April 4, 2013

5 Things Wrong With Modern Action Movies

Someone recently asked me on our Facebook page to discuss 5 things wrong with modern action movies; it took me a while to come up with 5, but here you go. Enjoy!.






Shaky Cam: This is the bane of my bloody life; it drives me mad that few directors can actually shoot an action scene properly today. Since Bourne came along movies such as Safe House, Taken 2, The Expendables and many, many more really like to “get in close to the action” in other words, let’s act like we have epilepsy so nobody can see what the hell is going on. When I spoke with Olivier Gruner a while back, he agreed and said it’s a way to disguise the fact that the main actor clearly doesn’t have any real fighting skill so they shake the camera around to make it look more “real”. Funny, I’ve been in a few fights in my life and I don’t recall anyone shaking about to make it more exciting. Violence itself should feel threatening and when the camera is moving around like a headless chicken, you are completely disengaged from the action because you can’t see who is hitting who. Usually it’s done to get the family friendly PG-13 rating in movies like The Hunger Games, where the core audience is teenage girls. They shake the camera around to hide the fact that the story is about children killing each other, thus muting the main theme of the film. Because you can never actually see what is going on, any emotional involvement with the action is lost and motion sickness occurs.

Watered Down PG-13 Ratings: Following on from the shaky cam is the dreaded PG-13 rating. There have been many movies which deserved an R rating but to get the “wider” audience they took the safe option and removed all the blood and violence just so they can release an Unrated Cut on DVD. Films like Live Free or Die Hard and once again The Hunger Games could have benefitted from an R rating because the films are about violence. Violence is NOT family friendly so stop trying to entice the kids with it. They have their Pixar movies, their superheroes and Tween flicks to watch, but allow the real action fans to have their R rated action. But R Rated movies don’t make money? Sure they do! Olympus Has Fallen made $30 million in its opening weekend and it was a kick ass ride. Django Unchained made over $100 million in its domestic run alone. R Rated movies will make their money back if they are marketed well and are actually decent movies. Despite A Good Day to Die Hard not being all that great, it still made a respectable amount of money, but the R Rating wasn’t the problem, the shaky cam and crap script were. I am not saying that every action movie needs to be rated R but with certain brands like Die Hard or Expendables, the violence, etc is one of the main selling points.

Poor Marketing: Speaking of poor marketing, so many movies today have absolutely terrible marketing campaigns which instantly turn off the viewer: “Feel the Wrath”, “Titans will Clash” Yawn, these are some of the laziest taglines I’ve ever seen but nothing will beat “Don’t ever cross Alex Cross”. Must have taken ages to come up with that. A lot of movies are marketed completely wrong; let’s look at Killer Elite. From the trailers it looked like an 80’s style kick ass action movie with a battle of wits between Jason Statham and Clive Owen. Except it wasn’t really that at all. Unlike what the trailers promised, Clive Owen wasn’t even a villain, but really he was the good guy. Why did you lie to us people? Why? The film was still pretty fun but there were no characters to really sympathise with. Trailers and tag-lines give you a promise, a tease of what you can expect from the film. Then when it comes out and it’s completely different in tone from the trailer, you feel cheated because it wasn’t what you were sold.

Gritty and Realistic Tone, Lacking Humour: This is a huge gripe as Booms will attest. Every time a movie gets rebooted like the upcoming Man of Steel, the inevitable “grittier, more realistic” approach is mentioned and we raise our eyes heavenward. I’m not going to bash a movie I haven’t seen yet, but I’m also just tired of seeing every other movie shot in a grainy, grey style, lacking colour and frankly a sense of fun. I said before The Avengers was a huge hit because it was colourful, action packed and had plenty of humour. Remember when R Rated movies were like that? That’s why I loved The Last Stand, it was old-school fun with plenty of humour and was just an old-fashioned good time. I don’t want to go to the movies to feel depressed, if I want to do that I’ll look at my bank account. Enough with the grittiness, bring back the one-liner and wise-cracks. You know what’s real? Paying a dental bill or doing your laundry, but is it interesting? No, because real life isn’t interesting. With movies you want to escape, so I don’t want to see any more grey looking, lifeless movies.

Overuse of CGI: Finally the big kahuna, my nemesis, the dreaded CGI. Let’s get this out the way first; certain movies couldn’t exist without CGI, all the superhero movies, etc completely rely on it and that’s fine because they are fantasy movies. But when it comes to movies where you are paying to watch REAL action, I don’t want to see CGI explosions or CGI blood. I want squibs, real explosions and genuine stunts. CGI stuntmen completely defeat the purpose of the action movie; we want to see real action. How many movies do we know that were let down by truly awful CGI? Well I just so happen to have put a list together a few weeks ago: Die Another Day (Parasurfing scene), I am Legend (Shit looking zombie things), Air Force One (plane crash) and even Olympus Has Fallen (attack on Washington). Think how much better so many films would look if they used models, prosthetics or even all of them mixed together with CGI used in small doses. It works best in the background, but CGI sets and creatures pretty much ALWAYS look synthetic and frankly whenever there is a behind the scenes clip on a DVD telling us how a computer guy, messed around with some software to create an action scene, I’ll switch it right off. I don’t care. I want REAL explosions, blood squibs and REAL stuntmen.

Those days I fear are gone and my ideas are probably quaint and dated, which is probably why there are so few big-budget movies I actually genuinely look forward to these days. I do find that a film with a lower budget will actually interest me more because the filmmakers have to be more creative with the action. People can look down their noses at straight to DVD films but I’ll take Sinners and Saints or 6 Bullets over Battleship any day of the week.

About the Author

Eoin Friel
Eoin Friel
I grew up watching JCVD, Sly and Arnold destroy bad guys, blow things up and spew one-liners like it's a fashion statement. Action is everything I go to the movies for and the reason I came up with this site is to share my love for the genre with everyone.



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