In just five short years, it will be the 30th anniversary of the first Austin Powers movie. It’s a particularly important milestone as 30 years was the time span Austin (Mike Myers) was frozen — between 1967 and the film’s release in 1997. That means in a similar situation, if Austin were frozen in 1997 instead, he would unfreeze in 2027. It’s kind of a scary thing to think about, but it’s also very cool to compare the differences between then and now and revisit the film to see if it’s still relevant today or if it just aged horribly.
From a comedy standpoint, the film is still a gem. Myers’s performance is even more remarkable through the lens of time. There’s also a certain timelessness to potty humor that resonates with all generations, young and old. But the culture shock Austin Powers felt in the original probably wouldn’t be as strong today. The difference between the 1960s and the 90s was fairly drastic. This goes for music, fashion, technology, etc. While there has certainly been a lot of progress made from the 90s to today, culturally, someone would probably be able to adjust fairly quickly. The differences between music and fashion are marginal, and a person from 1997 should be able to easily adapt to the technology of today.
I feel the more pointed analysis, however, is probably of Austin Powers as a character. This film was released way before the MeToo era and its cultural awakening of a woman’s place in society and the workforce. On the surface, Austin might come off as a sexist and misogynistic pig that is only interested in women for one thing. But the truth is, his character goes much deeper than that. In fact, when Austin is faced with the chance to sleep with the woman that rejected his advances he turns her down because she is drunk. That would indicate a deeper respect that is not always evident on the surface. His view towards sexuality in general is mainly a product of his time. When facing off against Dr. Evil (also Myers) in the end, Austin talks about a reckoning between responsibility and free love, pitting it against corporatism and greed. In contrast with Dr. Evil’s obsession with power and money at all costs, Austin represents fun and respect for others. When viewed through that lens, the character is surprisingly more relevant today than he was at the time of his release.