– by Joseph Jammer Medina

I love action films. Ever since I was a kid watching reruns of James Bond movies on television or waiting for that rare weekend in the summer when HBO would have a free viewing weekend, I’ve been addicted to the over the top movies that include lots of explosions, beautiful women, and violence that an Inquisitor in the Spanish Inquisition wouldn’t expect.

"Even we think you could have done better."

“Even we think you could have done better.”

Yet like any genre movie, they can fall victim to monotony. Movie studios see a movie that works and try to apply that to other films in their film slate. For example, Die Hard in 1988 was revolutionary for being an action movie with a leading character that was an everyman. He wasn’t the the typical hero of the day, a clean cut former military something or other with arms the size of tree trunks. He was a schlub of a guy who deserved to be getting divorced from his wife. When a terrorist event occurred at a party he attended, he did the only thing he could do. His job.

The impact Die Hard had on action films is lost on today’s audiences because Hollywood went out of their way to make multiple copycat movies. “Die Hard On A…” whatever was it’s own sub genre of action film for a while. While there were some good movies like Speed that followed the formula Die Hard set, soon fans of action movies became bored. 

It happens. People want variety. If you had to eat pizza for a month, the first couple days you’d probably love it. By day twenty nine, you’d be praying to whatever deity would listen to make pizza disappear from the face of the Earth.

One action series that has seemed to buck the trend is the James Bond series from EON Productions. Yet upon examination, you see that the producers of those films were cognizant of the changing movie landscape. They shaped the movies to fit the times. A Roger Moore Bond movie would never work today. (A part from The Spy Who Loved Me but even that film would need revisions for today’s audiences.) A Daniel Craig Bond movie would never have worked in the 70’s. They were made to satisfy audiences of their time.

USA Today recently spoke about the changing face of action movies. Speaking with Paul Dergarabedian from comScore, he explained what the average action movie fan looks for.

It’s a genre “where repetitiveness seems the traditional course by those on the creative side of the ledger,” says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. Instead, “people want the chef to do a riff on PB&J while still staying true to what makes that appealing in the first place.”

For the most part that is true. Action movie audiences don’t expect a whole lot from their movies. Take a film like John Wick. If you think about it, that movie is more premise than story. The basic premise is “What happens when you take all hope away from a former assassin?” The result? Two hours of Keanu Reeves shooting people in the face. While the sequel failed to follow up on some of the more emotional connections of the first film, to me they succeeded by being simple. They took a number of conceits that action movies have had for close to a decade now and brought back the genre to a more pulse pounding, realistic feel you felt from action movies in the 70’s and 80’s.

Hollywood seems to finally be getting the hint that variety is the spice of life for action films. While you will continue to have your big budget fare like The Fate of the Furious making all the money in the world, movies like John Wick, Deadpool, and movies coming soon like Atomic Blonde and Baby Driver, seem to want to challenge the genre by creating content that is just as exciting yet more cost effective.

So what do you think? Do you feel action movies are changing to meet audience tastes? What era of action movies would you say defined the genre for you? Would you like to see more change in the genre? Sound off in the comments section below.

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Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and editor-in-chief of LRM. A graduate of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Television, Jammer's always had a craving for stories. From movies, television, and web content to books, anime, and manga, he's always been something of a story junkie.