Action Movies From The Eyes Of A 90s Kid (Or Why I Want My Generation’s Die Hard).
Now despite what my profile says I was born in 1993 - I lie, it’s a habit of mine – my childhood films were The Lion King, the first two Toy Stories and other assorted Disney films. I didn’t really get into movies until I was about twelve and by then it was 2005. I tell you this because I believe my generation has missed out on one of the great genres of movie.
The children of the 90s became the teens of the 00s and are now the movie going young adults of the 10s. And we have not yet had our great action film or a franchise, the problem, I think it stems from two faults – Audience Awareness, and the Action Genre joke.
Franchises were good in the 80s, films like Die Hard or Lethal Weapon got so many sequels because they were so successful, this meant that the people who worked on them took time to actually work on the sequels. These days Action sequels have become a joke with endless films upon films rehashing the same idea over and over. The result is the audience has become too aware and now the idea of an action sequel sends people groaning because they now recognize the fact that movies don’t get sequels because they’re good anymore, they get them because they make money. Even the great Die Hard is getting a possible fifth instalment after the panned 4.0.
I know Action isn’t the only genre to milk franchises but it has the tightest rope to cross, because Action movies can up the stakes for the main characters they can build upon the original film as opposed to say comedy (see Hangover 2 for reference) but just because the stakes can be raised doesn’t mean they should and by the time you get to film 3 you’re out of ideas and films 4 and 5 are just obvious cash grabs that sully the entire franchise. The main problem with raising the stakes is that each time you raise them you have the make the action scenes more ridiculous each time to up the ante and the more ridiculous an Action film the less people will be interested, Action films have to be ‘Realistically Ridiculous’ to attract fans of the genre.
I want to go back to Die Hard for a second. Far and away, Die Hard is considered – and probably is – the greatest Action film ever made.
Why? Because it takes the time to introduce the players and their relationships, it has three dimensional characters, it has an interesting villain and a flawed hero and the actions scenes, while silly at parts, do seem like they could actually happen. I’ve heard people say that these days the movie going audience is a bunch of Instant Gratification Wankers (Or IGWs as I will refer to them from now on) but I don’t buy that for a second. If the main audience for a modern Action film are IGWs then why is Die Hard still hailed as the king of the crop?
Because we get to know the people involved, we see John McClane as the troubled every-man, we see Hans Gruber as the soft-spoken but incredibly smart killer, we see John’s fractured relationship with his wife we even see John get hurt and get emotional. He’s human and we, as an audience, can relate to him. Action Hero’s nowadays are all brick shithouses that go through the whole movie armed to the teeth, emotionless and bullet-proof until they’re possibly injured by a stupid villain who’s evil just for the sake of being evil.
This brings me back to my original point, where is the Die Hard for my generation? Where is our true great Action Movie? Because I am trying to remember the last great action film;
Drive, Collateral? Both are more thrillers than action.
Heat? Possible but again probably more a drama or a thriller than an action.
I’d like the say The Bourne Trilogy but that was five years ago and even after all that time they’re still getting an unnecessary sequel or spin-off or whatever.
Fast Five? But was that actually great or just surprisingly good.
Mission Impossible 4? This could be it but as two great men discussed once before – ‘Mission Impossible is never remembered as one of the great action series.’
The point of writing this is to say that I don’t want to keep looking back to the Action heyday on the 80s and say ‘The last generation knew how to do this right.’ I want a film that this generation can be proud of, I want a film that in the next twenty years people will still talk about. All the ingredients are there, flawed everyman hero, interesting villain with actual goal, realistic yet ridiculous violence and characters we actually care about. They’ve done it right so many times before.
When did we spoil the recipe?
(NOTE – I know there was several Asian action films that skimp on the characterisation in favour of utterly brutal scenes of violence and are all the better for it – the upcoming The Raid being a prime example – but this blog was designed for a Western film market.)