If someone were to ask you which names were synonymous with science fiction movies, would you ever, in a million years, think of Sylvester Stallone? Me neither. But it turns out that Sly has a respectable SciFi canon under his Hollywood Heavyweight belt, an accomplishment that began over 30 years ago…
Death Race 2000 (1975)
Set in a Dystopian future, the idea here is a cross-country race where the drivers score points for killing pedestrians and each other. Roger Corman directed this black comedy cult classic and cast a then-unknown Stallone in one of the lead roles as Machine Gun Joe Viterbo. The public is divided between opposing the race on moralistic grounds and supporting it to such a degree that they strive to be casualties. I recall one scene where some happy-to-comply elderly spinster is wheeled out into the middle of road, cheering his impending demise. This is good news for the oncoming driver since children and seniors score the most points. Dark comedy indeed…
Demolition Man (1993)
Stallone plays John Spartan, a cop who goes against bad guy Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes) in a run-down Los Angeles of 1996. Both are cryogenically frozen. (Spartan was unjustly set up by Phoenix.) Phoenix is eventually unfrozen for a parole hearing in 2032 and escapes. Spartan is thawed out to capture him because the local Police force of this Utopian future has never encountered such evil. Sandra Bullock plays Stallone’s cute partner who wants grittier assignments than the relatively violence-free future provides.
Judge Dredd (1995)
Here, Stallone plays the heavily-armored Judge Dredd, enforcer and ruler of law in a violent future. Dredd is the result of a failed genetics engineering program for law enforcement but is nonetheless the most revered of all lawgivers. Dredd is framed for crimes he did not commit. On the way to prison, his plane is shot down by mutants eventually giving Dredd a chance to clear his name. Rob Schneider provides some comic relief as Dredd’s sidekick. The movie is based on the comic 2000 A.D. and takes some liberties because of the different media, but Schneider’s Stallone-ish replay of Dredd’s "I am the law" is worth any deviances.
Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003)
Director Robert Rodriguez completes his Spy Kids trilogy with a mostly-solid installment, but viewers – and more precisely, Stallone fans – are treated to several characters portrayed by Sly. The most notable of these is as the evil Toymaker, a megalomaniacal genius with multiple personalities, also played with gusto by Stallone. The plot revolves around Spy Kid Juni Cortez’s attempts to rescue his sister, Carmen, from being trapped inside the Virtual Reality nightmare of the latest must-have video game. Many Rodriguez regulars (Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek and Mike Judge, to name a few) are on hand to make this a treat for adults as well as kids. And it’s hard to knock a film that admirably shows a wheelchair-bound Ricardo Montalban as superhero.