]
Simon Phoenix: What, you guys don't have sarcasm anymore?
- When the police are out of leads on where to find Phoenix, Chief Earle's plan is to simply wait until the next MurderDeathKill and zero in on that, leading Spartan to sarcastically remark "Nice plan." Nobody gets it, save for Lenina, who snickers.
- The initial encounter between Phoenix and the SAPD officers:
- Sawed-Off Shotgun:
- Spartan uses one against Phoenix during the museum fight.
- Friendly's weapon of choice.
- Saw It in a Movie Once: How Huxley learned to kick like that. "Jackie Chan movies." It's a Shout-Out to the fact Jackie Chan and Stallone are friends — Jackie was originally slated to play the villain, even.
- Say My Name: Spartan yelling "PHOENIIIIIIIIIIIIIX!"
- Scary Impractical Armor: The Scraps, and the armor that Phoenix wears that was presumably stolen from them, is constructed from scrap materials, most prominently cut up tires. Spartan beats them up just as handily as anyone else, and of course, rubber isn't very bulletproof. It does make some sense, though; Scrap armor is meant to defend against San Angeles cops, who only carry glow rods. Though we're not told exactly how the rods work, it stands to reason a rubber insulator would render them ineffective. The tires would also be very effective against clubs and other blunt weapon attacks.
- Schmuck Bait: As John eats the ratburger underground, Lenina tells him, "Just don't ask where the meat comes from." Of course, he immediately does. This doesn't dissuade him from finishing it, though.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: Practically everyone in the cryo-prison, but Phoenix especially. Cocteau seems to have been planning to open Phoenix's can for some time if he ever had need of someone with his... leanings.
- See You in Hell: During their final confrontation, the villain Simon Phoenix battles his nemesis John Spartan. Finally he tells him "I hate cops! Look into my eyes. I'll see you in hell!"
- Sexy Backless Outfit: Lenina's minidress at the Taco Bell dinner. The dress weighed 40 pounds due to all of the glass and stones and actually was damaged when she jumped after the fight outside the restaurant.
- Shoulders of Doom: Simon Phoenix and some of the Scraps wear clothes made out of scavenged materials, and they include large shoulder pads.
- This film features references to Aldous Huxley's novel, Brave New World: Lenina Huxley was named after Lenina Crowne (a major character in the novel) and Aldous Huxley, John Spartan is named after John the Savage (on a side note, Chief Earle and later Huxley, called Spartan a savage), and Simon said during the fight at the Museum (before firing his AcMag gun):Simon Phoenix: It's a brave new world! Sorry, you gotta go!
- And possibly the character "Alfredo Garcia."
- "Hey Luke Skywalker, use the force."
- "Say hello to my little friend!"
- "Sorry, Rambo, I'm gonna need these."
- "I know who you remind me of, now! An evil Mr. Rogers!"
- "Look, I don't need a history lesson. Come on, HAL, where're the goddamn guns?"
- "Wait a minute. This is the future. Where are all the phaser guns?"
- The cryo-crystal used for rapid freezing was inspired by ice-nine from Cat's Cradle.
- Raymond Cocteau is name after French artist and filmmaker Jean Cocteau.
- The society divided into bright, shiny [and somewhat naîve] upper world (the Eloi) and the sewer-dwelling Scraps (the Morlocks) as in H. G. Wells book The Time Machine.
- This film features references to Aldous Huxley's novel, Brave New World: Lenina Huxley was named after Lenina Crowne (a major character in the novel) and Aldous Huxley, John Spartan is named after John the Savage (on a side note, Chief Earle and later Huxley, called Spartan a savage), and Simon said during the fight at the Museum (before firing his AcMag gun):
- Shrug Take: Spartan's reaction to the realization that his burger is made of rat.
- Skewed Priorities:
- Cocteau, from his Establishing Character Moment up until the moment he buys it, treats Edgar Friendly like some kind of Ultimate Evil that needs to be prioritized for extermination rather than the mere annoyance that he is right now, let alone in comparison to the complete psychos that used to run around (one of which — maybe the absolute worst of which — Cocteau releases into the world without thinking that he is essentially using a nuclear weapon to try to get rid of a gnat).
- The news lady that blasted Spartan for destroying a 7-million-dollar mall in order to save a young girl (whose ransom was only $25,000). Apparently, the mall was more important than a young girl's life. She says it to the girl's face too, who understandably cusses her out.
- Slobs Versus Snobs: Edgar Friendly's dirty, gritty freedom-fighters against Dr. Cocteau's relentlessly clean, neat, orderly society.
- The Slow Path:Zach: I don't believe it. Is that you, Spartan?
Spartan: No! Zach? Zach Lamb? What happened to you?
