Class of 1999 (1990)
The ultimate teaching machine... out of control.
I made the mistake of watching the news this morning on accident. If I were any normal human I may feel bad about my movie choice for this week. Thankfully for me, I'm not and I don't. Tonight's movie is that lovely apocalyptic future-vision that marks "the future" of it's time as our current past, but somehow ends up being more entertaining than the feel-good visions of the future from before it. When the kids aren't alright, sometimes they need a prescription grade dose of robo-teacher. Tonight, we join the class of 1999.
An opening scrawl tells us most of everything we need to know about our current session. It's the year of 1999, and kids have gotten so bad that roaming gangs of them have all but taken over certain areas, with schools being abandoned for safety and cops pulling out and designating areas as "free fire zones." In an attempt to change this, a school in one such spot decides to be the testing grounds for the Department of Educational Defense's new android teacher, built tough to enforce education with an iron rule. Built on an old combat chassis, there's no doubt these human-looking creations should be able to hold up to whatever these gang kids can throw at them - and with some luck they'll even teach them a thing or two, including respect and being civil.
Of course, although the object of our desire is the learning enforcement 'bots, what we focus on primarily is a recently released kid whose out on parole. Through him, we get to meet other characters, discover how crappy everyone is, and watch as he learns what we already knew - that these teachers aren't human. It rolls out a bit slowly at first, with a scuffle here or a scuffle there, and explosion-laden slow-speed chase amongst gang kids, or some pushing and spanking from robotic educators. If you stick with it past that to where we get to see the main get his first inklings about the robots things start to quicken up a bit. Kids start getting killed off by the teachers, and in his quest to prove they are killers the robots end up going to plan B - escalating a full on gang war to get rid of him. It's never slow enough to get boring, although if somebody is going to find a fault with this movie it's gonna be elsewhere they find the derailment of their watching desires.
This is very much in the vain of things like Mad Max or even the Escape From movies - a somewhat bleak outlook on the future, and some would say even an exploitative design on things. Be it budget, acting, or just quality, they carry with them plenty of violence and language that could turn a person off. Heck, the principal concept is that kids have gotten so out of control they are all a bunch of gang bangers shooting each other and everything up. That's going to bring with it some baggage that's going to turn some people off because they don't like the idea of kids getting got (even in fiction), or find themselves a bit higher-class than those who can enjoy a movie with drugs and violence in it despite the supposed age of characters.
The effects and the costumes are pretty decent here. You get that early apocalypse punk vibe off most the kids, with plenty of bullet bandoliers and leathers, but also some Warriors vibes with things like necklaces and bandanas. The private security of the school also look their part, and most the effects used to show someone has been beaten up are well done if not slightly exaggerated to be more noticeable. Exterior effects - such as things exploding or cars flipping - are very nicely done, and action movie fans will find themselves content with whats on display. Indeed, the softest part of the visual department is also it's most metal contribution - the Terminatoresque teachers. On low-grade moments, these tend to look just as good as other beaten effects - but by the finale there are plenty of moments where they didn't quite make it to the same level as what you could hope for. If you remember the eye-cutting scene in the original Terminator, think slightly worse than that.
Acting is a bit of a mixed bag as well. Although I found most of it suitable for what I was watching - which is to say that I didn't expect ballpark-clearing home runs - there certainly where a few lines at least that were pretty well stinkers. Again, action movie fans will be pleased by the insane number of one-liners especially towards the finale of the movie, but even then there are some moments that do feel quite well acted, maybe perhaps better than the movie really called for. You end up rooting for who you should be rooting for - largely because they're the least crap-heap of humans in the batch - but classic slasher fans should have probably the best gauge on what to expect as far as character development goes. What I mean by that is largely it doesn't go anywhere. The survivors might be a bit wiser, but are largely still in the same place after the bad guys are defeated - there isn't really any Sarah Connor introspective development or skill growth or anything here.
Still, despite that it serves as an interesting thought piece for the person that really wants to delve into social commentary. For starters, it's funny just how accurate some of these cheesy and sleazy movies can really be when it comes to predicting problems of the future, even if their accuracy in timelines is so far off you would die from holding your breath. Troubled youth, wanton violence, over-stepping reactions, coverups, and that good old human baseline greed all are icings on this monster cake. Of course, most people who would most enjoy debating those sorts of things will probably get turned away by the monster of the cake, but the ones that stick around might be able to have far more intellectual conversations and thoughts about a movie that had robotic teachers killing the crap out of gangster punk kids in a dismal future where you don't generally feel too bad for the kids considering they are terrible little humans to begin with than I. Funny how that works out sometimes.
I'm having a good string of enjoyable movies as of late - one could say that so far it's been a pretty good year of viewings for my randomly assorted DvD queue. Of the most recent ones though, this one is by and large the one that won't get recommended to most of the people just because how sensitive people can be about things - and that's not me judging anyone for not finding fun and acceptable what I do, that's just me playing captain obvious. More people, I would argue, would be fine with this movie than one where one or more animals die in it, but largely the violence and drug use of the subject at hand - gangster kids out of control - will probably be a turn off for some. If your okay with that stuff though, it's a pretty fun watch - it might not be great and some might not even consider it good (I mean, seriously, it's rated a 5.8 on IMDB) but I'd say it's pretty fun