I’m writing an action film now, and it’s a tricky thing. Action films are the ultimate in broad entertainment. It’s not just that the action scenes, being largely visual, translate well. It’s also that they are generally pretty thin on plot and easy to follow. Action films are the films that people see and then say, “I could have written that!” which probably has something to do with their apparent simplicity, but also with that audience feeling of wanting to be a part of something like that, or wanting to hang out with such a cool main character, with wanting to blow stuff up, etc.
So, I’m learning that a big part of an action film is that feeling. You really want to go along with it, be a part of it, enjoy the company of some pretty fun people to hang out with, watch them get in and out of trouble.
Of course, as I knew, but am learning anyway, is that these films are not at all easy to write. Or at least, they are as difficult as any other kind of film and require just as much imagination to be good.
What surprises me with most of the action movies I see in the theaters these days is the lack of imagination that went into them. Undoubtably, these are very difficult films to put together, but they cost a shitload of money and you would have thought that the stakes were high enough for everyone to be working at the top of their game. So why do so many of these films seem like generic hack jobs? Why do all the action scenes come off as unbelievable, or worse, forgettable? I am sure that part of it is due to that feeling that I was talking about, that feeling that anyone can do this stuff. Hollywood is full of bad mantras but one of them is that every new action film has to be bigger than the next. Instead of being better, or more thought through, or more imaginative, they need to be bigger and newer and pushing the boundaries of the technology. This is sort of like the military, pushing technology, making more expensive stuff without a real eye on whether we need it to defend ourselves.
But the idea that anybody can make an action film is a key part of this, because if you believe that, and you work at a studio, then you can hire anybody to write it, or direct it, or whatever. I’m sure they put a little more thought into it than that, and, like I said, these must be difficult films to put together, especially while keeping that huge money train on its tracks. Still, it’s always amazing to me when you sit through one of these films and you feel like anyone could have made that. It’s just as amazing, more amazing, when you sit through one and you think that not anyone could have made that.
No one but Sam Raimi could have made Spiderman. Anyone could have made Iron Man. See what I’m talking about?