The unmade sequel to Demolition Man

Demolition Man
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Once or twice in modern history, plans have arisen for Demolition Man 2 – yet it’s never come to pass. We’ve been looking into the story.


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1993 served as something as a career comeback year for Sylvester Stallone, as he turned around one of the – arf – rockiest parts of his career. He entered the 1990s and his box office powers were apparently in one-way decline. The critical and commercial failure of Rocky V, Oscar and Stop, Or My Mom Will Shoot! had taken their toll. He only ended up taking on the latter too when Arnold Schwarzenegger falsely declared interest in the movie, in part to just see if Stallone would take it. Fun times.

But 1993 was comeback time. A sizeable return to action kicked things off, with Cliffhanger. That turned out to be his biggest hit of the year, and it’s a movie that’s endured. Yet ask most of us to pick our favourite of his 1993 features and it’s Demolition Man all the way. A  return to the musclebound, stoic action hero with which Stallone made his name. Plus, a healthy dose of sci-fi, Wesley Snipes and Sandra Bullock on fine form, and some of the best zingers of Sly’s career.

The film follows Stallone’s John Spartan who, in 1996, clashes with nemesis Simon Phoenix, played with great relish by Snipes. After a failed attempt to rescue hostages, both are cryogenically frozen. In 1932, Phoenix escapes after being thawed out for a parole hearing. Unable to stop him, authorities release Spartan, who has to adapt to a future for which he is woefully unprepared. He teams up with Bullock’s Lieutenant Lenina Huxley (named after Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World) to defeat him.

Nigel Hawthorne, who famously hated the film and only agreed to make it in order to get the funding to put his towering performance on film in Alan Bennett’s The Madness Of King George, which we delved into in more depth here, co-stars as main antagonist Dr. Raymond Cocteau.

The film remains quite possible one of the most enjoyable in Stallone’s filmography, with well shot fight sequences and Snipes in particular having an absolute ball with the material. Making over $150 million on a budget of around $57 million, it wasn’t a Cliffhanger-sized hit, but it did the kind of numbers for Warner Bros to consider a second chapter. Turns out it got down to work fairly quickly too.

According to the American Film Institute, a sequel was planned for 1995. No plot details are available for what that version would be, and given the fact that Phoenix is unequivocally dead by the film’s climax, it does bring into question what the sequel could have been like. The world shown in the film was expansive, and delving further into the future society could have thrown up any number of plots.

Demolition Man

Stallone, however, turned to other ventures in the 1990s, including the underwhelming The Specialist and Assassins, as well as the first cinematic take on Judge Dredd. The debate as to which chin is better, Stallone or Karl Urban, does not continue to this day. It was after this series of films though that Stallone took a risk that veered him away from bigger blockbusters. James Mangold’s Cop Land took Stallone in a new dramatic direction and earned him rare critical acclaim for his performance as a troubled cop with tinnitus.

Separately, Snipes hit the big time as Blade, a role he reprised in two sequels (Blade: Trinity was the subject of a Film Stories podcast recently). Talk of a Demolition Man follow-up, that’d presumably finally explain the three sea shells malarkey (it remains delightful that these aren’t ever explained though of course), seemed to disappear.

And that seemed to be that. A hit that turned into something of a cult film, and one that grew in popularity with subsequent home media releases. Heck, even coming to be regarded as something of a social statement in recent years, what with the plot incorporating things like the call to end the practice of shaking hands and shortages of essential goods.

Then, quite out of the blue, a sequel was announced to be in development. In a fan Q&A, Stallone responded to a question about the film, saying “I think it is coming. We’re working on it right now with Warner Brothers and it’s looking fantastic, so that should come out. That’s going to happen.”

That’s pretty definite, right? But prod as we might, we’ve not been able to uncover more since.

Demolition Man

That was in May 2020, and although there has been no information since, Stallone is still headlining action films, with the likes of Rambo: Last Blood and Samaritan showing that he still lives by those immortal words he put into the mouth of Rocky Balboa “it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward”. There had been some chat that the plot would go further into the future than the first film, that it’d probably need to do given that nearly – ulp – three decades have passed. But it feels the chance of the follow-up fade with each passing year. Or until the next Stallone press tour.

That said, it’s not game over. Given that Stallone is still performing fight sequences on the big screen at 76 years of age – The Expendables 4 is already shot – and the fact he reunited with Snipes just a few years ago for The Expendables 3, there are parts in place. But given the corporate turmoil at Warner Bros Discovery that’d have to pay for the thing, the chances now look a lot slimmer than back in 2020. And they were hardly good odds back then…

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