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Cherry 2000
(1988)

Director: Steve DeJarnatt   
Cast:
Melanie Griffith, Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr.


Over the centuries - though probably a lot more in the past one hundred years than any other century - men and women have wondered just what it will be like in the future, from the next five years to the next one hundred years or more. These speculations have been wildly different from one person to another. There have been people like Gene Roddenberry of Star Trek fame who have pictured the future to be a lot more positive than things are now, with people (and aliens) getting along well for the most part, and with a wide leap in technology compared to what we have now. I can see why some people would think that way; race relations, while still some distance from being perfect, are definitely a lot better than they were a hundred years ago, and we have made incredible leaps in technology over that same period of time. But positive-thinking people like these seem to be in the minority. In the past, Bible-thumpers have continuously preached about how The Final Days are coming, and they won't be pleasant, with such things as food shortages and false prophets coming to haunt mankind. And after watching hundreds of hours of movies and TV shows set in the future, as well as reading countless science fiction novels, I think I can safely say that most visions of the future that have come in the past hundred years have pictured that future age in a negative light. This has ranged from novels like George Orwell's 1984 predicting "Big Brother" government to movies like The Road Warrior picturing a post-holocaust future.

It could be argued that the reason why so many visionaries see the future as being troublesome is that it is much easier to mine drama from a grim situation than it is with a happy situation. But there are understandably other reasons why people who envision the future see things negatively. Wars have been going on almost constantly through the centuries, new diseases have sprung up just as fast as scientists have been fighting them though the centuries as well, and brand new problems have popped up over the years, like terrorism. I must admit that after living for several decades and having a wide range of experiences, my view of the future is not positive. To be sure, there will definitely be some positive things happening in the future. Scientific advances happen all the time, and there will be a lot more happening in years to come. I also see a number of personal positive things happening to me in the future. Some day I will get off my butt and I will buy a widescreen television and a Blu-Ray machine to go with it as well. And I will get rid of this crappy computer I am currently using and get a new computer, along with high speed Internet (presently I'm still on dial-up!) But overall, I don't see that the future will be a happy one for mankind.

Why? Well, there are a number of reasons why. Some of those reasons are those that I discussed in the previous paragraph. Mankind is a bloodthirsty species, with all the terrorism and wars going on today, with no sign they will be stopping any time soon. And even if problems like those stop, there will be some problems popping up in the future that seem that we'll be powerless to stop. Take the sun, for example. We're having no problem with it now, but about five billion years from now we'll be toast. It will enter its red giant phase, and the earth (depending on who you talk to) will either be burned up, or our water and atmosphere will be boiled away into space. "But," you are saying, "We'll have conquered other galaxies by then." Oh really? Way before then we'll be having problems that will put a halt to space travel. Take the oil situation. We'll have run out of oil by then, and what will power all the vehicles we depend on? Okay, maybe, just maybe we'll have perfected fusion power or some other new power source. But what will we do about petroleum-based plastics, which we depend on greatly already? And what will we do when we run out of metal? When we run out of oil and metal, I doubt space travel will be advanced enough to send people to other planets to mine for resources, as movies like Outland and Alien have suggested.

The future doesn't look very cheery. I kind of wish that I hadn't started to seriously think about all of this during the past year, but with stuff like high gas prices constantly hitting the news, I could not help it. Maybe aliens will come to this planet and offer us help, though with my cynical thoughts they'd probably turn out to be just like the aliens in the V TV miniseries. I have tried to think of things more positively, but it hasn't been easy. When I go to one of my favorite video stores in town, I sometimes look in the science fiction section or elsewhere to see if I can find a future vision that is more optimistic, but more often than not I find something with a cynical vision, like Idiocracy (though I must admit that movie did make me laugh at times.) I recently chose to watch Cherry 2000 because I had heard that its future vision was more lighthearted than usual, though the unusual cast of the movie also attracted me to it as well. The movie is set in the future (duh), in America in the year 2017 several years after some sort of limited holocaust. The movie introduces to us Sam Treadwell (David Andrews, Terminator 3), who in the opening scene comes home to his love, Cherry (Pamely Gidley, The Pretender). We soon find out that Cherry is not human but is in fact a robot when she suffers a total internal meltdown during a romantic romp with Sam on a wet floor. Although her memory chip is still intact, Sam is crushed to find out that the rest of Cherry cannot be fixed, and nobody manufactures the Cherry robot series anymore. But there might be some Cherry robots left in "Zone 7", deep in America where the holocaust happened. Sam travels to the edge of the wasteland to hire a tracker to get him a Cherry - though he not only ends up with a real-live woman who's a tracker (Griffith, Mulholland Falls), he finds himself accompanying her into the wasteland!

