If you had told me yesterday that there was a movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger that was based on a Stephen King novel, I wouldn’t believe. But there is, and today, I accidentally watched it. The Running Man (1987) is a movie set in a dystopian future where a falsely convicted policeman (Schwarzenegger) gets his shot at freedom when he must forcibly participate in a TV game show, called The Running Man, where convicts, runners, must battle killers for their freedom. Based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King, under the pen name Richard Bachman.
The movie is your classic ‘80s Arnold movie. He shows off his muscles, he beats bad guys, and says a corny one-liner or two. It does a pretty good job at doing that. It also stars pro-wrestler Jesse Ventura and former Family Feud host Richard Dawson, who basically plays a parody of himself as he plays the host of “The Running Man”. I understand why other Arnold movies have stayed more culturally relevant then this one, but it’s not too bad. It’s got corny special effects and lines that help make the movie pretty fun. Who doesn’t love when Arnold kills a guy and then says a pun based on how he killed him? That’s just fun for the whole family.
But I was surprised, after watching the movie, that its based on a Stephen King novel. When I think King, I think horror. I think IT or The Shinning, not Arnold saying goofy lines while wearing spandex. So, I looked it up and I guess the movie is an adaptation in name and general concept only. Which is a shame because the novel seems interesting. But Arnold being Arnold is what got butts in the theater in the ‘80s and the novel seems to be very… not Arnold.
I will always be fascinated by movies that do this. Movies that take the title and basic concept of a book and then tells a completely different story then the one in the book. It seems like they are doing extra work for themselves. Especially because they could have just changed the title and some character names and it would probably be legally different enough from the book and be fine. I find it very interesting. The Running Man is hardly the first movie to do this and certainly wasn’t the last. I would look into the legality of it all to see why they don’t but… that seems like a lot of work. Just going to watch another movie seems a lot easier.
I give The Running Man 6 corny puns delivered in an Austrian accent out of 10.