Cult Classics: Wheels of Fire

Following the success of Mad Max 2 was a handful of post-apocalyptic B-movies. Among those was Wheels of Fire (also known as Pyro, Vindicator, and Desert Warrior), a surprisingly decent take on the post-apocalyptic genre which takes a lot of inspiration from the perfectly hammy Warriors of the Wasteland. Despite some mediocre cinematography and acting, Wheels of Fire proved to be a fast paced, action packed, and overall interesting movie. If you follow our cult classics section regularly, you know how this works by now, we’re going to break the movie into four parts.

  1. The plot
  2. Interesting concepts
  3. Cinematography
  4. The ending

The Plot: First of all, this story is massive. Warriors of the Wasteland was just as long, but most of the movie was overextended fight scenes. Wheels of Fire always has something new happening. The scale is massive and so is the synopsis.

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Our story begins with typical not-Mad-Max archetype, Trace, entering a merchant village. Here we’re introduced to his younger sister, Arlie, and her annoying, controlling boyfriend. In the first five minutes, Arlie’s boyfriend fights in a gladiatorial arena where contestants wear car keys around their necks and beat each other with PVC pipes. Don’t think about it too much. It doesn’t matter. Continue reading

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream: Gorrister

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Con-man, pacifist, business woman, Nazi, scientist. Five improbable entities stuck together in a pit of darkness. A prolonged nightmare of 109 years conducted by a sadistic self-aware supercomputer with unlimited power. This is Harlan Ellison’s I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.

Although on the surface IHNMAIMS is a straightforward story about five people trapped in an endless underground complex after a nuclear war, it has transcended into a franchise. The human characters from the short story were greatly expanded upon in the 1995 video game while the supercomputer, AM, gained some depth in a 2001 radio drama. A comic adaptation was created but never published, though a few English panels and the full Spanish version found their way onto the internet. This has become one of my favorite post-apocalyptic stories due to the development of the characters and the themes at play.

In this series, we’ll break down each of the humans: exposing their fatal flaws and then identifying what led them to redemption (and further punishment).

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Gorrister’s comic adaptation

Gorrister. The first character introduced in both the text and the video game. Originally, he was a conscientious objector, a peace marcher. In the game, he was an electrician and truck driver before the machine captured him. The only similarity between the two versions of this character is the spoken wish for death. Continue reading

The Underground Man: Smoke and Mirrors

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I’ve played a lot of AAA games and I’ve played a lot of indie games, but I’ve never played a game quite like The Underground Man. The game is tagged as a “story rich RPG.” Although the character creation screen is reminiscent of old pen and paper sheets, this is most certainly not an RPG. The Underground Man relies on an old school vibe, similar to Kung Fury or Far Cry: Blood Dragon. Don’t be fooled, this game is a far cry from those it tries to imitate.

Continue reading

Judge Dredd Predicts the Future: Part 1

1704131-dreddFor almost 40 years, 2000 AD has provided high concept (and often silly) post-apocalyptic sci-fi with Judge Dredd. 2000 AD writers have always been ahead of the curve on technological and social change. Looking at the series as a whole, it is easy to se where our own world has crossed into that of Mega-City One. With over 2000 Judge Dredd stories, it is no surprise that some of them have overlapped with reality, but it is still fun to observe and dissect the parallels. For this series, we will periodically look at three different Judge Dredd stories and their real life counterparts.

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Dave the Orangutan: Unhappy with the election process in Mega-City One, citizens formed a populist movement in one of Mega-City One’s low level bars. Their candidate was Dave, an orangutan cared for by Citizen Billy Smart. Despite being unable to speak English or sign his name, Dave was able to run for Mayor simply because there was no law against it. Dave won by a landslide, capturing the hearts and minds of the citizens (generally as a joke to make up for the awful candidates). Dredd himself said it was a good thing and proof that democracy was a failed experiment (something that is revisited in Judge Dredd: America). Regardless of your stance on Donald Trump, the parallel is clear. An orange faced politician rises to fame through an unhappy populist movement and ends up elected.
By no means is this meant to compare Donald Trump to an orangutan, but rather the unlikely American populist movement that arose from dissatisfaction with the status quo.

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Some Mega-City One Credits from Dredd 3D

Universal Basic Income: Unemployment in Mega-City One hovers between 96-99%, based on what percentage of the population has been vaporized/executed/eaten alive throughout a given year’s storyline. Robots have replaced almost all human jobs. Given a drawing or writing sample, a robot can perfectly (and legally) duplicate creative content. In short, this means that the only way to become successful in Mega-City One is to either get on TV or become an entrepreneur. Common citizens rely on an allowance from the Justice Department to buy food, pay rent, and purchase other luxuries. Unfortunately, this means that citizens are often bored, and therefore more prone to crime just to break up the monotony.  As real life automation of labor increases, several billionaires and a handful of world governments have been pushing for a guaranteed income given to all citizens.

fatFat Acceptance: The Fatties actually got me into Judge Dredd. I was intrigued by their belly wheels and the troughs hanging from their necks. I often find that a single interesting idea is enough to get me hooked on a franchise (Servitors for Warhammer 40k). Fatties first appeared shortly after the Apocalypse War. Due to a nuclear war, food was severely limited in Mega-City One, yet there were bored citizens who had made a hobby (and even a game show) out of eating as much as possible.

The Justice Department promptly responded by putting all the fatties in apartments blocks where chefs accounted for every calorie they ate. Citizens could come and go any time they wanted, so long as they were under a certain weight.

Although the real fat acceptance movement has never been so divisive on either side, seeing the iconic “fat fathers for justice” panel from Judge Dredd vs The Fatties brings up some clear parallels. Some of the signs in the panel read “BIG IS BEAUTIFUL” and “FAT PRIDE.” Although this was likely a parody at the time the comic was written, those two phrases have become actual slogans of the fat acceptance movement.

If you enjoyed this article, don’t forget to look at Judge Dredd Predicts the Future: Part 2!