Happy Running Man and May the Odds be Ever in Your Favor – A Review of The Running Man (1987)

by Cesidia on June 13, 2012

thumbnailFor some reason my brother, who is only a freshman in high school, is obsessed with Arnold Schwartzanager. I have no idea why, but apparently he’s got some obsession with the 80s and loves horrible, cheesy graphics. So when asked every year what he wants for his birthday he lists a bunch of Arnold movies, including The Running Man. Finally after a few years of asking and begging he received the movie for his 15th birthday. Of course it was only a day or so before he decided we were gonna watch it. Personally the former Governor of California is not one of my favorite people to watch on TV so I left the room to hang in my bedroom.

I stumbled into the family room a half hour later to find my brother and dad enthralled in the movie. The movie seemed to catch my attention, but not because strong, muscular Arnold filled the screen but because of another movie that has come out recently: The Hunger Games. I ended up watching the rest of the movie because I realized that The Hunger Games and The Running Man are basically the same exact story with a few differences. For those who don’t know, The Hunger Games is a popular book turned movie blockbuster that attracts a very wide age demographic.

The similarities start at the very beginning as the film starts a la Star Wars with a typed out exposition scrolling on the screen. Just like in The Hunger Games, The Running Man takes place in a post-democratic American World. Unlike the more recent film, in this classic movie there is city that rules over all the other lands of the country. The city is rich, wealthy and corrupt. They use propaganda to control their other districts. The everyday people are poor and are either naive enough to believe in propaganda or, for the ones that don’t, are powerless to do anything to change the world. They live in horrible conditions subject to the rule of the powerful.

The two films also have the same storyline. Both movies hold “games” to show the people who will continue to reign over them. Sharing the same names as the movie titles both The Hunger Games and The Running Man game shows are violent, fatal and treated as if they were sports. Both are a fight to death, in their own way. The Hunger Games sends children from all 12 districts of Panem to fight for their life and kill off one another. The Running Man sends criminals (who are not always guilty of their crimes) through a series of mazes hoping they make it through without getting caught by “the stalker”, various killing machine warriors that chase the contestants.

This brings me to another similarity. “The stalker” does have a counterpart in The Hunger Games. The city, Panem can bring many different obstacles to the contestants on their show. It can be weather, plant or animal related. When there is not enough drama the hosts of the games can bring treacherous obstructions that can vary from wild fires to blood thirsty dogs ready to tear you to pieces. In The Running Man there are a variety of stalkers on hand for the audience of the game show to choose from. They can be vicious hockey players and unforgiving flame shooters.

However, there is a very important difference between these two movies that reflects not only on the scriptwriters but only the two different eras these movies come from. I thought it was very interesting that these two movies had very contrasting interpretations of the future. The Running Man, which clearly reflects the 80s, shows the future as being more technologically innovative and friendly as compared to their current society. Everything was futuristic in that point of view. The Hunger Games showed the complete opposite. The Hunger Games, showed more of a savage, return to simplistic times. It almost seems as if the people of the current society have a more egotistical and negative point of view. They don’t seem to believe that the world will always be this great. They believe there will be a downfall and we will resort back to easier, unhealthier ways of living.

For the most part the only other thing that is different between these two movies is their special effects. I do understand that these were produced in two totally different technological eras but I still can’t fight the laugh that escapes me when I see how incredibly fake the special effects like the guns shooting are. We seem to have come a long way from the 1980s.

As I spoke with my dad about this movie and told him how I thought these two movies were similar he smiled but was unable to agree because he has not seen The Hunger Games. He told me that he thinks The Running Man is similar to Death Race 2000. I have not seen that movie, but if any of you have I challenge you to make a comparison of those movies.

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