Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Running Ham

Breaking Dawn Part 2What is it about Hollywood and running?

Why do movie advertisers think that we will be more likely to go and see a film if the poster features a freeze framed shot of the leading actor / actress in mid sprint?

I get the theory. The promise of action and dynamism. The attraction of a lithe, well-honed human body pushed to full exertion, pitched against the elements, stripped away from all mechanic help and motorized aid to pit itself against [insert generic forces of darkness here]. See our leading lady’s muscles tauten and flex as she runs gun in hand down the blazing sidewalk. Marvel as our leading man’s 6-pack ripples impressively as he runs a 4 minute mile to hurl himself over the bonnet of his assailant’s car and artfully wound himself – just a little – above his right eye so that the blood runs down and even more delineates his finely chiselled features.

Even better if there’s wind and rain. Running through the raw elements is always a winner. Or a spray of bullets. We love it when they run through a peppershot storm of lead and come out the other side totally unscathed.

Man. Running. I’ve got to go and see a film with running in it right now!

Except, I don’t. Not really.

Because running on a movie poster always looks a little bit stupid. And a whole lot contrived.

Let’s be honest, when a human being runs they don’t, as a rule, look cool. I know anthropologists make the case that human beings are designed to run (it’s all about our buns apparently) and certain individuals like Usain Bolt certainly manage to look magnificent when they run… but, by and large, the rule for the rest of us is: when we run we look like we really don’t want to be doing it and medically we really, really shouldn’t even have attempted to do it.

And that’s when seen at actual normal running life speed.

If you take a freeze frame of the average Joe (or Joanne) taken at full pelt, well, we just look like we are in pain. Like we are a huge chain of human sausage meat linked by a bizarrely jointed chain of hernias. Like our flesh is attached to our skeletons with cheap chewing gum and one more heavy footfall is going to see the whole lot slide off our bones with a wet ripping noise and ooze off down the nearest drain.

Depending on how much excess weight you are carrying you may even find your nipples have individually swung to different sides of your body. I’m not talking left and right, here, I am talking front and back.

We do not look pretty when we run.

Which is why movie posters have to lie about it.

But there is an art to this lying. If it is done badly, for all our leading man and leading lady may still look buff and muscle perfect, they will inevitably look ridiculous.

Take the movie image for Breaking Dawn Part 2. It’s all over the place at the moment. It features Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner running heroically towards the camera.

At least, that was the brief.

They look like they are jogging desultorily. That kind of half-assed shambolic, scurry-run that people do when they half-heartedly run for a bus which is already pulling away and they know won’t stop. The run that is the start of a run but kind of runs out of momentum after the first stride. I’m going to run, I’m going to run, I’m going to… oh I can’t be bothered. They look like they were told to literally run exactly one step toward the photographer and then stop. Don’t move a muscle. Hold it right there. Make-up touch them up and sort out their hair. Hold it. Hold it. Pressing the shutter release button now. Click. And relax. Thanks guys that’s really nailed it. So much better than speedwalking.

Take a look at this image when you get the chance. They have created something quite unique. A “vacuous run”. A “non-committal sprint”. The kind of run you’d undertake when the person you hate most in the world is lying before you, being kicked by everyone they’ve ever hurt and betrayed and they’re calling you for help. Yeah. I’m coming. I’m getting there. I’m just going to take a very long time doing it.

This image doesn’t say dynamism. It doesn’t say action.

It says I refuse to look as sloppy and out of shape as every other human being on this planet does when they run anywhere very fast.

It says I can’t even act convincingly like I’m running despite moving my limbs like I am actually running and being paid a massive fortune to do it.

This, Hollywood movie poster makers, does not sell the movie to me. Not at all.

But it does make me want to run.

Just not to the cinema or the DVD vendor…

Before the starting pistol is even fired, somebody just lost the race.

22 comments:

Gorilla Bananas said...

They're hopping, not running - no creature on Earth can run without flexing its arse muscles. They must be trying to break the ice and fall in, so so they can take off their clothes and get butt nekkid in an igloo. You'll never understand these movie posters unless you see where the plot is leading.

libby said...

You have really given this thought haven't you?

Steve said...

Gorilla Bananas: so Bella is merely after Edward's icicle and his snowballs? Now all becomes clear.

Libby: possibly a little too much.

Marginalia said...

Aren't you far too old to be watching this stuff?

The bike shed said...

How can a finale live forever?

Steve said...

Marginalia: wise enough and old enough to know better but I still look at the posters.

The Bike Shed: entropy and the death of time itself.

Kellie @ Delightfully Ludicrous said...

It looks to me like a slow-mo run, you know the sort, where the heroine's hair slowly whips back an forth while the hero smiles winningly.

the fly in the web said...

I came through the era of West Indian bus crews in London....no point running as they'd be off as soon as your hand was at Sistine Chapel distance from the hand rail on the platform...

This is probably why I am still alive.

Steve said...

Kellie: which one does Robert Pattinson play?

The fly in the web: running is over-rated. The bus was a true evolutionary development.

Trish Burgess said...

I remember going to see the Bodyworlds exhibition where plasticised bodies, preserved by Gunter van Hagens, are shown with all their nerves and muscles. There is a brilliant one shown in the process of running. Try googling the image if you fancy.

The only film where I enjoyed the running in the preview was Chariots of Fire.

Nota Bene said...

You just wanted to post a picture of Kristen Stweart didn't you? Well let me make one thing clear. She's already slept with one married man, and got into so much sh*t for it, I doubt she'll go for you now.

Posters are one thing, but I have happy boyhood memories of the start of running on the Baywatch beach....

Steve said...

Trish: Chariots of Fire was a film about running rather than just featuring someone running. That'll be the difference.

Nota Bene: yes, David Hasselhoff was a fine figure of a man back in those days.

Rol said...

I need further evidence. I suggest you and your family pose for a recreation of that poster so we can judge how inauthentic your running looks. Do it quick, while there's still loads of snow and ice about. (And if you haven't got any down there, I'll ship some down for you. We have a surfeit.)

Steve said...

Rol: you have no idea how tempted I am. I have even considered Photoshopping my face onto the poster but I was scared I might like the result too much.

John Gray said...

Steve
Would you actually choose to see a. Flm if you saw the lead characters sitting desperately on a couch?
Hummmm?

Steve said...

John: not if there was a man sized box of tissues involved.

Being Me said...

I'm aghast. I don't know why, but I have always thought Nota Bene was a woman. Have read her (his, sorry, will have to get used to that) comments on your blog for what must be several years now. And now I read of "boyhood memories"?

Need time to process and reorganise my brain.

But suffice to say, they look bloody conceited. That could be more about the Twilight saga than any Hollywood poster bad juju, though.

Steve said...

Being Me: conceited running? Or running as a conceit? As for Nota Bene... I'm sure she feels her manhood has been slighted enough...

The Sagittarian said...

Are you sure???

Steve said...

Amanda: treat her mean, keep her keen. ;-)

rjchery said...

I'm not averse to running in films. Given that I don't do that sort of thing, watching it while slumped in a cinema seat for a couple of hours makes me feel a bit healthier !!

Steve said...

rjchery: I suspect that's why teenage boys watch lots of porn.