My wife and I had another couple over for the Fourth of July. We asked if they wanted to watch a DVD, and Sleeper somehow became the movie du jour, which was fine with me. As Michael Graham once said, “I used to love Woody Allen, before he went southern, and started sleeping with his children”.
Sleeper is shot in that 2001-influenced ultra-white, ultra-modern look that was the standard appearance of The Future in the movies until Blade Runner’s dark future-noir style replaced it, even in non sci-fi films, such as the Batman movies and The Crow. I couldn’t remember another film made after Blade Runner that pictured a clean, modern, antiseptic Mies van Rohe-meets-mainframe computers future.
That was until last night, when flipping channels through the stratosphere of DirecTV, I came across 1993′s Demolition Man starring Sly Stallone, Wesley Snipes, and Sandra Bullock, well on her way to becoming Hollywood’s “it” girl of the mid-1990s.
I watched about 15 minutes of the film, and then having taken all I could of its inane product placements, switched it off. (I sure hope Taco Bell paid the producers a lot of money, because they sure rammed the name down the audience’s throats), The deliberately clunky dialogue, and the stiff as a board acting from everyone didn’t help matters. (At least when Ahhhnaaald does these sorts of films, he lets you in on the joke: he can’t act, but he’s working really, really hard, so just kick back and go with it, OK? Stallone doesn’t even display that kind of humor–at least not in this film, where he’s leaden.) When Bullock tells Sly that she’d like to have sex with him, and then tosses him a helmet with antennas and other gadgets and geegaws, and straps a similar device on herself, it was obvious:
It’s a remake of Sleeper!
Both films share the same high-tech fascistic sterile future, where sex is best performed with the aid of electronic devices, where the heroes are fish out of water: men from an earlier, freer time, summoned into a future where they don’t belong, cars are hydrogen or electric powered white bubbled domes, and Diane Keaton is played by Sandra Bullock. Where the police all wear black leather baseball caps, and black leather outfits with lots of shiny buttons borrowed from the set of Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” video.
Speaking of videos, whereas Allen used his own ragtime band for Sleeper’s soundtrack, Demolition Man‘s title comes from a tune Sting wrote 12 years earlier when he was with the Police. But having an established song for a film’s title helps sell a movie that much easier. And having Sting do your video doesn’t hurt, either.
The theme song and The Taco Bell placement shows just how far Hollywood has come, post-Star Wars and its merchandising. Where Woody throws in a McDonald’s sign with endless rows of zeros and commas as a 15 second throwaway gag, Demolition Man bludgeons its audience with product placements.
Having been bludgeoned enough, I tuned out. If I want endless product placements, I’ll watch the NFL, which I did: ESPN Classics reran the Browns/Broncos AFC Championship game from 1987. To paraphrase Bob Evans, had I seen it before? Of course, a few times. Did I know how it would end? You bet your *** I did. Did I care? Not in the least. I knew it had to be better than this.