At first glance, Richard Stanley‘s cult science fiction film may seem like a cheap hybrid of Alien and The Terminator. It has a claustrophobic location in a grungy post apocalyptic world and it features a well-realized mechanical nightmare dispatching (with much gore) anything that comes in contact with it. What sets Hardware apart from these to films is tone. It riffs a lot more cynically on the nature for people (and societies) to destroy themselves indirectly; this world seems far more nihilistic and lacking in hope. While Stanley has an eye for capturing his vision in memorable images, much as Ridley Scott or James Cameron, perhaps more violently than either of those the above quite grisly films, he also does not make you want to root too much for his lead characters – or by extension, humanity.
Kicking off with a familiar 1980s post-apocalyptic ‘desert walker’ motif, only this time under a startlingly red filter, there is the uncovering some military junk, a robot head, first by the winds (of chance) then by the walker himself. The film establishes its tone perhaps more effectively with Iggy Pop’s DJ narrator gleefully relishing in how fucked up earth is after a series of wars and environmental disasters. To the films credit, this is not done in a blunt or explicit fashion, but simply with the panning of the skyline, the weather forecast and the playing of some hard-core industrial rock as a ‘golden oldie.’ Cut to outer-zone soldier, Moses (Dylan McDermontt), and his side-kick “Shades” (John Lynch) trekking around town (Los Angeles perhaps?) running errands before Christmas.