As regular readers know, I've always had a soft spot for Arnie, probably becuase he's always been in the kind of movies I favour - the ones with monsters, extreme violence and quirky quips. My Dad was a big fan in the middle of Arnie's heyday, so it was kind of inevitable: he had all the Big Man's movies on VHS. We'd watch Arnie's comedies like Twins together - but I was told I was SO grounded if I watched the likes of The Running Man or Predator. Hah. By the time I got to secondary school in 1990, I had a full appreciation of the entire Arnold Schwarzenegger back catalogue, extreme violence and all.
I recall watching The Running Man then as a kid and feeling - underwhelmed. It was the first time I'd seen a movie with Arnie in I had not loved, barring that dodgy sex scene in Conan The Barbarian (I'd even loved Conan The Destroyer - especially the bit where the magician jumps off the cliff, thought it looked amazing... Watched it recently: aaah). I couldn't really put my finger on it at the time, seeing as I was just a child. In a bid to figure out what it was, I read Richard Bachmann's book ( I'll never forget the Librarian's face, trying to palm off Jane Austen on my instead "Are you sure you wouldn't rather read this, dear?") Bachmann's book made me even more confused - the film was NOTHING LIKE the book! Of course, in those days I knew nothing about adaptation and its many approaches.
So I put The Running Man to the back of my mind for many years. In fact, as my peers - especially men - professed to love it. I would find myself agreeing. Yes, the film was great. Yes, Sub Zero was fab. "I'll be back" hahahahahahahaha.
Then I watched it last weekend. WTF?
The film is misogynist. Yes okay, the female characters in Arnie's films are never fabulous, but hell I never expected them to be - but I do expect them not to be subjugated and end up coming back begging for more! The way in which Maria Conchita Alonso's character is treated is nothing short of scandalous. She comes back to her own home? Oh, Arnie's there (it used to be his place: um, not her fault, this is a police state) - and he ties her up in her underwear! But instead of finding it a terrifying experience, she's a little turned on by it - to the point she ends up risking her life for a chance with him. At least The Woman in Predator is a PoW who tried to shoot Arnie in the head, so one can expect her to get tied up, if not the fact they DON'T kill her when they kill absolutely everyone else (though she does provide some handy exposition). Anyway, back to Running Man: on top of all the above, her friend's comment in the corridor in a breathy voice beggared belief: "He could've raped you... A man like that, you couldn't stop him..."??? The subtext there suggests, to me anyway, that being raped, especially by a guy like Arnie, is *not that bad*. JESUS. And don't even get me started on Dynamo's attempted rape TWICE of Alonso either - *but it's okay, she ends up killing him* (whatevs). Add to that all the scantily clad dancers and the COMPLETE LACK of female faces for longer than three seconds other than to provide a laugh (like the swearing Granny) and it appears women do not exist in 2017 at all.
It drowns in set up. Yes, we know Arnie is an innocent man - we don't *really* need to see how he got set up (especially since he's set up further on the news when Alonso says, "But that's not true..." prompting her to attempt to "rescue" him), any more than we need to see his extremely convoluted escape from prison. Why not simply have the Gamespeople go into the prison and pick and some guys for the Running Man, one of which is Arnie? Simple. But of course that means he wouldn't get his hands on Maria Conchita Alonso in order to subjugate her, so we can't have that. But if he's going to have a woman on his side, why couldn't both roles have started "equally" in that they're both from a prison and put in the game together? I saw Death Race a while back - and whilst not the film of the year, it certainly deals with these type of issues very effectively, barring a slightly fatty prologue.
There isn't enough jeopardy. The game starts with Arnie and his mates Yaphet Kotto and ...that other bloke being sped at high speed on to the "grid": yet there's nothing really waiting for them at the other end. In fact, they have plenty of time to explore the game before being attacked by Sub Zero. Excuse me, but if you're walking on an ice rink, you have to expect trouble. What's more, why are the two friends sent in with Arnie anyway? The Games people already know Arnie and these two guys have escaped prison together. What's more, weedy guys only ever team up with strong guys when they're up to something like hacking.... So it's completely obvious the other bloke will find the code to get out of the game and be quick enough to give it to Maria Conchita Alonso before he dies (handy). And why was Yaphet Kotto even there? He seemed to add very little to the story, bar kicking Arnie out of the way of Buzzsaw. Then there were all the moments of dancing girls... Going on... and on... and on... Yes they have great legs and arses, where's the rest of it?
The dialogue sucks. Yes, yes, Arnie's films are never high brow - but they should be a laugh. Like when he kicks the door down in Predator - "Knock, knock!" - before blowing them all away. Or in T2: Judgement Day - "Hasta La Vista... Baby." It's just a laugh. But even the quips in Running Man aren't *good*, they're lame: "HERE'S YOUR SUB ZERO... NOW, JUST PLAIN ZERO!" WTF?
The game is over as soon as it begins. When Arnie kicks enough stalkers' asses (about three), he's offered a job by host Killian actually on the show. As a good bloke, of course Arnie declines. Would he? Wouldn't he say, "Thanks! I'll take it" then come out of the game and kill Killian and the rest of them? I know I would. Then of course the Games people fake the "end" of the game in order to take out Arnie themselves. Really??? Wouldn't this be the ratings phenomenon on the century?? End of the day, no matter how hard Arnie is, he is just one guy. Why not send MULTIPLE stalkers in after him? Or better still, capture him somehow and dissect him live on TV? After all, they apprehended him pretty easily in a) the helicopter in the prologue and b) at the airport with that big net. Why can't the Games lot do something similar?? It just doesn't add up.
It hasn't stood the test of time. What's particularly WTF? about The Running Man is it came out the same year as Predator - 1987. Now, of course I don't know if 1987 is the year it was actually made, perhaps it was in the can a while, but given Arnie was SO famous at the time, I doubt it. And in comparison to Predator, it looks positively old hat. Yes, I know Predator is set in the jungle and not the future, which gives it somewhat of a "get out of jail free" card - but the monster make-up looks pretty much the same as was available nearly twenty years later in the AVP Films. Similarly, whilst the invisible/laser effects, particularly around the time of Jesse Ventura getting blasted are a bit dated, the heat-seeking/Monster POV stuff I think still looks great. But going back to The Running Man, it's as if the Filmmakers have built a few futuristic-style sets - then promptly forgotten it's supposed to be the future. Everything about it screams 1980s, from music to hair to make up. WTF? Alien, made nearly ten years' previously to The Running Man, *feels* more futuristic - even with that computer which isn't vaguely *like* a computer. EVEN MORE WTF: Steven De Souza adapted The Running Man - never heard of him 'cos you don't pay attention to screenwriters' names? Well, he wrote a little movie called DIE HARD which guess what, came out a year later and isn't even remotely as dated... and the jeopardy is fab. So what happened here??
Anyway. Turns out ALL THAT was why I was underwhelmed by The Running Man as a kid.
What do you think of it?
The Running Man - novel
The Running Man on Wikipedia - Film
The Running Man on IMDB
The Running Man Trailer
The films of Arnold Schwarzenegger