Predicting the Future with Arnold and Sly

As regular readers of Nonstop Karate know, I am an action movie junkie. Not in the ironic sense nor do I watch them knowingly, content that I am taking a break from cerebral fare to enjoy cinematic junk food.

I straight up love the action movie genre, and have spent the past week and will spend this one, preparing myself physically (lots of read meat, push ups, Ed Hardy shirts) and mentally (watching action movies while holding nunchuks) for the action fan’s gift from Valhalla, the Expendables.

My strong right hand.

Now, at this point I’ve built up the movie so large in my head, that it can’t help but let me down, and that sucks, but it has served as a muse to give me stuff to write about for this blog, which is a godsend as I’ve been wrestling with writers’ block for weeks now.

So let’s continue this crazy train of stuff I can write about and discuss how I spent the laziest Sunday after one of the worst work weeks, ever.

I woke up, ate frozen pizza and dino nuggets and watched action movies starring people who are in the Expendables. I get one day off a week, and goddamnit, I’m going to spend it contributing as little as I can to society.

My roommate, some friends, and I spent probably 14 hours watching action movies from the late 80’s and early 90’s with the most recent movie being the Transporter from 2002.

Two of the movies, 1993’s Demolition Man and 1987’s the Running Man both try to guess what the future’s going to be like. Machines that fine you for swearing and retired football players with jet packs and flame throwers aside, both get an alarming amount of stuff right.

Demolition ManWatching this with my roommate, who had never seen it before, was a really enjoyable experience as the level of insanity kept building.

The movie opens with Los Angeles 1996 as helicopter (a chinook!) lies over the Hollywood sign which is on fire and the LAPD storms a building with Humvees that have bulldozer blades on the front.

How the hell does this thing even fly?

“When was this made?”
“What the hell did they think was going to happen in three years?”

Keep in mind that this made less than a year after the LA Riots, so it’s not like they were coming completely out of left field.

So we keep watching and I get to keep yelling stuff at him like:

“Plan A is to the bungee jump off a helicopter and into gunfire!”
“Did I forget to mention that Wesley Snipes is the bad guy?”
“The two main characters are named ‘John Spartan’ and ‘Simon Phoenix!'”
“Oh yeah, they freeze both of them so they can thaw out and fight in the future!”
“This is one of Sandra Bullock’s first movies!
“Denis Leary’s in this! He basically plays himself but with a beard!”
“Rob Schneider!”
“Coming up is one of the greatest screen deaths in history!”

I saw this when I was in grade school, back before conservatives and touchy-feely hippies tried to ruin pop culture for all of us and a bunch of grade school kids could go see an R-Rated action movie for someone’s birthday. It left an impression on me.

The movie picks up from the apocalyptic cesspool of 1996 in the year 2032 in the city now known as San Angeles, where no one swears, smokes, eats meat, has sex, and only listens to jingles on the radio.

Clearly Wesley and Sly need to show up and start fucking shit up.

I bet these two hated each other off camera, too. That's awesome.

And so they do.

I’ll spare you any more half-assed spoilers and let you enjoy watching the two most violent men in the future run roughshod and ramshackle all over the most pussy-whipped utopia ever put to film.

Less convenient than my phone, less options than my computer? I'll take two!

The iPad and Wikipedia – I remember watching this as a kid, probably with my dad when it was released on VHS (the dark ages) and remarking about how the little hand held computers were so dumb. Everyone was so dependent on their magic little screen to give them information on how to conduct most of their lives.

Then I got a smart phone and I can’t imagine how I lived before I could just look up every stupid thought that enters my head on Wikipedia, or figure out what the name of that actor is on the show I’m watching, or where I’ve seen him before.

There used to be a time when you would have to tell a friend about something on YouTube and you would both have to remember it until you could get to a computer to watch it, instead of just having it on your phone, and now, the iPad.

Everyone in this movie, except Sly and Snipes, walks around holding a flat computer in their hand (actually, they might have a little handle, but whatever) talking into it and letting it give them all the answers. Snipes’ Simon Phoenix even uses the computer terminals everywhere to look up everything up to and including where to find a gun. The Wikipedia of the future even cross references how they work.

I want one in my house that dispenses napkins. Or coasters.

Electronic Society – Get out your wallet. How much paper money do you have on you? How often do you actually use hard currency in transactions?

If you’re like me, not a lot and not often.

I have twenty bucks in my wallet at all times in case I ever need to call a cab (a holdover from being dependent on the shittiest car of all time) but really, I just keep cash on hand in case I ever come across a taco truck. Everything’s done on computers or via cards, which Demolition Man does one better by lo-jacking everyone with a chip, that is also linked to the locks on your dwelling, car, and bank account. There’s no need for actual currency because everyone always has all their money on them at all times.

The paying everything with your card thing is kind of self explanatory, but considering I have on my person at any one time four devices that can access the internet, I’m A.) never out of touch with humanity as a whole and B.) any sort of social networking page loves to tell how you updated, and more distressingly, wants to tell everyone where you did from via GPS. We’re already all Lojacked, it’s just voluntary at this point.

Elect me! Here I am! Do it now! Elect me! What are you waiting for?!

Schwarzenegger’s Political Career: It was a joke, a little one liner thrown in to poke at the rivalry between the two biggest action stars to walk the Earth, a throwback to the Back to the Future line about President Regan (“the actor!?”), and a knowing poke at Arnold’s Last Action Hero that had Sly as the Terminator when Arnold’s character walked into a Blockbuster.

