The action genre is one that has been going strong, but its quality is vastly diminishing. In the past, if an action film were lazy, it would be shrugged off. Nowadays if an action film was to come out, then almost immediate success will come its way.
I have spoken to many different movie-goers why they actually go to see these films and the general response would be ‘for cool action scenes’. I then go on to ask what they think of the plot, acting, direction, dialogue etc and then promptly get a look back of confusion and then the answer of ‘the special effects are cool’. I continue to press for an opinion on story, character development etc but then they say ‘It does not need such things, its an action movie, you go for the action!’. This remark always devastates me; it is as though none care too much for the art of storytelling anymore.
No genre should be exempt from the main purpose of film, and that is to tell a story, introduce three-dimensional characters, develop said characters through the cause of the story, artistic merit, originality!. What action films we have been seeing lately are simply a stream of action scenes strung together with a weak story, and simple characters. It is as though the film-maker have forgotten the important fundamentals of film, the most basic requirements and simply are just finding a way to introduce the next action scene. Maybe the film-makers and the studios believe that the general public have got such short attention spans that they need to wake us up every five minutes with a commotion of big bangs; an insulting idea.
How action scenes are meant to work is by pulling the audience into the film, make them care for the characters, build up the characters so much that when the action scenes do come in full swing, then the audience will be on the edge of their seats, rooting for the characters, rather then simply looking at a load of pretty special effects go bang.
Oh yes I had been loosing faith in the modern action film, until Avatar arrive… Avatar may be far from the greatest film ever made, it is far from an original story, but thank god for its intelligence. As I said the film is not original, it is essentially Pocahontas … but in space. Originality is something that is near impossible to accomplish these days, I should know, I am a fiction writer. It is not so much about creating an original story, rather it’s to tell a story in an original manor. For an example – lets look at Pulp Fiction:
Pulp Fiction features stories as far removed from original as you can get. The storylines in fact are clichés of the genre – the guy takes the big mans woman out, but must not touch her, man meant to have taken a dive in the ring, but did not. These are stories that are far from original, what makes Pulp Fiction original was how Tarantino told them.
So back to Avatar, yes the story is not original but it was not meant to be. The film is designed to make you think by playing on (none-too-subtle) themes of: the environment, war, humanities greed, and the slaughter of the Native Americans. Avatar is a film that has imagination; it takes imagination to create an entire planet with its own species’ and it own ecological system. A world beautifully rendered by Weta. The special effects have a purpose in this film, to create the believable world of Pandora. Would the film had worked if there was a lot less computer imagery?, well yes but not quite as well. The special effects were used to support James Cameron in bringing to us his vision effectively and in a highly artistic manor.
And now Avatar is the number one box-office financial success of all time. I guess we should look slightly into the fact that ticket prices have gone up, not to mention the price of 3D films, but regardless it was a HUGE hit.
People saw, through Avatar, how an action film can be more then just a load of action scenes strung along by a weak story, they can be quite intelligent and imaginative if only they tried. What I hope for, is for this film to change the minds of film-goers everywhere. Now that everyone has seen a film of this quality, will they look at the other action films they had previously loved and finally realise just how these other recent releases pale in comparison.
Let us hope the general audience will come to stand before Hollywood, and shout: No More Transformers, No More Wolverines, No More Resident Evils, No More Transporters, No More Terminator Salvations!, No More G.I Joes.
More Avatars, More Pirates of the Caribbean, More Cloverfields, More Star Treks, More Districts 9s.
Cinema deserves this!, bring back good storytelling!!!