This article got me thinking about what action movies I like. I seem to like and respect all of the action scenes and fight choreography shown here, but the lack of characters having fun was noticeable. Lock out was my favorite clip of the bunch.
And I noticed that the mission impossible stunt was epic but fell flat. It got me riveted twice: when he fell the first time and when he missed the window. But the whole scene was flat. Why? Because he had 27 minutes to succeed (as made abundantly clear by the bad writing). There was no impending time crunch. In mission impossible one, the equivalent scene had people getting closer and closer, forcing Ethan to change plans and risk getting caught. The music was intensely quiet and it worked well. In MI4, The music slowed down the pace and made it boring. But it was boring with or without the music because there was no threat of getting caught. No rush. No situation. Just a guy climbing. Furthermore, Ethan seemed reluctant. But that’s not Ethan’s character! He’s a go getter and excited to get shit done. He looks forward to the impossible! It’s not a challenge until it’s impossible. He wasn’t haven’t fun, so we weren’t either.
I guess I like my action movies to be fun. And I feel that if the hero isn’t enjoying himself, that it’s harder for the audience to. I feel that if the lead can have fun in the scene, then the audience has fun too. In every Indiana Jones, Indy smiles, smirks and/or feel smug and happy about his efforts. In Broken Arrow, even the villain smiles, as does the hero when he wins $20 at the end of the movie. In the Matrix, Morpheus smiles a lot, and Neo doesn’t necessarily smile, but after self actualization begins to feel confident to play with the agent before consuming him. In Armageddon, everyone is having fun. In Bad Boys, Will Smith is always enjoying himself. In MIB, Will Smith is always wise cracking and enjoying himself. In Hancock, Will Smith never smiles, and the film sucked. In Goldeneye, Bond is smug and finds humor in anything. In Die Hard, Bruce Willis gets excited about a ton of stuff. In Pirates of the Caribbean, Jack is non-stop smug and smiling, and even Will Turner finds the opportunity to smile and have fun, several times throughout, especially in the finale. In the Mask of Zorro, Antonio’s character loves to smile and be witty. Star Wars has Han’s ecstatic cheers and “don’t get cocky kid” response to Luke’s cheers. It even has the Throne Room! Superman smiles and is adorably charming virtually the whole movie! And in almost every Tom Cruise action movie, Tom puts on his Maverick smile and let’s the audience in on some fun times.
In contrast, almost all revenge flicks lack levity and have the lead in a tormented emotional state. One where he can’t allow himself to have fun. In The Dark Knight, nobody smiles ever, even after the pencil gag. In fact, in all Nolan films, you’re not allowed to be happy or sit in awe and wonder. You’re forced to watch miserable people put up with tough situations. Memento, The Prestige, Batman, Inception, Interstellar. Can you name one instance where the lead smiles? Now name how many time the lead is troubled emotionally.
In Mad Max, maybe the kid who turns can be referenced as having fun, but the leads are miserable. The film was visually amazing, but the characters were extremely tormented and almost incapable of having fun. It was sad.
I noticed that even though Terminator 1 is a highly effective film, I don’t have as much fun as T2 because the protagonist in T1 is horrified the whole movie while the protagonist in T2 (John Connor) manages to have fun with the Terminator several times (You have to do what I say?). Hell, even Arnold gives a smirk or two throughout the film.
I’ll even throw some credit toward The Avengers, where Tony Stark has fun incessantly, and Captain America is delightfully hopeful and loves to flash his pearly whites.
Yeah, so I like action movies where the leads are having fun. I don’t like action for the violence or explosions or gadgets. I like movies because of leads I can get behind. Leads who have fun and I would want to have fun with.