The Running Man
In The Running Man, the USA has become a totalitarian state that punishes its convicts by forcing them to be hunted down on a reality TV show, the film's name sake. A big influence on franchises The Hunger Games and The Purge, Running Man was ahead of its time in its depiction of “reality TV” and the ruthlessness of the audience.
Arnold Schwarzenegger leads the charge as a man wrongfully convicted and eventually sent to die in 'The Running Man', where combatants face of gauntlet of mercenaries to fight for their freedom. The show itself is a gladiatorial mix of combat sports and public executions that serve as a distraction from the intense poverty people are living in. In this 2019, America has completely fallen by the wayside, with labor camps and a politico-corporate regime that is nigh-inescapable unless you happen to be a character played by Arnie.
Social media tribalism and the current US presidency may feel closer than any of us would like to this dystopia, but we aren't there yet, and we should be careful we don't get any closer.
A cyberpunk masterpiece, Katsuhiro Otomo's adaptation of his own manga, Akira, is one of the great science fiction movies. Set in a rebuilt neo-Tokyo, gang warfare clashes with government experimentation in a city filled with corruption and terrorism. A young biker gang becomes entangled with attempts to harness psychic energy, attempts that have already caused World War III and show no signs of stopping.
The fashion and technology in Akira are what many look to, and the sleek, '70s-inspired retro-futurism make neo-Tokyo a city you wouldn't mind visiting, if you can avoid getting caught up in the all the violence. There's a smoothness to everything that's very appealing to the eye, helped in no small part by the gorgeous colours and animation. All the talk of quantifying and somehow harnessing psychic energy is pseudo-scientific fantasy, but scientists grasping at powers they can't control at a government's behest, not learning their lesson despite the cost of millions of lives? There's very little fantasy about that.
Easily one of the most chilling and hard-to-watch post-apocalyptic movies ever made, John Hillcoat's The Road is a desperate tale of a father and son taking it day-by-day in the wasteland, and is a disturbing thing to sit though. Adapted from Cormac McMarthy's novel of the same name, The Road takes place after a global catastrophe has happened and the world just kept spinning, leaving the few survivors struggling across a barren landscape.
Every time you think The Road cannot get bleaker, it does. Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee deliver career-best performances as the man and boy who are forced to navigate the desolation. After years and years, supplies are wearing thin, finding decent people is getting harder and harder, and the depths of the indecent are getting lower and lower.
Though we're not facing the apocalypse quite yet, there's a lot to relate to between our 2019 and The Road's. Just like in the film, the one thing we must cling to is that goodness can and does exist, no matter how small, and it's always worth fighting for.