Saturday, 3 August 2013

Running on Screen (2): The Running Man

Running Man (1987) is a film based on the Stephen King novel of the same name (actually written under the pen name Richard Bachman). The film, directed by Paul Michael Glaser, is set in the unimaginably distant science fiction future of 2017 - only a few more years to wait now to see if it comes true!

The plot is helpfully spelt out in the film's opening titles which tell us: 'By 2017 the world economy has collapsed, food, natural resources and oil are in short supply. A police state, divided into paramilitary zones, rules with an iron hand. Television is controlled by the state and a sadistic game show called "The Running Man" has become the most popular program in history. All art, music and communications are censored. No dissent is tolerated and yet a small resistance movement has managed to survive underground. When High-Tech Gladiators are not enough to suppress the people's yearning for freedom... more direct methods become necessary'.

In other words it's a similar plot to Rollerball (1975) and The Hunger Games (2012) - a future police state where the the masses are kept in line with a mixture of brutal repression and the spectacle of deadly televised games. In this instance, the premise of The Running Man show is that prisoners and other enemies of the state are let loose to run for their lives and hunted down.

Ben Richards (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) is an ex-cop jailed for refusing to open fire on civilians during a food riot. After a prison breakout he is head hunted by the TV programme's producers who think that his biceps will boost ratings.

Arnie and the other spandex clad runners have to run through the city chased by the murderous Stalkers aiming to catch and kill them on live TV. Arnie has other plans, outrunning and outfighting his pursuers before joining with the rebels to storm the TV studio. Oh and - spoiler alert - he gets the girl. To be honest there's more fighting than actual running - Arnie/Ben's not a running away kind of guy - but of course he manages to run faster than any pursuing vehicles can manage.

Strangely despite being set in the future, the music, computers, hair and dance routines are pure 1980s!

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