Dueling Movies : THE HUNGER GAMES VS THE RUNNING MAN…No, seriously.
All right folks…this is the big one.
Every once in a while here at Action A Go Go we like to compare movies that have the same (or roughly the same) story but do things in a completely different ways. We call it dueling movies. It’s a knock down drag out brawl between two movies and at the end….THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!!!
Victor, that is.
Anyway, let’s get this party started! We’re going to do a brief summary and then do this with 5 categories where we compare and contrast each aspect of the movies that are similar and determine who does it better, and the winner is at the bottom.
Let’s get this epic brawl for it all going!
THE GAMES…OF HUNGER.
Based on the novel by Suzanne Collins, THE HUNGER GAMES (2012) is directed by Gary Ross ((Pleasantville (1998), Seabiscuit (2003)) and starring a whole bunch of folks. In the future the hunger games are set to occur again. The Americasare split into 12 districts that are controlled by the capital. 74 years after a rebellion that lead to the destruction of District 13 the remaining districts must continue to send two children between the ages of 12 and 18 to fight in the hunger games. One male and one female, who are to be tributes to the games. Only one can win, and that one will be wealthy for the rest of their lives and their district will be rewarded as well.
Jennifer Lawrence (Winters Bone, X-Men First Class) plays Katniss Everdean, a young girl from District 12 who knows her way around a bow and arrow. Liam Hemsworth (Expendables 2) plays Gale Hawthorne, a young man who grew up with Katniss and has feelings for her. When they all go to the “Reaping” where every child must go to get potentially selected for the games Katniss’s sister is picked, and in a fit Katniss volunteers for the games herself. Josh Hutcherson plays Peeta Mellark, a young man that is also selected, and then they are off to the games, where they prepare for battle and (seemingly) discover young love.
THE RUNNING…OF MAN
(Loosely) Based on the novel by Steven King writing under the pseudonym Richard Bachman and directed by Paul Michael Glazer (THE AIR OF THERE (1992), KAZAAM (1996)) and staring a cavalcade of awesome 80’s star power, THE RUNNING MAN is an 80’s action classic. The movie opens up in the not too distant future with military pilot Ben Richards ( Arnold) refusing to open fire on an unarmed crowd that is protesting because they are HUNGRY. His fellow officers restrain him, knock him out, and when we next see Richards he is in a prison after having been framed with the murder of more than 60 people, which is known as the Bakersfield Massacre. He escapes with William Laughlin (played by Yaphet Kotto (ALIEN 1979)) and Harold Weiss (Marvin J. McIntyre), members of a resistance movement. After he is free he refuses to join the resistance and instead seeks shelter at his brother’s house. There, he runs into Amber Mendez (Maria Conchita Alonso (PREDATOR 2), who actually turns him in while trying to flee to Hawaii. Then, while in custody, he is forced into appearing on THE RUNNING MAN. In the RUNNING MAN criminals get to earn their freedom by outrunning “stalkers” that hunt them down and kill them.
Each stalker has a theme, and some of them were major stars. Jesse Ventura (PREDATOR 1987) is Captain Freedom, Jim Brown (THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967)) is Fireball, and the others are Subzero, Buzzaw, also Sven-Ole Thorsen is thrown into the mix. In case you were wondering, that’s one of the few people on earth at the time who could make Arnold Schwarzenegger look small. Or normal? The icing on the cake is Richard Dawson, playing the ruthless game show host Damon Killian. Oh…so good.
CATEGORY 1: THE PEOPLE WHO GET PAID TO TALK…
Now, it’s hard to compare a bunch of up and coming modern day young stars to a bunch of snarling brutes from the 80’s, but we are going to try.
The hunger games has some surprisingly good performances throughout. Woody Harrlson gives a great performance as Haymitch Abernathy, one of the winners of the pervious hunger games who is now a depressing drunk. Stanley Tucci plays an excellent anchor/game show host in Caesar Flickerman, and Wes Bentley gives an understated performance as Seneca Crane that manages to ground the film in certain places.
Jennifer Lawrence also soars throughout, even though at times her seriousness as Katniss get’s a bit out of hand. When she leaves for the hunger games for instance she looks at her mother and orders her not to cry. What?
