Monday, July 19, 2010

Action Movies The Way They Should Be

This past weekend I caught up with the rest of the world and watched both Jaws and Die Hard. The latter I had seen bits and pieces of on TV throughout the years, but it was my first time viewing it all the way through, and my first time completely for Jaws. I enjoyed them both very much.

What struck me with Jaws was how simple a movie it was. I've heard before about how the animatronic shark would not work properly for them during much of the shooting and they had to improvise. Many people believe this actually helped the film quite a bit, as what you don't see is more powerful than what you do. I have to agree. The movie was all about the suspense of the situation and kept me on the edge of my seat. The times when the shark is visible it can look really fake and cheesy, but with everything going on at the time I didn't care. I got so wrapped up in the characters and what was going to happen to them. There's a reason this movie launched the summer blockbuster.

For Die Hard I went into it expecting a big dumb action movie. What I got was a suspenseful, twisting plot and character development. While the villains are shallow stereotypes, Alan Rickman makes it so enjoyable you don't care. John McClane, his wife, and Sgt. Al Powell all grow and change. It's amazing. Sure, there's ridiculous situations that no one should realistically survive and ginormous explosions, but the story exists to be an actual story and not just something to move the action scenes along.

It's been 35 years since Jaws and almost 22 years since Die Hard was released. This year has seen a plethora of movies that remade films and TV shows from the 1980s and most of them have missed the mark of the original. Somewhere along the way from here to there we seem to have gotten lost. Studios too worried about dollar signs cranking out mindless pictures with large explosions, half naked actresses, and fart jokes with no real sign of plot or character development. All of those things have their place and can be a lot of fun.. I just don't understand where someone started thinking these were the essential parts of the film.

I think part of it is that a lot of the iconic characters of the 70s and 80s have been reduced to caricatures. In a society that seems to be fueled by nostalgia over the last 20 years, heroes like John McClane, Rambo, and Indiana Jones have all been over simplified to the point that a lot of people seem to be forgetting exactly why we fell in love with them in the first place. When even a creator seems to forget what made his characters and stories so great, it's clear what we really need are new heroes and stories. I think we're making a tinge of progress here and there. Iron Man went from a character that was mostly known in name and costume only by the general public to a character who now many people recognize and know, and it was all because we were given a movie that made him look human and interesting. There are a few directors out there who people seem willing to allow to tell original stories, Christopher Nolan being the one who is currently leading the pack. I haven't seen Inception yet but I'm excited to check it out.

The internet is overloaded with people complaining about the mindless films, but Hollywood is still making them. This is because people keep paying to go see them. Even a movie that the average person seems to agree is downright awful is making money at the box office. If people would stop settling for this drivel then maybe we could run Michael Bay and Brett Ratner straight out of the business. Wouldn't that be lovely?

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