Previously on The Cryo Game… uh, this. Read Part 1 and you should be good. But, if you’re the sort of reckless individual who cares not for chronological order when reading the horrifying details of one man cramming a staggering amount of movies about cryogenic freezing into a weekend, well, fine. Let’s talk Encino Man. Yeah.
The movie: Encino Man (1992)
The fish: A nameless caveman (Brendan Fraser) from the year Caveman who is dubbed “Link” by Sean Astin and Pauly Shore.
Unfortunately, most people mistakenly refer to him as Zelda.
The method of leaving the water: There’s a snow avalanche and Link is frozen. In the 1990s, Sean Astin finds him in an underground ice block behind his California home and thaws him out in the garage, which will somehow help Sean get babes?
“That entire sentence checks out.” – Scientists everywhere.
Acclimation to the new environment: Okay, I’m not even going to wait on this one… Encino Man is the story of two men who adopt a child. Right? Sorry, I’m talking like you’ve seen this piece of shit. But really, they dress him for school, they teach him table manners, he takes a driving lesson; it’s the closest a PG-rated film could get to telling the story of having two dads in the ’90s.
Here’s the happy couple teaching their son about breasts. Consent, not so much.
I’d like to say this revelation came about because of all the literary theory classes I took in college, but honestly, it was the only spin I could put on the movie to make it hold my interest. It is embarrassingly bad. It’s color-by-numbers high concept teen comedy bullshit. Parties! Chicks! Uh… drinking salsa! I think it truly may be the very last ’80s movie of the ’90s.
Oh, you can bet your ass there’s a Right Said Fred montage.
Wow, you know what’s depressing? This is the only caveman movie on the whole damned cryogenic list. This concept is too good to be wasted on a D-grade Bill & Ted rip-off. This makes those “Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer” sketches look like Casa-fucking-blanca.
The movie: Forever Young (1992)
The fish: Capt. Daniel McCormick (walking punchline Mel Gibson), a dashing test pilot from 1939 whose best gal (Isabel Glasser) kinda sorta ends up in a coma.
Pay no attention to the Salt Shaker of Inevitability there.
The method of leaving the water: Pained by the thought that his lady love might not wake up, Daniel bizarrely decides to avoid the situation (???) and help his scientist buddy George Wendt by volunteering to spend a year in THE COOLEST FUCKING STEAMPUNK CRYOPRESERVATION CHAMBER OF ALL GODDAMN TIME.
I WASN’T PREPARED FOR THIS AMOUNT OF AWESOME, MOVIE.
Acclimation to the new– NO, SERIOUSLY, LOOK AT THAT MOTHERFUCKER. SO COOL. Alright. Let’s continue. Acclimation to the new environment: This might rival Captain America as the movie that needed the actual cryogenic freezing the least. Daniel meets a single mom (Jamie Lee Curtis), so I guess that wasn’t very commonplace in 1939, but other than being confused by the occasional answering machine or Thighmaster, he doesn’t seem to be too disoriented by the ’90s.
This could just as easily have been a story about a pilot whose plane crashed far away from home and he has nowhere to stay. He befriends the single mom and her kid (Elijah Wood) and gets close to them for a bit before he must ultimately decide if he wants to join their family or not. I don’t see why the writer felt like he had to shoehorn in some time displacement. Who wrote this, anyway? Hmm… Jeffrey Abrams. Never heard of– son of a lens flare! It’s J.J. Abrams! Well, I’d expect nothing less from the man who crammed time travel and/or prophecies into Felicity, Alias, Lost, Fringe, and Star Trek.
One thing that really surprised me (spoilers, I guess) is that this is the only movie on my entire list where the freezing process doesn’t actually work. This was the first thing I ever saw involving cryogenic freezing, and as a kid I thought all these stories ended with accelerated aging (and bad make-up). Hmm. Well, I remember my mom loving this flick when I was but a lad, so I figured I’d hate it this time, but the performances are great, Elijah Wood is a goof, and dammit, they give the ol’ heartstrings a real good rub ‘n’ tug at the end. Like Cast Away and Frequency, I give it the Mom Movie seal of approval.
The movie: Demolition Man (1993)
The fish: LAPD Sgt. John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone) and bad guy Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes), because of course those are their names.
Why did I make this image? They’re both on the poster.
The method of leaving the water: The year is 1996. Some hostages are killed in an explosion set off by Simon, but their deaths are blamed on Spartan’s typical reckless behavior. Both are sentenced to CryoPrison, which involves being subjected to some form of mental rehabilitation while frozen. The process includes throwing the naked prisoner into a vat, filling it with goo, and sticking it in a giant freezer, but the most important part is the classic pressed ham Stallone gives to the camera.