Josh Hutcherson was a stand out as Peeta, however. His characters arc really does move the drama along, and he pulls off a very sincere performance. This is in stark contrast to Liam Hemsworth’s character, Gale, who is just there. Of course a lot of this movie was just set up for the sequel, but this didn’t just affect his character.
In the Hunger Games, love hurts.
Donald Sutherland is a standout however as President Snow, as he should be. He has one or two major talking scenes, and those scenes explain more that just about anything else in the movie. Elizabeth Banks is great as well as Effie Trinket.
In general, the movie felt like it was lacking strong characters throughout.
THE RUNNING MAN is a special case. This thing came out at the height of Arnolds powers, and secretly, this movie is the best Arnold one liner movie out there. PREDATOR has a whole series of amazing quotes, as does either TERMINATOR or TOTAL RECALL (1990), but just about everything Arnold say’s in THE RUNNING MAN is funny, loaded with double meaning, or terrifying.
This is one of Maria Conchita Alonso’s more memorable action roles along with PREDATOR 2, and its fun watching her go from lowly private citizen to kick a$$ future rebel. Oh, and Arnold and her have chemistry. Lot’s of chemistry.
Just look normal…
Yaphet Kotto is great as William, and all of the Stalkers are crazy future gladiators that add a lot of flash to a concept that could get stale very quickly. Ventura and Jim Brown are obvious standouts, and I think this is the best character Ventura has played in a movie. He even get’s to kill Arnold! Sort of.
Robert Dawson is amazing. But we are getting to that. So, with all the numbers added up…I have to give this one to THE RUNNING MAN. There’s just a lot more going on with these characters, and the performances are more engrossing. THE HUNGER GAMES did have flashes of what’s fun about THE RUNNING MAN characters, and there are interesting twists, but just doesn’t beat it.
THE RUNNING MAN 1 / THE HUNGER GAMES 0
CATEGORY 2: SPECIAL EFFECTS *(main movie titles abbreviated from here on out)*
For all the character and fun that TRM brings it does suffer in the special effects department for being made in the 80’s. What goes down is pretty standard for the 80’s, and because of that some of the special effects are at worst cheesy or sloppy, and at best acceptable. Sadly, there aren’t any mind blowing moments like in TOTAL RECAL (1990). Full body x-ray any one? Pineapple slice head bomb?
No, that stuff is lacking. However, pretty much everything the Stalkers do is awesome and fun anyway, so it doesn’t take all that much away from the movie. THG benefits wholeheartedly from its big budget Hollywood computer effects. The city and arena’s look cool and the outfits are wild to look at.
The best part, by far, is the control room. When they are controlling the arena during the games themselves it looks like a glossy white Star Trek future and the stuff they can do in that control room raises serious hell in the arena.
The verdict is THE HUNGER GAMES wins this round hands down.
THE RUNNING MAN 1 / THE HUNGER GAMES 1
CATEGORY 3: THE SHOW…
This category might be a little weird, but considering that TRM is about a television show about hunting people and THG is basically a televised child murder Olympics, it counts.
In THG the spectacle of the Hunger Games themselves drives everything. It’s more than a game, it’s a major aspect of life as these people know it. If so…how do they manage to make it feel so…underwhelming? Sure, there are grand moments of spectacle, and the crowds have interesting and colorful outfits in the rich parts of town, but the way everything is shot just seems to suck the life out of it. It’s an artistic choice, I know. This movie could have easily slipped into cheeseville, but manages to avoid that by making sure there’s an absence of sound or lighting that takes away the audience to only reveal the face of the tribute. Still, things feel a bit dead for no good reason.
Stanley Tucci manages to amp things up and as usual gives an engrossing performance as Flickerman. The shameful thing is Flickerman doesn’t hold a candle to Damon Killian, played by the amazing Richard Dawson. For the uninitiated, he was a star of television shows such as Hogans Heroes and Rowan & Martins Laugh In. Where he really shined was the game show circuit.
Respect your elders, Son.
You think Steve Harvey or Drew Carey are good? Bob Barker? None them can hold a candle to this straight up pimp action we got going on here. Check out the below video. Seriously though, Richard Dawson brings a sincerity and gravitas that keep this movie from being a total disaster. He hams it up for the audience, he flirts with the contestants, and he commands attention when it is needed. This was his biggest role, and he makes it sing.
