General Relativity is a visitor from the 31st Century. As a Level III Chrononaut, the General is a mid-level civil servant in the Time Enforcement Commission, which basically means he has to fill out a million forms every time one of you tries to go back to hunt a dinosaur or give AK-47s to the Confederates or whatever. And no, he can not explain to you why John Connor looks completely different in every single Terminator movie, so don’t ask.
Aristotle. Plato. Confucius. Descartes. Swayze. These philosophers laid the foundation for all modern thought. At least that is what we learned in the Preston-Logan Spacetime Academy. From Red Dawn to Road House to the indomitable Point Break (which in 3020 was named the greatest movie ever made by the Lundgren Council for the Arts), Swayze’s streak of profundity was unmatched by any 80s star. In these mystical masterworks, Patrick Swayze was committed to the principles of an undefined and vague Tao of manly badassedness. Unlike the others on the list of Great Minds, Swayze could nail a bodacious roundhouse kick.
“Steel Dawn” is unfortunately not a sequel to Swayze’s 1984 classic “Red Dawn.” Rather, Steel Dawn is one of those post-apocalyptic westerns released in the wake of the success of “Road Warrior.” It has most of the touchstones for that genre: mutants, primitive weaponry, lots and lots of desert, and hairstyles out of an 80’s hair metal music video. The hair in this movie is a special effect.
We begin with the nameless Nomad (Swayze) performing a headstand at the top of a dune in the middle of a desert. He is communing, because that’s what Swayze does. Cthulhu-faced mutants emerge from the sand wielding car maintenance equipment and attack him. Swayze kills them all using a fighting style I can only describe as “Dirty Dance Fighting.” The principal technique associated with this obscure martial art is to execute a number of unnecessary somersaults and pirouettes before you spin your aluminum foil sword a few times.
From this promising beginning, I hoped that mutants would be the main villain of the film, just as they are in real life. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie is pitifully lacking in mutants. The real bad guys are humans rejected from a Mötley Crüe casting call and banished to a Pat Benatar music video. After the members of Faster Pussycat kill Swayze’s master, Swayze wanders the desert looking generally irritated. Or maybe he’s just tortured. Or constipated. Or tortured by constipation.
Not that he lacks a reason to be irritated, especially after he meets a woman named Ke$ha ( played in amazing crimped hair by Swayze’s real life wife Lisa Niemi). Swayze befriends her son who is played by Jake Lloyd from “The Phantom Menace” and who gains an alarming amount of weight as the movie goes on. Water is premium in the desert, and Ke$ha wants to build an aquaduct. This is basically “Chinatown” but with characters named “Tark” and swords made of silver plastic. The bad guys are after the water. But Swayze, using somersaults and head-kicking, will teach them, and us, important lessons about man’s search for faith….
No Swayze film would be complete without his signature esoteric analects. In this regard, “Steel Dawn” is an undiscovered treasure. Now, presented without context, the lessons from “Steel Dawn”:
“Promise never to misuse this knowledge. Before you fight you must first learn to meditate.”
“What’s the matter, never seen a grown man naked?”
“You shouldnt play with sharp objects.”
“A man needs his exercise.”
“I attract violence!” (That is not the only thing you attract, dude.)
“You talk too much.”