Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Running Man: Not A Strong Novel Adaptation, But A Film With A Strong Message

I read Stephen King's novel The Running Man back in 2006, when I was just being introduced to his work. During that year, I completed The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Salem's Lot, and this novel. King wrote this novel as Richard Bachman back in 1982. Five years later, the movie about the same exact novel came out and featured Arnold Schwarzenegger (who is making his many appearances in the news and throughout the media lately), but a completely different story. However, it's only a film that doesn't succeed as a Stephen King novel adaptation. Other than that, it looks like a typical eighties film and is about the television industry.

In the Stephen King novel (in which we writes as Richard Bachman), Ben Richards has a wife and young daughter, the young daughter being sick. The only chance he has to make enough money to help them in participate in a game show called The Running Man, in which the object is to escape several hit men. Unfortunately, things are not what they seem. I felt it was an exciting novel while reading it.

When casting Arnold Schwarzenegger, it turns out that this was the opposite as to what the real character was. His name was still Ben Richards, but he was a officer who became a prisoner. His only way out of the sticky situation he was in was to join a team of contestants and participants in a game show called... The Running Man. The film has a feel that many eighties films do, I kind of got the same feel from The Goonies, only this film featured grown adults, corrupt individuals who made up the network, and a R-rating. In the novel, Dan Killian was just the producer. In the film, Damon Killian was the producer and the host, and to be quite honest, he was the best part of the film. He was played by Richard Dawson, who was most well known as the original host of the Family Feud. The object of the game is to escape villains in a video game style format. These villains (called "Stalkers") included Subzero, Buzzsaw, Fireball, Dynamo, and Captain Freedom. Their battles seemed to be fitting for a video game, which would make it much more fun to own The Running Man video game as oppose to the watch the battles.

What's worth watching in the movie is not necessarily the game itself, but the mechanics behind the game. The Running Man is ultimately the process of a corrupted game show and how the networks will do anything for rating, and thus, rake in some more money. The game becomes about the promotion of their products, such as The Running Man board game and how people bet on which stalker they think is going to take down the contestants. All in all, this is an attempt to attract viewers with an addictive game show that encourages participation and ultimately brainwashes those across the country. I felt that Dawson's role as Killain was the best part of the film. Dawson played a game show host that had a strong personality in front of the camera and drew the people into the show with his charm and excitement. When the cameras stopped rolling, he was strictly business and dirty business at that. I can just say this may have not been a very hard role for Dawson, but he did it like a professional.

Within recent years, people have began to peek behind the curtain as to what the food industry truly looks like. The Running Man brings a similar question to the table, what's truly behind the curtain of the television industry? What will be done in order to draw in viewers, ratings, and money? All you need is a good idea, a good plan, and strong contracts with many provisions. If for some reason information behind the curtain happens to leak out and it does away with what should be done (such as an alternation of merit), there would be a ton of chaos as to the industry in itself. Just listen to Killian's speech he gives about the television industry to Richards and then put these thoughts into your own words. That's the message this movie brings.

The Running Man may have been a much better film if it did more justice to the mechanics of the original novel. However, it does do its purpose in the television industry and how strong a role television would play in the future, and sometimes it becomes more and more visible. I am somebody who likes it when a film based off of the novel does the novel as much justice as it realistically can. While this movie doesn't hit that mark, I can still say it's worth a watch if you want to look at the role of television in our lives. If you see the message, be prepared to think long and hard.

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