OPINION: Recent action films are the face of a failing industry

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James Bond skiing over a glorious explosion on the slopes in the film The World Is Not Enough (1999). Photo courtesy of MGM Pictures.

I’ve always been the film critic in my household, holding veto power over what plays during family movie nights. I like all types of movies, but whenever my dad chooses another new action movie, I already know I’ll be bored. 

Recent action films, especially post-pandemic, have replaced their once-original plots with fast-paced eye candy that lack an interesting story to tell.

This new era of half-baked films prioritizes a repetitive formula over original storytelling. I’ve watched a dozen of these films that share the exact same premise: A man with a background in combat finds himself having to take matters into his own hands after something bad happens to someone he loves (such as The Equalizer, Taken, and the Mission Impossible series).

A commonality between these films is that they give the audience ten minutes of context, zero character development, and little dialogue to fill the moments between explosive fight scenes. Once you enter the many sequels of these types of series, the plots start to become nonsensical and the fights become less believable. 

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Ryan Gosling playing the role of a stuntman (while the film needed actual stunt doubles) in the film The Fall Guy (2024). Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

There’s a noticeable difference in quality between fight scenes from the 80s versus now. In any movie starring Bruce Lee, Michelle Yeouh, or Jackie Chan, each battle was impactful because of the actor’s real-life combat skills. In a single shot, we could watch the protagonist fight and flip over a group of enemies with their bare hands. Famous actors, such as the late Brandon Lee, put their lives on the line purely out of dedication for a stunt.

Nowadays, two-second shots, rapid editing, and shaky cameras have become the industry standard. I believe that this is a choice made solely for convenience, to help cover up any funny business for the post-editing crew. Not only does this distract from the stuntman taking the screen, but it also usually skips the second of impact, by only showing the moment before and after an actor gets whacked. I don’t believe any actors actually deserve to get punched in the face, but if your film is about the ability to fight, maybe they should. 

Believe it or not, I love action films, most of my favorite films are part of the genre. I believe that Die Hard, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Apocalypse Now are some of the best movies ever made. But what makes these films stand out are their original premises, not only their fight sequences. They all share lovable characters that you worry about, and exciting worlds that suck you in. 

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The iconic match between Balboa and Creed in Rocky II. Photo courtesy of MGM Pictures.

There are still good action movies that have come out in recent years. That’s because they contain a premise that’s worth watching, even if nobody got beat up. We all miss John Wick’s wife, and especially his dog. It’s usually because these films are backed up by a well-known actor or an influential producer. Some directors are breaking the mold, going back to the basics of what makes a good film, all for the sake of creating an experience that nobody has seen before. 

New flicks in this sub-genre of insincere, quickly-made action movies are released in theaters every month. It’s because they’re easy money makers, and they know their Tiktok-addicted audiences prefer explosions over an interesting exchange between two characters. In today’s age, few studios outside of A24 and Neon are willing to risk losing money on making action films outside the status quo. In recent years I’ve avoided the regular movie theaters, trying not to waste my well-earned cash on the many sequels, spin-offs, and remakes that fill the marquee. 

Young people are an audience essential for keeping the film industry afloat. Each ticket that we buy tells studios what we want to see more of in the future. Supporting the financial success of independent and creative flicks would greenlight more original premises and battles in future mainstream films. 

 

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