Zach: I got older.
Spartan: My God, I remember when you were a snotnosed rookie pilot.
Zach: They finally grounded me.
- Sound-Effect Bleep:
- When shown on TV the news report where a girl says "Fuck you, lady!" is bleeped out, giving a stylistic and unique twist to the trope.
- Simon Phoenix says "BLEEP!" when the swear machine fines him the third time.
- Spock Speak: This has become the Newspeak of San Angeles.
- Stay in the Kitchen: Near the end of the movie, John Spartan is so determined to confront Simon Phoenix alone that he actually knocks out Huxley out with a stun-stick in order to prevent her from following him. Nevermind the fact that she has proven her value to him many times over, including in a fight just a few minutes earlier where she beat up mooks with her martial arts skills and saved Spartan's life by shooting one who was about to kill him. Though being wrongly blamed for the death of hostages can easily make It's Personal and various scenes have shown that Spartan and Phoenix are obsessed with killing each other, to say nothing of how Phoenix was tweaked as a Human Popsicle to make him far more dangerous compared to his mooks. There's also that Spartan saw how devastated Huxley was at having to take a human life, even in self-defense, and either wanted to spare her going through that again or felt that she'd be useless until she came to grips with that.
- Stealth Pun: The double-barreled shotgun Spartan grabs during the museum shootout is a Remington Spartan.
- Stepford Suburbia: San Angeles is a nice place to live in, but it's a utopia led by an intolerant maniac who espouses all of the worst traits of Political Overcorrectness. After Cocteau is put out of the picture and once everybody gets used to living together, it's implied that the future will remain as bright as it first looked, only less dumb.
- Straight Edge Evil: Dr. Raymond Cocteau. As the mastermind for the city of San Angeles, he created a fascistic Stepford Suburbia by placing bans on the consumption of sugar, meat, smoking, physical sex (electronic sex is fine) and even swearing. The only person at complete odds with him is Edgar Friendly. Even Simon Phoenix, the Ax-Crazy psychotic criminal Cocteau tries to manipulate into murdering Friendly, gets irritated by Cocteau's beliefs, describing him as "an evil Mr. Rogers."
- Suddenly Shouting: While talking with Phoenix, Cocteau is starting to grow impatient and really wants Friendly dead.Cocteau: JUST DO YOUR JOB!
- Summon Bigger Fish: The San Angelenos view the release of John Spartan like this. To them he's just as much a criminal as Simon Phoenix and his worldview and behavior is just as alien."Send a maniac to catch a maniac."
- The Swear Jar: Every time you curse, a machine pops out a ticket. Do it enough, it calls the cops. Unless you're already a cop, of course. When Spartan can't figure out the "three seashells", he swears at the machine until it gives him enough tickets to use as toilet paper.
- Swiper, No Swiping!: In the faux utopian future of the film, the local populace are so pacified that this strategy is the only resource city law enforcement has to fall back on. Funnily enough, it seems to work most of the time, until one unfortunate officer tries using it on Simon Phoenix, an unfrozen Ax-Crazy mass murderer from the 20th century. They do carry stun batons as well, but apparently never needed to use them before he'd arrived (he easily disarms the cop who attempts using it on him, unsurprisingly).
- Take a Third Option:
- Rather than finding out how the three seashells works, Spartan lets loose a line of swear words, then takes the dispensed tickets to use as toilet paper.
- In the end, Cocteau is dead and everyone on the surface fears his rigidly built utopia might collapse, while Edgar Friendly and the Scraps are all for going straight to anarchy. Spartan suggests that the two sides work together to find a balance between order and personal freedom.
- Take the Wheel: John Spartan to Lenina Huxley while they're pursuing Simon Phoenix.
- Technical Pacifist: While nonviolent, all the San Angelinos are this by default since, as Lenina points out, the society can only exist because of the cryo-prison.
- Terminator Twosome: Inverted, in that both time-travelling warriors go from the present into the future.
- Textile Work Is Feminine: It's clear what Spartan thinks about being taught knitting while in cryo-stasis. He's so aghast that he jumps right to calling himself a seamstress. (The masculine form of the word would have worked just fine.) He does at least grow comfortable enough with his new profession to knit a sweater for Huxley, and he casually remarks to her that all he needs is a needle and thread to fix his clothes after crashing his squad car into a fountain.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Friendly and his gang are, at best, moderately well-armed hobos who are not much more than irritants. Cocteau logically responds by turning mass-murderer Simon Phoenix into a highly-trained guerrilla warfare expert who is even more of a psycho. This much overkill backfires, naturally.
- These Hands Have Killed, followed immediately by I Did What I Had to Do:Huxley: That man has died at my hands.
