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The Secret Sci-Fi Trilogy?

By Bert Ehrmann

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Fort Wayne Reader


When you watch as many genera movies as I do, you start to see certain patterns emerging. To be sure, most of these “patterns” are nothing more than the creator of one movie aping another, but sometimes I think these patterns point to something larger. Like perhaps a series of seemingly unrelated movies from the late 1980s might in face be interrelated.

I, for one, believe the movies They Live (1988), The Running Man and RoboCop (both 1987) might just be a secret trilogy of films.

Each of these three movies takes place in the near, I'd guess less than a decade, future from the time they were filmed. Each features a lead character fighting back from becoming a small cog in a big machine and each centers on certain types of mega corporations that has essentially replaced the government.

In They Live, construction worker Nada (professional wrestler Roddy Piper) is living in a world where normal working Joes can't make a decent living and are forced to sleep in squatter camps to get by. One day after Nada's camp is raided by the police and leveled by bulldozers, he accidentally discovers a cache of sunglasses. These sunglasses, created by rogue scientists, reveal the real state of the planet is one that is ruled by an alien species that are here to use us as cheap slave labor and want to steal our resources for their devious galactic plans. While wearing the sunglasses, Nada can see the real “ugly” faces of the aliens who are otherwise disguised to look like regular people. He can also see subliminal messages that say things like “Obey” and “Marry and Reproduce” posted everywhere.

In The Running Man, police officer Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is framed for a crime he didn't commit and is forced to take part in a TV gameshow called The Running Man. In this show, Richards and fellow criminals must sprint their way across a blasted cityscape trying to make it to the finish line and freedom, all the while dodging the “Stalkers” out to kill the runners and all of which is broadcast live on TV.

In RoboCop, gigantic corporation Omni Consumer Products (OCP) operates the police department in Detroit and is trying to replace the human police officers there with cost-effective robotic ones. When officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is shot and almost killed by a gang of thugs, OCP corporate minions sense an opportunity and meld what's left of Murphy to a robotic shell and create “RoboCop” to clean up the streets of both Old and New Detroit.

While these movies all share a certain level of surface similarities like a bleak near-futuristic setting, the oppression of a lower class and how a life can be worth very little, there are deeper connections between these films.

In RoboCop, the OCP corporation has many divisions, just one of which is the police department of Detroit. I can only imagine that there might also be an entertainment division of OCP and a brutal show like The Running Man would fit perfectly into the stark world of RoboCop. And it wouldn't surprise me in the least if the aliens from They Live aren't really in control of things over at OCP.

In both The Running Man and RoboCop, there has been a militarization of the police department. With RoboCop OCP wants to place walking robotic tanks armed with machine guns on the streets to control crime and in The Running Man Ben Richards is originally a member of a paramilitary force that machine guns a group of civilians rioting over food.

In all three films crime seems to be out of control. In RoboCop police officers are killed on an almost daily basis and while it's not exactly the same kind of crime, in They Live and The Running Man a group of citizens wage a guerrilla war against a corrupt government.

Here is my suggested viewing order of these films if you'd like to checkout this secret trilogy for yourself. Watch The Running Man first that sets up this hellish futuristic world, then RoboCop which shows just what it's like to live in this world and finally They Live that shows how this world is really run and how it ends.

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