There are plenty of old and iconic movies that I don’t necessarily like when I finally get around to watching them, but I can usually see what makes them iconic and enduring. With Chariots of Fire, I was just plain bored and seriously have no idea why it was a hit. More than a hit, it somehow won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. It was 1981, so Hollywood was doing a shitload of cocaine at the time. But even that doesn’t excuse a cock up this big.
It’s 1919 and men are returning home after the war. English men. English men with toffy accents who attend exclusive and posh colleges. So already, they’re unbearable and very easy to hate. There’s one named Abrahams who’s the victim of some casual anti-Semitism that came as a bit of a surprise to me. There’s some other dude he goes to school with who might be a Lord, or some shit.
There’s a Scottish priest who’s a little too obsessed with God, even for a priest. They’re all keen runners. They’re also all too boring for me to have bothered taking any interest in their characters or stories, or even to go to IMDB to look up the names of the actors who played them. They go to France to compete in the Olympics or some shit. There’s some training, a wise old coach, a rivalry with the Americans and much running ensues.
I know this is a story about individual men pushing themselves to their absolute limit and conquering their own demons and all that kind of stuff. And I know it’s supposed to be an inspirational story about mankind and what we can achieve if we really set our minds to it. I know it’s about more than what’s on the surface. But none of that can stop me from thinking it’s about grown men obsessed with a running race, and everyone around them treating it like what they’re doing is of massive importance. You know what happens if they lose their races? Absolutely nothing, the world moves on and no one’s life is any different.
This obsession with something that is literally of zero consequence made me pretty much hate every character Chariots of Fire and see them as shallow, selfish assholes. You know how you make running important, and how you make a grown man’s obsession with it seem justified? You give the story stakes, stakes like the life and death faced by the running crazed characters in Gallipoli. They’re story matters, they’re motivations matter, they’re fates matter. The dudes in Chariots of Fire on the other hand? I challenge you to give me a single reason to give a single crap.
As if that wasn’t enough to make me turn on this movie, Chariots of Fire finds a way to make these people and their lives even more infuriating… The score by Vangelis. The main theme is inarguably iconic, but these days, it’s pretty much exclusively used as a punch line. The horribly dated synth sound of every piece of music in this movie only added to my aggravation.