I know that, on the surface, this question seems ridiculous. This is the age of the superhero blockbuster. Movie after movie is full of outlandish and supposedly awe-inspiring action sequences, each one more ambitious than the last. They're able to show things that would have been impossible a generation before (I remember as a kid in the '80s thinking how cool a Spider-Man movie would be...if only there were a way to do it.) So this is the Golden Age of Action, right?
And yet, most of these action sequences are mind-numbing and utterly boring. Witness Man of Steel. I watch an unremitting one-hour action/fight sequence culminating in the destruction of half of Metropolis, and I find myself yawning as I look at my watch, stunned that we have a half hour of sensory overload still to go.
So what went wrong? I ask this not as an action/adventure hater. Just the opposite, I grew up loving this type of movie. Raiders of the Lost Ark, various war/adventure movies--I ate that stuff up. Here are some possible answers:
1. I grew up. This has to have something to do with it. Why else am I more riveted by dialogue in the BBC Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice than I am by the action in GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra?
2. I can't tell what's going on in these movies. Who is fighting whom? How serious was that blow? The herky-jerky, extreme close-up, rapidly cutting style of filming fight scenes is, in my view, a disease. The first time I noticed it was in Gladiator. I don't know who it was who first had the idea that a split-second extreme close-up of a short sword jabbing into an abdomen is more satisfying than a wider, longer, more extended shot of the whole fight sequence, but that person should be, well, jabbed with a short sword. I actually think shooting action this way is a cheat. Is it easier to film something this way than to choreograph an extended fight sequence in fewer but longer shots.
3. These movies are so divorced from reality that what they are showing has no meaning. There is not even any room left for a sense of awe. I'm not against CGI per se. CGI can be used to great effect. Jurassic Park and parts of Spider-Man or Lord of the Rings come to mind as near awe-inspiring. Man of Steel, not at all.
4. Some movies show ostensibly real people existing in the real world, supposedly governed by our laws of physics, doing things that are not possible. Pierce Brosnan's James Bond comes to mind, as does Christopher Nolan's version of Batman. And don't have them surviving things that are not survivable (as always seems to happen with Daniel Craig's Bond).
I would love to see someone make a good old-fashoined 1960s or 1970s-style action-adventure movie, full of real people, real stunt men, real cars, real explosions, and longer, more sustained, wider camera shots, where you can see what is going on and what is at stake. Or maybe just dispense with the explosions and show a nice old fashioned fight, like Sean Connery's Bond fighting the killer on the train in From Russia With Love, or the pre-credit sequence of Thunderball. Short of that, maybe I should just stick Where Eagles Dare in my DVD player one more time. And I'll take Ben-Hur or Spartacus over Gladiator or Troy, by the way.
What are some of Ricochet's favorite action sequences? Any recent good ones I might've missed?