DEATH RACE 2050. The Hunger Games for science fiction punks

The Death Race series, once led by Jason Statham, and later even more so by Luke Goss, has transformed into a “Fast and Furious” for the less privileged…

Jarosław Kowal

8 January 2024

DEATH RACE 2050. The Hunger Games for punks

(as if the series itself wasn’t mind-numbing enough), where anarchistic content has been “censored,” and the skeletal plot merely serves as a pretext for car battles reminiscent of video games like Twisted Metal or Vigilante 8. The glory of the series has been decided to be restored by its father and, at the same time, a living legend of Z-class films – Roger Corman.

For Corman, there are no impossible tasks. In his long career, he directed fifty-five films, including decent, already cult pictures with a thrill like Bucket of Blood, Little Shop of Horrors, or X: The Man with X-ray Eyes. He also directed one of the most important and controversial films pretending to be anti-drug propaganda but actually praising LSD – The Trip. However, he is best known for producing nearly four hundred projects, including B-movie classics like Galaxy of Terror, Deathstalker, or Death Race 2000, the source material for the film set fifty years later, hence Death Race 2050.

Death Race 2000

Not much has changed over half a century. The United States of North America are now called the United Corporations of North America; their president is an older man with a strangely familiar, “fluffy” hairstyle; consumption is the highest value, and humans are merely food for its insatiable appetite. Once again, Corman (and G. J. Echternkamp, but directors in Corman’s films always play second fiddle) reaches for satire and black humor and attempts to depict not the future world but the hyperbole of the present in the ugly world of his fantasies.

Death Race 2000

If you’ve seen The Hunger Games, first, I sympathize with the wasted time, and second, you’ll quickly notice that it’s a series drawing heavily from Death Race 2000 (as well as the Japanese Battle Royale), and there are actually few original ideas in it. However, the biggest strength and weakness of Death Race 2050 lie in the difference between these two worlds. On the one hand, Corman didn’t have to hold back on anything. If he wanted to include a character in the film, a religious fanatic blowing up the audience, he did so without hesitation. There’s nudity, there’s sex, there are gore scenes, there are brutal killings of the helpless and innocent victims of the “system.” Low-budget productions can afford everything that profit-oriented cinema cannot show. On the other hand, it is precisely this second type of production that receives huge budgets, where any, even the weirdest vision, could be realized. Corman, however, has lost enthusiasm for the ancient methods of special effects, so he took the easy way out and stuffed the Death Race 2050 with dozens of unbearable computer-generated effects.

Death Race 2050

In many moments, Death Race 2050 simply looks very bad, and it’s hard to believe that someone will have a similar sentiment for it in forty years as they would for the one made in 1975, Death Race 2000. However, it’s still a much more interesting film than Paul W. S. Anderson‘s 2008 version. Take the aforementioned religious fanatic, for example – Corman didn’t want to refer to the face of terrorism that is most common in the United States. So, we don’t get an Islamic extremist but a white fundamentalist from the South. “There have been more terrorist attacks by Americans on Americans than ISIS on Americans, so I wanted to show an American woman in this role,” the producer argued. Tammy’s religion is pop culture – she kills in the name of Elvis, quotes Michael Jackson. These details and character ideas make a good impression, provided the viewer can overlook the poor appearance of the presented world.

Death Race 2050

The love for the original is a crucial factor in the reception of a sequel (or perhaps a remake? After all, the plot here is almost identical), and I think only because of that is the rating above so high. The punk rock spirit and the associated Do It Yourself idea are very strong here. For me, this passion and sincerity are enough to feel satisfied after watching Death Race 2050, but for the occasional viewer of Z-class movies, it will be torture.