Escape from New York

Escape from New York ★★★

It is wild how often Escape from New York feels like a somber ode to the World Trade Center. The 9/11 attacks occurred 20 years after the film's release, marking it a hauntingly prophetic venture, filled with post-apocalyptic imagery depicting a quiet, ruined NYC.

American stability ravaged and left in a purgatorial fugue state, abandoned by its government to rot in the ash heaps of empty skyscrapers and wretched communes. Green with sick apathy, a deafening solitude pervades throughout the avenues, engulfed in black beyond.

The result is a beautiful film, admittedly undermined by its 80s-action bravura -- Snake is such a stereotypical badass it's difficult to associate with him whatsoever. Ridiculous, though contemplative, as opposed to anarchic; the film seems a great influence on games like Batman: Arkham City and Fallout 3. In Arkham City, Gotham serves a fitting cesspool for the development of a massive prison where inmates can run wild, though Manhattan makes far less sense a decision. Fallout 3 aims to capture a similarly melancholic experience as Escape, of wandering a wasteland once known as America, but is much too urgent too often to be deemed an appropriate adaptation. It's a wonder the film hasn't been properly adapted into a full-length game of its own; one can imagine how ethereal it could be to amble through a desecrated cityscape as a castaway avatar.

Tonal dissonance keeps this from being one of Carpenter's best, but the atmospheric elements buoy the otherwise lackluster proceedings. Few moments truly stand out as memorable; nevertheless, the sight of a desecrated New York, devoid of its bustling populace, is enough to chill the bone -- truly, this is the clearest stepping stone between Assault on Precinct 13 and The Thing -- and to turn heads at the thought of its prescient prediction.

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