“I have, in fact, perused some newsreels in Schwarzenegger Presidential Library and that time you took the car-”
“Hold it, the Schwarzenegger Library?”
“Yes, the Schwarzenegger Presidential Library. Say, wasn’t he an actor when you -”
“Stop! He was President?”
“Yes, even thought he wasn’t born in this country, his  popularity at the time caused the 61st Amendment whch states -”
“I don’t wanna know. President..?”

Granted, he didn’t achieve the highest office in the land (and judging by his track record never will be) but he did achieve the highest office in HIS land, California. I’m sorry, I meant Caleefohneeya. Do you realize that in Predator and Running Man there are two governor’s in those movies, Arnold and Jesse Ventura? I don’t know whether to cheer or mourn America, for on the plus side, anything’s possible, on the negative side, anything’s possible.

The Running Man

A post-post apocalyptic movie, the world reached peak oil and there wasn’t enough food to go around in first world countries. Society unraveled to the point where a militarized government rose to power to get things under control and in order to keep the machine running smoothly used a combination of distracting people with TV and shooting large crowds from helicopter. Arnold is a soldier that refuses to open fire on a food riot, so his squad somehow beats him up in a helicopter and does it anyway, framing him for the crime. Through a series of events, his character ends up on a show where people pay their debt to society by being hunted down by murderous hockey players and big fat guys that sing opera and shoot electricity.

A better name for the movie would be, “How the Justice System Should Actually Work.”

Reality TV – This movie was released when the nation was still deep in the 80’s so there’s still a lot of the game show feel to the proceedings, but it got a lot of the other stuff right. First off the degradation of humanity in general as contestants are hunted down and humiliated then killed by the ‘heroes’ of the Running Man game, the Stalkers. When you consider that most of us just watch the first half of American Idol to watch the losers and never-wills fail spectacularly, or see who’s going to eat it on the Real World/Road Rules challenges, or literally eat it on Fear Factor, and all the other reality shows who ply their trade in human misery, the grand metaphor hits home.

No one ever really wins these things. You just turn 31 and realize you've wasted all of your potential to be a decent person.

The blood-thirsty audience isn’t a bunch of tattooed miscreants or degenerates, but is actually mostly white, older, and, judging by their clothes, well to do. Which is the core audience for almost all of the reality shows, with the exception of the shows on MTV.

The Running Man is supposed to a be a raw and gritty gladitorial game but each one of the stalkers has an over the top, choreographed entrance filled with much pomp and circumstance. Add to that the fact that each one faces the contestants in a clearly defined zone, complete with lights, specially placed cameras, and is set up in such a way to favor the unique abilities of each stalker, it becomes clear just how choreographed and controlled the show is. There’s even a bit where using computers and editing, they rig the outcome and ending of the show while it’s actually still going on in the movie’s reality.

One of cinema's all time great sleazeballs.

Plus, much like Seacrest, Cowell, and Probst, you really wish someone would just punch the host of the show, Richard Dawson, right in the face.

Bread and Circuses: The rise of the the Running Man, as explained by the text crawl at the beginning, is due to widespread unrest and the government’s increasingly totalitarian control over citizens’ lives in response to the anger and clamor.

There's a disconnect with reality when you leave the house and this is Plan A. This is your best foot forward? Poor girl.

I’m not trying to start a political discussion, but I think we can all agree that the last ten years have been a time of great upheaval in terms of what government bodies can and cannot do, and of very vocal disagreements depending on whose power, and in response to that, a lot of people have turned to media, particularly reality TV to get away from it.

There’s something calming about watching other people experience all the drama and bullshit when it doesn’t affect you. It could be schadenfreude, or just the idea that someone who’s on TV also has to suffer and work that makes us feel better. It’s a wonderfully uncomplicated notion that one can win or lose based on one audition, competition, or challenge. There are rules and they are the same for everyone, which is something we don’t find in the real world, ever. In times of crisis, reality TV functions as an oasis.

And oasis that is probably making a whole generation dumber than the previous one, but nonetheless, an oasis.

Have it back by 9. With a full tank.

Again, Arnold as a Force for Change in Government: Granted he storms a TV studio with an assault rifle and kills some asshole with a microphone rather than be elected President of the United States, but he does influence massive change at the end of this movie, even he spent most of it in bright yellow spandex and killing people with chainsaws and road flares.

Action movies, a portal to the future.



About Nonstop Karate

Created by Chad Quandt and Matt Loman Lonely. Online. Angry due to being online and lonely.

Posted on August 10, 2010, in History Lessons, Matt Loman, Movies, Pop Culture. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I really enjoyed this post, not that I do not enjoy your other posts. Sometimes its fairly easy to overlook or dismiss social commentary in action movies because of the amount of flash thrown at you. The amazing thing is, there really isn’t any finesse to the social commentary. Its not hidden and they throw it in your face as much as the pyrotechnics. Even when an action movie has something important to say, it does it with a punch to the sternum.

    I also think that movies of that time period are a bit more focused in whats being said. Most action movies now muddle things up too much. Theres a love story, theres some crazy weird familial relation, theres a sexual undertone that is most likely unnecessary. At the height of their popularity, these movies were pretty cut and dry. If there was a love interest she likely was the point of the movie, not a wrench thrown in to fuck shit up (most of the time).

    I remember really enjoying Demolition Man and I haven’t seen The Running Man in so long, I had forgotten about it. When not thinking of Terminator, the first Arnold movie I come to tends to be Total Recall. I’ll have to revisit Running Man and refresh my memory.

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