Terminal Justice (1995) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

One of the recurring points of Kurt Vonnegut's fiction is that even bad science fiction is filled with interesting ideas. The concepts developed by Kilgore Trout, Vonnegut's fictional sci-fi writer, are some of the most fascinating elements of Vonnegut's work, even though Trout is suppose to be such an unsuccessful author that he is often found peddling newspapers or working in some other menial capacity.

Terminal Justice could very well be a Kilgore Trout story - filled with ideas so obviously short-sighted that you can't imagine what the author was thinking of, yet also filled with intriguing concepts and questions about the future of technology and its impact upon ordinary people. The most blatantly silly concepts involve the dates. The film was made in 1995, and we can see that some of the "futuristic ideas" were probably outdated by 1996. Parts of the film take place in 2002, and the main action takes place in 2008. Looking back on it from 2005, the current status of internet and PC technology in real life make the monitor displays and capabilities of even today's computer illiterate look spectacular compared to what the filmmakers imagined for our time. And the people in the film are still talking into those giant-sized clunky cell phones that we used to use in the mid 90s. Yet in other respects, the film portrays virtual reality experiences, cloning processes, and synthetic drugs that are probably still decades in the future, if possible at all.

Here are a few tips for you prospective sci-fi writers:

  • If you are writing in 2005, don't locate your story in 2009. By the time it gets filmed and released to video, people will already know you are an idiot. This exact problem was enough to turn an otherwise brilliant film, Strange Days, into a forgotten relic.
  • Locate the story at least 70 years in the future. If the people of that time consider you an idiot, you will be dead, and it won't bother you.
  • If possible, locate the story a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, ala Star Wars. That allows you to have some things far more advanced than Earth technology existing side-by-side with other things which Earthlings do better.
  • As a general rule, the rate of technological change accelerates, but does so arithmetically, not exponentially. Look at the changes of the past forty years. About the same speed of development can be expected in ... I don't know, certainly not the next forty years, but probably not the next five either ... maybe the next 25.
  • If there are things you wish you had, and can easily imagine, they are likely to be created fairly soon. The fact that you can imagine them means that they are based on existing technology. That fact that you want them means that a market exists, giving companies the incentive to create them.

1995's Terminal Justice did a terrible job at imagining what our time would be like. Having been made just before the internet explosion, it got pretty much everything in the IT world wrong, and it didn't do much better elsewhere. But, like Kilgore Trout, it does raise some interesting questions about the moral issues which humans will have to confront in the face of accelerating technology. If I am cloned, can I be prosecuted for killing my clone? Is the clone, in fact, legally myself? The film says it is. While I would certainly disagree, the film's POV does point to the kinds of issues the law of the future will need to address.

The basic plot of Terminal Justice involves a cop (Lorenzo Lamas) who is protecting an actress (Kari Wuhrer) from being kidnapped and cloned. She is a particularly desirable source of DNA since she had previously been converted into the star of a virtual sex experience, so it seems that every man in the world is already in love with her - even Lorenzo's lieutenant! How much could a corporate megalomaniac (Chris Sarandon) make by having a genius scientist (Peter Coyote) reproduce her ad infinitum with flesh-and-blood clones? A lot, presumably.

The film's most intriguing ideas involve the decline of physical contact. Oh, it hasn't happened yet, but it might. How will your wife compete for your attention when you have a chance to have virtual sex with Jessica Alba every night. Perhaps you're tired of Alba. In that case, have sex with anyone you want, even your own wife, and whomever you choose will always do and say exactly what you want. Similarly, how will you compete when your wife can get in the VR machine with a tireless and freshly-scrubbed Brad Pitt, and experience dozens of earth shattering orgasms in Tahiti or under the Eiffel Tower. If all of that happens, and it becomes as affordable as a can of Coke, what effect will it have on other aspects of society, like prostitution? Will the world's oldest profession become obsolete? Terminal Justice can't offer all those answers, but it is compelling enough to ask them, which is pretty impressive for a B movie.

Is the film any good? C'mon, dude. It's a mid-90s straight-to-vid starring Lorenzo Lamas. How good could it be? I will say, though, that it is the Citizen Kane of Lorenzo Lamas movies. It features some lively ideas, some interesting baddies (Peter Coyote and Chris Sarandon), and Kari Wuhrer young and topless. Those are not bad things, and they make it possible to endure the film without the fast forward button.



  • no widescreen
  • no features



Kari Wuhrer exposes her breasts in two scenes: a shower and a sex scene.

The Critics Vote ...

  • No major reviews online. I guess Roger Ebert couldn't quite fit it into his schedule.

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 3.5/10. It is not as bad as that indicates.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, it's a C-. There is some bad acting, and it is a cheesy, low budget production, but it is a surprisingly watchable movie - The Citizen Kane of Lorenzo Lamas movies.

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