Cherry 2000 is indeed a less cynical look at the future than usual for motion pictures. For starters, while other cinematic glimpses to what is to come are typically downbeat, harsh, and violent enough to be slapped with an R rating from the MPAA, the world of Cherry 2000 has been given a PG-13 rating. There are only a few swear words, there's no sex or nudity, and while there are a number of individuals who get killed during the course of the movie, the killings have been toned down; most victims are shot at a distance, other people are killed offscreen or with bags over their heads, and the only blood to be seen is a little near the end of the movie. Throughout the movie, other elements have been softened from what has been presented harder in other movies. While America in this movie has been hit by a holocaust (just what happened is never explained), it was a limited holocaust, and the area where Sam lives in the beginning of the movie is a thriving metropolis. The relationship that Sam has with his robot companion could have been made to be sleazy or cynical, but it isn't. Sam is shown to be a romantic at heart, showing tenderness to Cherry and rejecting the bar scene (full of women just seeking one night stands) in one scene shortly after Cherry melts down. The wasteland that Sam travels through with Griffith's character is less hostile than you might think. It is not jam-packed with ruthless characters, but is shown to consist of mostly empty space where little to nothing ever happens.

Even when the main villain appears in the movie, a resident of the wasteland, he's not seen to be a ruthless villain who would be at home in one of the Mad Max movies. The villain "Lester" does rule with an iron fist and has people killed, sometimes doing it personally, but there's a lighter side to him as well. When he captures Sam, Lester takes Sam to his base, which has a resemblance to a desert motel, complete with a pool. While there, Lester doesn't torture Sam or anything else bad, but instead recruits him to join his followers, who follow a strict diet and exercise program and dance the Hokey-Pokey. Lester is played by that great B movie actor Tim Thomerson (the Trancers series), and he injects Lester with a healthy sense of humor that makes him charming despite all his character's dastardly deeds. (My only complaint with the performance is that it's too short; Thomerson only has a few brief scenes, and it feels like the role was originally bigger but got cut down in the editing room.) Thomerson is not the only actor in the movie to bring a good feeling. Western legend Ben Johnson (Shane) has a meaty role as the fellow tracker Six-Fingered Jake, and he steals every scene he's in. Fellow western legend Harry Carey Jr. (Rio Bravo) has a small role in the movie as well. Cult movie fans will get a kick out of seeing a brief appearance by Brion James (Mightmare At Noon), as well as one from Robert Z'Dar (the Maniac Cop series). Sharp-eyed viewers will also spot future star Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix) in the nightclub sequence.

Besides the more cheerful than usual spirit and the colorful supporting cast, there are a few other things I liked about Cherry 2000. The Nevada locations the movie shot on (including Hoover Dam and parts of the Valley Of Fire state park) are spectacular to view at times. Basil Poledouris contributes a musical score that manages to both sound different from your usual futuristic movie and sound majestic. The score sounds a little spaghetti at times (appropriate, because the movie is at heart an updated western), and even hint at what Poledouris was going to do for Robocop. (The movie was made before Robocop, but released afterwards.) There's clearly a lot to like about Cherry 2000, but I can't quite recommend that you seek it out for several reasons. First, even though this movie was made by a major Hollywood studio, it wasn't given the budget you'd expect for a movie of this kind. At times the production design doesn't seem that far removed from low budget movies that stick wires and computer junk in the background of a scene and call it futuristic. The budget scales back the movie in other ways as well; in pursuing the protagonists, for example, Lester never sends more than two vehicles at a time to track them down. Second, the action sequences are badly constructed. They are choppily cut to the point of confusion, maybe in an effort to secure that PG-13 rating. But what really sinks the movie are the two protagonists. Andrews lacks passion throughout, for Cherry and his quest to restore her, and near the end of the movie he becomes out of nowhere an action hero (how did he know how to fly a plane?) Griffith is okay during the quieter moments, but elsewhere she is utterly unconvincing as a mercenary who supposedly was raised in the rough and tough Zone 7. With it hard to believe these characters, it's hard to get involved with what they go through. It's still a kind of likable movie, but it's hard to recommend that you seek it out, unless you have an old-fashioned video store in your neighborhood that still has 99 cent rentals. Wait until it comes on cable during a rainy day; stuck with nothing else to do, you might find it surprisingly agreeable then.

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See also: America 3000, Equilibrium, Idaho Transfer

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