Do the scrote! Do it! Or you can’t join the frat!
Acclimation to the new environment: So I realize that I’m going to make comparisons to Sleeper for just about the rest of this article, but here’s why I enjoyed Demolition Man more: it’s part action movie, part comedy. Like Sleeper, Stallone wakes up in a ridiculous future (2032), but he has an objective and he gets shit done. Phoenix escaped from CryoPrison? On it. He’s not constantly riffing on the ludicrously sanitized world around him, so we get a quick gag, then we get back to business.
Woody would have squeezed five minutes of material out of this swear machine.
Spartan is the only man who can catch Phoenix because he’s the only cop who, you know… does cop stuff. In 2032, crime isn’t really a thing, so the police sit around doing nothing all day. There are so many levels to this premise; it’s a mockery of depressingly utopian futures like the one depicted in Star Trek, it’s plays off of the old trope of the cop who doesn’t play by the rules, and it gives our hero a side objective of trying to fix everything that’s wrong with this lame new world.
Oh, yes, it’s a cheesy movie, to be sure. I’m not going to argue that it needs to be preserved in the National Film Registry or anything, but dammit, I liked it. It’s smarter and funnier than your average ’90s action blockbuster, and shame on the many people who didn’t sit me down to watch it before today. If one movie on this list were up for the Actually Rewatchable Guilty Pleasure award, Demolition Man would win in a landslide.
The movie: Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
The fish: Swingin’ sixties superspy Austin Powers (Mike Myers) and the ineptly villainous Dr. Evil (Mike Myers).
Ahh, memories of every self-proclaimed “funny guy” in the seventh grade are just a-floodin’ back.
The method of leaving the water: In 1967, Dr. Evil blasts into orbit in a Bob’s Big Boy statue and freezes himself. To counter this brilliant move, Austin is also cryogenically frozen so he can be thawed when Dr. Evil finally wakes up, which turns out to be 1997. I don’t see why they couldn’t just shoot down Dr. Evil’s satellite with a missile, but shhh, there’s a movie on.
Who successfully explained “no sex for thirty years” to Austin?
Acclimation to the new environment: I’ll be honest, I’ve heard claims lately that this movie doesn’t hold up, that it really only worked in the ’90s, but to that I say “bah,” because here in 2013, we are sorely lacking in good parodies, and this film’s unpredictable gags and perfectly timed comedic beats were crafted with laser precision.
I feel like you’re suddenly doubting this bold claim. Hold on, I’ll explain.
So you’re looking at that picture of a sausagejob and saying, “Bill, that’s not terribly clever,” but watching one scene by itself doesn’t do the film justice. The strength of the comedy comes from its frenetic changes in tone. If it were a straight-up James Bond spoof, it wouldn’t be as entertaining, and we know that because Rowan Atkinson gave us one of those already. Austin Powers gives us goofy penis gags, then mocks a popular film trope, then hits us with a bad pun or two, then legitimately charms us, then forces us to sit through uncomfortably realistic moments of social awkwardness, then a colorful music montage, then (most importantly to its own premise and especially to this article) a commentary on how much things have changed since the 1960s.
Basil Exposition’s desk must have collapsed under the weight of all the sexual harassment forms.
Despite all the oddball shenanigans, the juxtaposition of modern workplace attitudes with Austin’s par-for-the-course sex mania gives the whole outing a solid through line that also doubles as film criticism. It can’t be a coincidence that this was made on the heels of GoldenEye, the first post-cold war Bond film, which sees a female M rebuking James as a relic and a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur.” Austin Powers uses cryogenic freezing effectively to take a look at how far we’ve come as a society and asks if we still really need our old heroes. And it plays both sides by tempting us with a charming, easy-to-disagree-with but hard-to-hate ignoramus of Michael Scott proportions. And boob jokes.
The sequels are rushed-out crap, though. I’d only see them again if I were some freak who’s trying to watch every time travel movie ever made over the course of a year– SHIT, I TOTALLY AM.
The movie: Idiocracy (2006)
The fish: Army librarian Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson), statistically the most average man in America, and Rita (Maya Rudolph), a prostitute whose pimp made her take part in a government experiment.
If you think this is a long wait…
The method of leaving the water: Pretty bitchin’ (but nowhere near as cool as Forever Young) cryopods that appear to be self-sustaining. Joe and Rita are supposed to be revived one year later in 2006, but the project is scrapped and they don’t get out until 2505.
Whoa, are those gull-wing cryopods? I obviously approve.
Acclimation to the new environment: Alright, have you got your disbelief handy? Yeah? And something sturdy to hang it on? Okay. Good. When Joe and Rita are eventually woken up, thanks to a garbage avalanche, they discover that they are the smartest people alive. Now, everything is fully automated, so somebody has to be building these machines, right? That takes some brains, more than any of the drooling idiots that populate this world have. Maybe the machines are built by machines? Is it a neverending cycle that’s continued since the last competent person invented–
Alright, movie, I get it.
