This is where the movie takes off - in 2032. In that distant future, prisons are scientifically more advanced and sound ‘cryo prisons’; prison inmates are cryogenically frozen. A terrible natural catastrophe has struck LA, as a result of which much of the city is destroyed. A new one is formed in its stead - wherein erstwhile LA and San Diego are merged to form San Angeles, the city is in the capable hands of Dr. Raymond Cocteau (Nigel Hawthorne). What merges, other than the geographic territory, is also the criminal demographic, despite the fact that weapons are banned and every human desire is sanctioned by the SAPD.
Phoenix seizes the opportunity to escape during a prison hearing for parole - he is able to overpower the guards and prison warden without problems. He is the quintessential villain - physically strong with fighting prowess, multi lingual, with a superior understanding of futuristic sciences and heightened sensory skills. Given the largely pacific environment in San Angeles, the law enforcement agencies are incapable of dealing with the heightened menace of Phoenix. A veteran on the Force suggests that the ‘Demolition Man’ Spartan be resurrected to help capture Phoenix.
Unlike Phoenix, Spartan has adaptability issues and is unable to make a smooth transition from the cryo stage to part human-part machine creature. The actual face behind menacing Phoenix is actually Cocteau who aims to overpower the underground resistance called ‘Scraps’ and reign supreme over San Angeles. Spartan sees security footage of a conversation between Phoenix and Cocteau; the former is in a museum at the weapons exhibit, in a bid to arm himself. Sandra Bullock is Lenina Huxley, who is Stallone’s love interest in the film - awkward kisses are exchanged between the two as they remain in their robotic, machine state.
The culture represented in the film is truly surreal - no one dies of unnatural causes, there are no human activities that includes sex (great future there!), best aspect is that there is no poverty. There are no fast food joints, they were all ‘killed’ in the franchise wars - only Taco Bell survives (for overseas audiences, the equivalent was Pizza Hut, since it had more brand presence abroad). Every person is fitted with a microchip, which can be tracked by a central federal computer. What happens in the battle between Spartan and Phoenix, given that they cause mayhem all around during their fights ?
The film was well received by audiences, 64% audiences ruled in favor of the film, and Stallone was lauded for his performance, even Snipes gave a stellar performance as Phoenix. Rolling Stone magazine called it the ‘Frankenstein of action thrillers’ -directed by Marco Brambilla, it is his directorial debut.