To be honest, I always liked the concept behind 'Running Man', but found the execution very disappointing. Arnold Schwarzenegger in shiny leotards fighting a guy decked out with lightbulbs like a human Christmas tree doesn't do it for me. I accept that my dislike of 'Running Man' doesn't make any sense, because I like 'Logan's Run', which is making even less out of its high-minded concept and is a lot cheesier. Perhaps that's exactly it: 'Running Man' is too hokey to be taken seriously but not camp enough to be funny.
I watched a conteomprary movie of 'Running Man' recently:
Prince of Darkness (1987)
This is far from John Carpenter’s best horror movie, but I still liked it, if only for nostalgic reasons. It’s exactly the kind of 1980ies horror film my teenage friends and I would occasionally obtain through older siblings and watch on worn-out videotapes. There is a minimalistic synthesizer score, of which John Carpenter is a master. (Again, this isn’t his best work, but it’s still okay.) There are gruesome practical special effects, which look a bit cheesy, but still more physically tangible than most CGI. The production values betray a limited budget and the movie doesn’t look that great, but that’s part of the charm, because it emphasises that you’re not watching something respectable.
The story is about a priest (Donald Pleasance), who “inherits” an abandoned church with a cylinder containing a swirling green substance in it. He hires a physicist and his team of graduate students to find out more. The scientists are shocked to discover that the substance is the essence of absolute evil – and that it cannot easily be contained.
What sounds like an intriguing set-up and an examination about science/reason vs. religion/metaphysics really is just an excuse to bring out as great a variety of horror movie clichés as possible. Crawling insects, zombies shuffling towards their victims in slow motion, disfigured ghouls making ominous pronouncements, grainy videotape sequences of projected dreams, water running up the walls to the ceiling – you don’t need to have seen too many horror films to spot similarities to other movies of the genre. ‘Prince of Darkness’ may lack originality (and a slightly bigger budget), but Carpenter’s directorial skill makes every scary scene effective. In short: It’s not a particularly good movie, but a good example of 1980ies horror movies and watchable enough. 6/10
And then I watched what surely is the worst movie of 2016:
At the end of this third adaptation of a Dan Brown novel about professor of “symbology” Robert Langdon, Tom Hanks wistfully looks at another character with a resigned smile. I imagined him thinking: “I’m finished. Now, can I finally get my money and go home, please?” And good old Tom Hanks deserves a hefty reimbursement for starring in this film, if only as compensation for the potential damage to his reputation and the mental distress he had to suffer from saying lines like (from memory) “Doorways are interesting; a lot of things happen in doorways. In ancient times, the fishermen went where the cold water meets the warm water. That’s where the big fishes feed on the small ones.” WTF! Or consider this gem of dialog: Hanks (playing the amnesiac Langdon): “Could I please get some of this brown liquid, erm, what’s it called. It comes in cups and people drink in the morning to energise?” Felicity Jones: “Tea?” Hanks: “The other one.” Jones “Coffee?” Hanks: “That’s it! Coffee, it’s called coffee!” Note, that while Felicity Jones is brewing a cup of Americano, Hanks’s Robert Langdon is accessing his email account without having forgotten the password and, a few minutes later, is able to spot minor alterations in a representation of Dante’s vision of hell. Apparently, his partial amnesia doesn’t affect the part of the brain, which memorises tedious exposition. At one point, Hanks lets his head fall onto a table while making a sound like “aargh”, which was (a) either some really shoddy acting, (b) a conscious attempt to create an internet meme or (c) a genuine reaction to the quality of the script. Whatever it was, it made my wife and me laugh out loud.
Indeed, ‘Inferno’ kind of works on the level of a “so bad it’s good” comedy. This is a movie, in which a “talking killer” – someone who holds his helpless victim at gunpoint and explains his motivation and plan at length – is killed by another character, who then explains the details of his own plan and motivation to the victim. This film should have been called “Exposition – the Movie”. Interestingly, ‘Inferno’ doesn’t make any sense whatsoever on any level, even though characters frequently stop to explain the plot to each other. Consider, for example, police cordoning off a museum, because they want to prevent Langdon from getting in, but leaving one of only three doors unguarded, because “nobody knows about the Vasari gate”. That must be why it has a name. And a Wikipedia page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasari_Corridor). Then, there’s the representation of the WHO, whose specific task is “the attainment by all people of the highest possible level of health”, according to its own constitution. In the world of ‘Inferno’, furthering public health involves black helicopters and special ops teams wielding assault rifles rather than vaccination programs or health reports. A character disguises herself in Istanbul by putting on a headscarf. That apperas to be a generally a feasible idea in Turkey, but, alas, none of the extras in the Istanbul-set scenes wear any headscarves, because the movie has been filmed in Hungary and the guys from quality control were out for lunch.
These are just three minor examples, I’m just scratching the surface here. Don’t even get me started on the villain’s plan, which is so unnecessarily convoluted that it amounts to self-sabotage. (Imagine a killer wanting to shoot someone, then locking his gun in a safe and throwing away the key.) And let’s not dwell on the numerous twists, which make anything happening in the last 20 minutes completely arbitrary. nThe best thing to be said about ‘Inferno’ is that it is reaching new heights of idiocy. It’s on a different level of stupid, so far unknown to mankind.
So, who’s to blame? Director Ron Howard’s overwrought dream sequences and chaotic flash-forwards and flashbacks don’t really help, but aren’t the main problems. When even Tom Hanks can’t salvage something from the misbegotten dialog, it would be unfair to blame any of the actors either, such as Felicity Jones, who looks shell-shocked much of the time. Irrfan Khan actually comes out of this mess the best, because he is basically auditioning for the part of a James Bond villain. No, responsibility lies with the author of the source material and/or the screenwriter.
Both, ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and its sequel ‘Angels & Demons’, weren’t good. The latter was actually pretty bad, but at least it had the pope parachuting onto St. Peter’s Square with an antimatter bomb. That does count for something. Neither of these films was as aggressively stupid as ‘Inferno’ though. I really don’t like it if the filmmakers not only assume that their audience is dumb, but that they can get away with anything because of it. (See also: various ’Transformers’ movies or the ‘Independence Day’ sequel.) I like a dumb movie, in which I don’t need to invest too many thoughts, but I don’t like my intelligence being insulted. 2/10