Spartan: It was him or us.
Huxley: ...There is that.
- Throw a Barrel at It: During the final fight between John Spartan and Simon Phoenix, Phoenix picks up an empty barrel and throws it at Spartan while Spartan is lying on the ground.
- Time Passes Montage: Sort of, after John Spartan is frozen. It's just a series of shots of his frozen naked body.
- Titled After the Song: The film gets its name from the 1981 Grace Jones song, famously covered by The Police. The song's writer, Sting, recorded a solo version for the film.
- Too Dumb to Live:
- For starters, nobody has any idea how to deal with violent criminals or anything at all that is not perfect and ordered. And secondly, they place loaded guns, including an energy weapon that makes a roughly baseball-sized area explosive, among other things inside a museum behind only glass. Of course, this wasn't expected in a society where everyone is completely non-violent.
- Cocteau programmed Phoenix so that he couldn't kill him. So why the hell didn't he apply that programming to the other psychos hand-picked by Phoenix? Possibly justified if the process, referred to as "synaptic suggestion" in a throwaway line, takes time to be effective, and Phoenix explicitly told Cocteau none of the other guys are murderers.
- Totally Radical: Lenina often sounds like this to Spartan when she tries to use 20th century slang and Spartan instantly corrects her.
- Tracking Chip: As part of Cocteau's master plan, almost everyone in San Angeles had an organic microchip implanted in them. Sensors around the city can determine the exact location of any of them at any time. The Scraps clearly don't have chips implanted, or Cocteau's forces would have hunted them down before the movie started. Of course, it's possible there are no sensors in the underground ruins of Los Angeles, or they're so deep down that the chips can't broadcast a signal to Cocteau. Phoenix is also noted as not having a chip, as he was frozen before the chips were implemented, and Spartan, being frozen at the same time, had one implanted right after being defrosted.
- Trashcan Bonfire: Several are visible in the Absurdly Spacious Sewer where Edgar Friendly's people live.
- 20 Minutes into the Future: Southern California became a very different place, no thanks to a major earthquake and several pandemics - and, of course, Dr. Cocteau's guidance.
- The Un-Reveal:
- Huxley starts to explain the 61st Amendment to the Constitution that allowed Austrian-born Arnold Schwarzenegger to become President, but Spartan cuts her off.
- Despite some plans (see the trivia page) and the obvious set-up, the movie never follows up on the fate of Spartan's daughter. The novelization reveals that she's a Scrap, which both saddens Spartan because of her situation and makes him proud that she's chosen freedom.
- Underground City: The Scraps, the San Angeles population that doesn't accept Cocteau's rule lives in the underground remains of old Los Angeles below San Angeles' streets. They survive by eating stolen food and rats.
- Upgrade Artifact: The rehabilitation programs that all frozen convicts go through. Spartan learns elite knitting skills, much to his annoyance. Phoenix got hacking skills, terrorist training, and tripled strength (!?) as part of the villain's plan. Numerous martial arts are listed amongst Phoenix's rehab. He's probably simply learned to apply his strength to maximum effect with every move he makes from them.
- Urban Hellscape: How the movie starts in The '90s.
- Utopia Justifies the Means: Subverted, as the "utopia" turns out to be way too passé.
- Veganopia: If you want red meat in the future, find a hearty-looking rat and a grill.
- Video Call Fail: As he discovers the futuristic amenities of his new apartment in 2032, John Spartan, to his surprise, receives a video call from a naked woman coming out of the shower and who got a wrong number.
- Video Phone: Present in the future, naturally. John Spartan even gets a wrong number from a topless chick.
- Villain Ball: Cocteau gets called out on this, and is promptly dumped in a fire.
- Villain Cred: Simon Phoenix tries to unfreeze a cryo-prison full of psychotic murderers. When he hears that Jeffrey Dahmer is among the convicts, he joyfully expresses admiration for the guy.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Dr. Cocteau.
- Wait Here: Before John Spartan enters the museum to confront Simon Phoenix, he tells Lenina Huxley and Alfredo Garcia to wait for him outside so they won't get hurt.
- Walking Disaster Area: Both John Spartan and Simon Phoenix.
- Wardens Are Evil: Mostly averted with William Smithers. He does lock up people in cyro tubes where they're aware of how their trapped, but he doesn't seem to realize this, and displays a little sympathy for Spartan and hope that he will be released while locking him up. After the Time Skip he seems to have adapted well to the Utopian setting, displaying a sense of relaxed compassion at his job, while also being a little wary of Phoenix.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Cocteau tries to get rid of Edgar Friendly, the only thorn in his side and the closest thing San Angeles has to a real criminal, by taking an already psychotic criminal genius and making him worse. He's also the one who turned San Angeles into what it currently is.