Okay, so while the story is built upon the idea that smart people will never out-baby-make the dumb people, you kind of have to put any logic aside after that and just enjoy the terrifyingly funny exaggeration of the worst parts of the present. Much like Sleeper, this future is pretty much an inflated version of the year that it was made. Hate reality TV? It will only get worse. Hate aggressive, overtly sexual advertising? It will only get worse. Hate how elections are pretty much won by the guy with the most showmanship? HAIL TO THE MOTHAFUCKIN’ CHIEF.
Suck THIS executive branch!
While I love the movie, I’ll admit it has some flaws. Once you pick up on the formula of the gags, they start to get a little predictable. At that point, the movie shifts focus to Joe trying to teach people how to grow crops, which, you know, is something. Also, the opening, essentially a well-edited short film laying down the basic theory behind the intelligence decay, is a little preachy, but to be fair, it’s not exactly a new concept. H. G. Wells expressed concerns over this same problem, which got him wrongly accused of supporting eugenics, which, you know, makes me think writer-director Mike Judge would have gotten the same accusations about Idiocracy if anybody had bothered to see it in theaters. The general premise isn’t even entirely original; the 1951 short story “The Marching Morons” addresses the same topic in the same way, including the suspended animation. And that story is inspired by (and contains direct references to) a 1930 film called Just Imagine, which is about a man struck by lightning who gets revived by scientists in 1980– wait, did I leave a movie out of this marathon? Lemme read this premise here… did they actually freeze him? Or just raise him from the dead? Is it magic lightning? I’ll watch a little clip here…
Uh, hey, look over there! *smoke bomb*
THE “NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE!” MOMENT:
If you read my Time Out articles regularly, you know that I like to pick my favorite moment where a character tries to understand how time travel works and his or her brain breaks in the process. Well, I figured I wouldn’t have to this week because cryogenic freezing doesn’t mess with space-time, therefore no paradoxes. Well, guess what? Idiocracy is the only movie on my list where somebody actually bothers to inquire about returning to his own time. Joe’s friend Frito (Dax Shepard) thinks he knows where Joe can get a time machine, so Joe formulates a plan that is so confusing, it might just be the best time travel brain-breaker I’ve ever seen:
“We just go to the time machine, then when I get back to the past, I tell her not to do the experiment,
then she won’t even be here. That’ll work, right? No, wait. She already is here, so that must mean
I didn’t go back in time, right? No, wait, hold on. It just means I haven’t done it yet.
Okay, so I go back and I tell her not to do the experiment, then I won’t have to do it either,
because she won’t be here. Then I won’t have to come back and save her, right? But then, wait.
Why am I still here? Goddamn, how does this time travel work?”
The movie: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
The fish: Steve Rogers, a ‘roided-up soldier from 1943 whose backstory seems vaguely familiar.
Is this the part where he gets carsick?
The method of leaving the water: Steve crashes an enemy plane into the Arctic Ocean and his frozen body is discovered by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents 70 years later. He’s revived, but we’re not shown how.
I’m gonna guess Sean Astin and Pauly Shore thawed him out in a garage?
Acclimation to the new environment: Um, so this is a tough one because the freezing happens at the very end of the movie, which is a huge improvement over the shitty 1990 version because Cap now has an actual reputation as a hero instead of getting captured on his first outing as a super-soldier. Pretty much all we get of Steve adjusting to the new world is him staring aghast at the commercialized eyesore that is Times Square.
So, this is basically his version of Idiocracy.
To really talk about Steve’s “fish out of water” status, you need to watch The Avengers, which wasn’t originally on my itinerary, but on the other hand, it’s The Avengers, so hell yes.
The movie: The Avengers (2012)
Acclimation to the new environment: Again, wow, not that much, really. Being an ensemble movie, no one character becomes the focus for very long, but because Joss Whedon knows what he’s doing, he still manages to work in plenty of reminders that Steve is a man out of time.
And loves him some Judy Garland.
Still… I dunno. I feel like Marvel had all their chess pieces in place and had to strike, but in an ideal world, I wish Cap got the runtime of one more movie to integrate himself into modern day. I hope that sense of temporal isolation is a major plot arc in The Winter Soldier, but it really took a back seat here in the name of collaborative avenging activities.
SO, IS CRYOGENIC FREEZING ACTUALLY TIME TRAVEL?
Here’s a YouTube video of the things I did between movies during this marathon, for those of you without Vine.
Want more time travel? Head on over to the Time Out archive.