More importantly is what goes on behind the scenes seals the deal. He pulls off slime ball so well it’s unbelievable, and explains away the seriousness of the murders in the show with such charisma you almost nod in agreement with him. He’s the ultimate incarnation of showbiz success at all costs and doesn’t have any regrets. IT’S SHOWBUSINESS! But then he deals with the Schwarzenegger’s and the Ventura’s with such aplomb you can’t help but laugh when he looks at these men like the lunatics they are. It’s much more dynamic than anything you find in THG.
The show itself is much more dynamic as well. The dancing and the commercials add another dimension to this wild show. This is real entertainment. The Hunger Games, despite all of the Olympic spectacle, just don’t excite the same way, or manage to instill the same sense of terror until the very meat of the story arc, and even then it’s hard to tell how these people in the future find it entertaining to watch children kill each other.
This round goes to TRM no questions asked.
THE RUNNING MAN 2 / THE HUNGER GAMES 1
CATEGORY 4: THE FUTURE (INCLUDING ELEMENTS OF THE STORY)
Both these movies take place in the future, and both offer a unique take on how people react to things like crippling poverty and starvation. In one they watch criminals get murdered for entertainment. THG is interesting because they go out of there way to make the difference between rich and poor night and day. When in District 12 following Katniss around there really nothing. No Nintendo, no TV, no nothing. It’s actually a pretty odd way to look at the future. As a matter of fact, it’s not until you are deep into the Hunger Games that this feels like a movie about the future at all.
But when you do get to the future this movie does shine. The costumes are crazy and it feels like a cultural shift. It’s one of the best parts about the movie and it would have been better if the movie had spent more time there.
TRM puts up a serious fight though. In TRM most of the Sci Fi elements are coming true or have come true. For instance, when Abby is home she says “lights, coffee, toast” all of those automated things occur. That stuff is (pretty much) here, or just around the corner. Also, the big brother security is everywhere as well as the specter of reality T.V with stakes that get higher and higher. Other things that are said can’t help but get chuckles. When Damon needs a favor, he asks an underling to “Get me the Presidents Agent”. Right before Ben is sent out to the Running Man he is assigned an Agent that explains how the legal bits work. It’s a fun Hollywoodization of the future. But it doesn’t hit a home run. Hunger Games wins here. This future manages to make you feel hungry and felt different.
THE RUNNING MAN 2 / THE HUNGER GAMES 2
CATEGORY 5: THE ACTION!
This is our bread and butter…and there is plenty to go around here!
TRM is a riot in this category. It opens with a helicopter fist fight, then a crazy prison break, then a future rundown ofArnold, then the PURE craziness of the stalkers…chainsaws, barbwire, electricity, and hockey sticks! Need I say more?
While it’s all handled with the indelicate touch of a classic American action movie, it’s all entertainment. Throw in the one liners and glitz, and you’ve got a recipe for one damn entertaining action movie. How does THG stand against this testosterone fueled monstrosity? Eh…that’s where it get’s tricky. There’s a bunch of cool stuff going on in THG. There’s wicked awesome swords and blades, mines, bows and arrows, and even genetically engineered hornets! But is any of it put to good use?
Sadly, the answer is no. Not to be overly morbid, but that “artistic” frame muted not only the exposition scenes but pretty much neutered the fight scenes. Don’t get me wrong, there are few parts of this film where tributes get straight up owned, but it’s all cutaways and fast editing. For instance, when the games first start and there is a mad rush for weapons the sound is muted. It just sucks the life out of what could be an incredibly trilling scene. And choices like that plague the movie throughout.
So guess what? TRM takes it here. With a vengeance.
THE VERDICT: THE RUNNING MAN RUNS AWAY WITH IT
It was close, but THE RUNNING MAN takes it. Katniss, a great cast, and a spakly future just couldn’t take down Richard Dawson and his juiced up goons. It just wasn’t good enough.
As far as Action A GO GO is concerned we have our winner… unless someone has any complaints they’d like to voice.
PS Oh…here are some funny memes for the loser…I mean, second place.