When I was kid, I loved watching dystopias, not knowing why. At the rental store, I’d select Mad Max or A Boy and His Dog or Brazil. Dystopias, a sub-genre of science fiction, are still among my favorite stories to read and watch. The adult me loves the what-if extrapolation of socio-political extremes, of pre and post-apocalyptic worlds. And though I prefer a more positive take on science, I sometimes like movies that expand on the moral crisis of science gone wrong. If done right.
Tonight I watched a throwback scifi movie. I was planning on watching Equilibrium but changed my mind. Tonight’s film felt more appropriate: The Running Man.
The 80's. So funny to watch now. The decade that gave us feathered hair, shoulder pads, and some of the best cheesy one-liners, among other iconic staples, like leg warmers and Olivia Newton John. And the 80’s would not have been the same without Arnold. I mean, Terminator. Am I right? In this movie, the famous line, “I’ll be back,” was added as a nod. And Maria Conchita Alonso in lingerie while working out was added because we women folk do that. ◔_◔
The Running Man is an adaptation of a Stephen King novel, under the pseudonym, Richard Bachman. The premise is this: A wrongly convicted man must try to survive a public execution gauntlet staged as a game show. (IMBD).
This is more my own random thoughts about the movie than an actual analysis, but here it is:
The story follows Ben Richards, a military man who is framed as The Butcher of Bakersfield. He and two other inmates escape. Ben goes his own way, where he encounters Amber. They all end up getting caught. He is then asked to “volunteer” to be on the fan-favorite TV show, "The Running Man." He and his two friends are placed in a game where they are hunted. If caught, they die. If they survive, they are set free.
This film and its portrayal of a totalitarian government was interesting to watch considering the current socio-political climate. There was state-sponsored news, fake news—not slanted news, fake news, the gas-lighted kind—that was reminiscent not only of the alt-right tactics used during the election, but also the slanted news utilized by the right and the left as tools to elicit emotional support for public flogging and shaming. The extreme was the game show, where the public execution was lauded.
As I watched the film, I wondered what would society look like right before totalitarianism took hold.
Then I remembered something my dad told me when I was in my early twenties. I would watch the news and worry about the state of things, and he said to me, “every generation feels the same way.”
The film is cheesy and dated but some of the ideas presented are worth a conversation.