- We Will Use WikiWords in the Future:
- Wham Line:
- In 1996, Spartan has just captured Phoenix and removed him from his lair just after Phoenix set explosives to destroy the building. He's being chewed out by his superior, insisting that the hostages Phoenix captured must not be in the rubble because the thermal scan he did only picked up Phoenix and some of his crew. Then:Fire Captain: Captain, there are bodies everywhere! There must be twenty or thirty of them. Everywhere!
- Followed by Phoenix's Wham Line when he states that he told Spartan the hostages were still in the building, and Spartan said he didn't care. This then leads to another Wham Line later in the film when Phoenix reveals that they were already dead, and it was a gambit to frame Spartan.
- In 1996, Spartan has just captured Phoenix and removed him from his lair just after Phoenix set explosives to destroy the building. He's being chewed out by his superior, insisting that the hostages Phoenix captured must not be in the rubble because the thermal scan he did only picked up Phoenix and some of his crew. Then:
- What Year Is This?: Spartan, naturally, asks how long he's been frozen upon getting thawed out.
- What Happened to the Mouse?
- Phoenix defrosts somewhere between 6 and 80 of his old buddies. One looks to die in the sewer fight with another one or maybe one killed and one knocked out, another two go down to Spartan and Huxley just as Lenina Huxley shoots and kills one after knocking out another one, and the rest are never seen again, and presumably eliminated when the cryo-prison is blown up or get away and maybe cops are at the end on the cryo-prison campus hunting them down like with stun batons drawn and running. In a cut scene, John Spartan kills off more of Simon Phoenix's gang in the cryo-prison building. He also fights the thug who did the work for Simon Phoenix in offing Raymond Cocteau for him played by Jesse "The Body" Ventura. It's not known how he defeats him. In the novelization it's not explained or said what happens to the cryo-con Adam played by Jesse Ventura who did the work for Simon Phoenix in killing Raymond Cocteau. He just disappears when sent by Simon Phoenix after John Spartan and Lenina Huxley and they kill the 3 other cons.
- Spartan's closest friend, Zachary Lamb, last appeared in a scene where he drops off Spartan, Huxley, and Garcia before their descent into the Wasteland. He was not seen again. In a deleted scene and the novelization (based on the original shooting script), Phoenix kills Lamb before taking Huxley's car.
- John Spartan's daughter is said to be alive, but she's never seen or further explored since Spartan doesn't want to disrupt her utopian life. It's revealed in the novelization that she's retained her freedom and has been living as a Scrap, but this is never shown in the film.
- What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: A rare non-robot example. Lenina at first is disgusted at the thought of real sex, or "fluid transfers" as she calls it, in fear of disease and unwanted pregnancy. However when John Spartan gives her The Big Damn Kiss at the end she's taken aback by it and wonders if sex in general is as good as that kiss.Lenina: Are all fluid transfer activities like this?
- World of Jerkass: With a few exceptions, the inhabitants San Angeles are infuriatingly condescending and elitist to those they consider even mildly uncivilized.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Lenina assumes that Spartan is a a blow-up-the-bad-guy-while-grinning type but realizes he's more the moody-gunslinger-who-will-only-draw-when-he-must type. For his part, Spartan claims he can't be defined by a "type". He's just a cop, trying to do his job to the best of his ability. Unfortunately, his best ability is blowing shit up.
- Wicked Cultured: For being the king of all thugs from the nineties, Simon Phoenix has a bizarrely rich vocabulary. He curses a lot — as would be expected, really — but he speaks fluently ("patience is not one of my virtues"), seems perfectly capable of holding a conversation while he's shooting at you, and understands words that you really wouldn't expect a presumably uneducated criminal to know (such as "boggle").
- You Are Too Late: Phoenix killed the hostages before Spartan even arrived; either he'd get away with murder (literally), or Spartan would get framed and imprisoned for his own crime. Either way, he wins.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Near the end Simon Phoenix tries to unfreeze all the criminals held in the cryo-prison at once to kickstart his new dystopia. He thanks the prison's cryo-stasis technicians for their help, before gunning them all down because he no longer has any use for them.
- The Future is round and chrome.
- There's also an element of this in how Los Angeles is depicted to have become all round-and-chrome — the urban unrest the movie depicts, to date, hasn't been quite as bad as that.
- "You're even better live than on LaserDisc!"
- 1996 has come and gone without a single cryonic prison being built, or the Hollywood sign burning down.
- Jeffrey Dahmer was murdered in prison a year after the movie was made (two years before the first setting). So there was no chance of him being released. Of course how he was transferred from Wisconsin to Los Angeles is another question.