What happened to the action movie?

Often imitated, rarely equaled
Often imitated, rarely equaled

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.

6 thoughts on “What happened to the action movie?

  1. The Lone Ranger is a worthwhile 80’s style action/adventure movie with a good story and script. Much better than the critics say. In fact, the best movie I’ve seen this year.

    • That’s quite a claim. I know a lot of people who would strongly disagree.

      I haven’t seen it yet, so I can’t give an opinion for or against. Still, I can’t help but wonder if it’s comparable to JOHN CARTER (i.e. not as bad as made out to be)

    • I have seen the Lone Ranger and though Genre films and action flicks are normally my forte this one fell flat for me. One thing that my Mom and I greatly disagreed on is the end music from the original black and white series. Although I love reprisals of famous scores. Like what they did in Superman Returns (Despite the significant other flaws it had). You can’t over do it. She loved it because “That’s the way the series did it”. I believe both the writers and viewers are much more educated now to the tricks and pitfalls of hollywood cliques. I loved they used that music but they ran it far too long during the sequence. It took away the power of the score but exhausting it to the point of annoyance. Music should build a scene not parody it. It was just one of the many reasons this Pirates of the Caribbean successor wannabe failed.

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