A little over a week ago, a friend posted the following question on Facebook – “Is RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK the best action movie of all time?”
As would be expected, this led to a somewhat lengthy discussion. Several other titles were bandied about (DIE HARD, ALIENS, several John Woo HK films), and was summarized quite succinctly with “The main lesson here is that the 80s were a goldmine for high-quality action films.” (mea culpa – I’m the one who said it).
All I can think of for the 90s are TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY and SPEED.
While you’re thinking about those, compare them to some more recent ones, such as:
-THE EXPENDABLES – a nostalgic remembering of the genre itself
-THE EXPENDABLES 2 – silly, over the top parody
-PACIFIC RIM – cool to look at, but that’s about it
-FAST & FURIOUS 6 – haven’t seen it, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about it
-THE LONE RANGER – couldn’t bring myself to see it, but will catch it on home video. Is it as bad as they say?
Now there’s this. Oy. Someday I’ll discuss how much I dislike reboots.
So why do action films from 20-30 years ago still hold up?
Looking at strong examples of the genre, they all have: Original stories. Smart writing. Three-dimensional characters. Action that enhances and supports the story.
If you’re writing an action spec, these should be your goals and objectives. Yes, it’s a lot of fun to blow shit up, but don’t use an explosion or shootout just for the sake of having one. It’s pointless.
Make the action part of the story, not what the story’s about. Use it to move things forward. Ratchet up the tension and create more conflict for your hero.
Need a refresher course in how it’s done? Pick one you’ve always liked, and watch it as a writer. Take notes. See how it all fits together. Then see if any of it can be applied to your story and rewrite accordingly.
If only all learning could be this enjoyable.