Monday, 16 August 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #576: ACTION!

Welcome to the show folks...

Oh my, it looks like old Sly Stallone still has it. His action ensemble The Expendables opened at #1 at the box office. Not everyone sees this as good news, some see it as the forerunner of more 80s style good vs evil testosterone dripping action flicks, and that would wrong in our complex and nuanced world.

I say: So what?

Sure the world is complex, loaded with gray areas, but people get that everyday from the news. They go to the movies to see evildoers get royally smacked down by good guys that remind the audience of themselves, not be told that it's all their own fault because of their country's foreign policy. And let's not forget Hollywood's recent attempts to make action movies that reflect this 'moral complexity,' they all had the same plot. If you're too lazy to click the link, it goes something like this hero gets screwed by CIA, hero fights CIA, hero wins against CIA and the sinister man-in-a-suit who is behind everything. (I get into more detail in that post)

If people imitate this film and open up the range of villains, and schemes the villains are up to, I'm fine with that.

However, there's a catch.

Hollywood is a little thin when it comes to action heroes, especially ones under 50 years of age. A lot of people blame this on Hollywood's 'feminizing' of increasingly 'metro-sexual' male stars, but I beg to differ.

It has nothing to do with gender preferences and sexuality or any of that stuff. It all boils down to what I call Hollywood's severe case of "Juvenile Dementia."

Hollywood is obsessed with youth, in all its forms. Anyone who dares to look like their own age gets banished from big budget movies, to doing yogurt commercials.

This has led to an entire generation of actors who still pass as teenagers and twenty-somethings well into their thirties, and keep trying to do that into their forties. This is a problem, because an action tough guy has to have some signs of hard experience etched on their face, not look like someone out of Lisa Simpson's favorite magazine Non-Threatening Boys.

But enough about Hollywood's problem with baby-face machismo, what makes a good testosterone heavy action movie:

1. Tough Guy Heroes. Hollywood thinks it's all about muscles, 6 pack abs, bulging arms, and beefy pecs. It's not. What makes a good tough guy is the sense that if you're ever caught in an old west style saloon brawl, this guy will watch your back. Most Hollywood stars look like they'll scream "Not the face!" and run away to hit on your girlfriend while you're getting your ass kicked. Not good.

2. Threatening Villains. As I said about creating superhero stories, your heroes are judged by the quality of your villains. They have to be a tangible and credible threat to your heroes. They can be scheming, craven, and manipulative, but most of all, they have to be dangerous.

3. Don't Go Overboard. CGI is wonderful at creating richly detailed fantasy worlds. The problem is that action movies need at least one foot, or tiptoe, in reality. Which means that you forgo the CGI fantasy, in favor of physical special effects, and keeping the stunt work within the realm of human possibility. That's not to say you can't stretch it. I say a good rule of thumb is that it would take an episode of Mythbusters to prove or disprove whether your stunt was possible.

4. Drop The Shaky Cam. That's a personal beef with me. I find it a cheat by filmmakers too lazy to do some actual film-making. Don't leave James Cameron the only one left who can do coherent action scenes.

What do you think about the future of action movies?


  1. Dirty Dingus Sez:

    Sly is the exception here, hollyweird will attempt something in his works with 20 something pretty metro-sexual emo twits who show off their "mad" fighting skills by shaking the screaming hell out the camera and 1.1 seconds of a cut punch. The girls will luv it.

    Outside of that, I'm heading back to watch tough dudes punching the snot out of each other again before it comes out on the blu!

    BRING IT ON!!!

  2. A good example of the effect of Hollywood's juvenile dementia is the onle new bonafide action stars are in VIDEO GAMES. In order to have a real action star that looks like they can kick ass. We need to computer generate them.

    Solid Snake, Capt Price, Soap McTavish all look like they can kick ass and all are FAKE.

    can you imagine Zac Efron, Justin Beiber or any of these Disney Stars and action heroes. Selena Gomez could probably kick all of their asses.

  3. In general, I agree with the list, but I would add that rule #2 is not always necessary.

    Case in point - Commando.

  4. James Cameron?
    What about Lexi Alexander?

    Your post makes me miss Lee Marvin.