Why Action Movies Can Have Too Much Action

I LOVE a good action movie. Truthfully, there have even been times where my family has said “you should watch things that are a bit slower for a change” or “are you really going to watch a Marvel movie again?” But hey! I’ve gotten better at that.

It is easy to see that high amounts of action are entertaining. They launch you right into the movie/show. It is especially effective with the short attention spans of the recent generations. Now, I haven’t stopped loving action movies and probably never will, but I have realized there is such a thing as an action movie having “too much” action. Also no, I’m not talking about the intensity level of action (i.e. a car chase vs. a visceral and bloody war). I’ll leave those decisions up to your moral compass. I am talking about when a singular movie just has too much action in the scale of it. Have you ever noticed this?

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Recently I watched Justice Leauge. Oh boy, was it an action movie. There were guns, flying, fistfights, and just SO much superpower everywhere. Some of those action shots were cool.

Now, I know what you are thinking “Ok, Jewel, tell me how it had too much.”

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But, when a movie has “too much” action is it the action’s fault? Not necessarily. Chases, fights, and superpowers are cool (when done well, which usually are in big-budget movies). Do you see a problem? I don’t. Keep the action! Entertain me!

The actual problem with Justice League is that I didn’t care about basically ANY of the characters. I would not have been sad (or at least not for long) if they died. This is because Justice League did not develop their characters hardly at all. I knew almost nothing about them, and they were all very one dimensional. My sister and I might seriously know more about the character of random nameless clones in Star Wars than most of the heroes in Justice League.

How does this connect to today’s theme? Well, the result was a movie with almost nothing but, you guessed it, action. The writers were so set on entertaining that they didn’t allow us to care about the people who were entertaining us.

If Justice Leauge had just as much action but more character development it would have been ten times better.

If the action truly had a fault, it would be due to time-space it took up in a movie (which is actually still fundamentally the fault of the script), or if it was just too intense, but that is largely subjective.

If DC had made more standalone hero movies that made room for us to get to know the heroes beforehand, or if they cut back the action scenes in the Justice League movie to make time for us to understand our heroes better, then it would have been a lot better.

This is also why Marvel movies are ten times better than the newest DC movies. Think about how much more deeply we know each of the characters in the MCU, even the side ones, than the heroes in DC.  I relate to, understand, and care more about Steve Rogers and Tony Stark than I do (the newest versions of) Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent.

Action is like seasoning. On its own, it is potent and basically pointless but paired with some meat it enhances the overall product. Narratives should never sacrifice their fundamental story for a bunch of immediately gratifying action. There is nothing wrong with flavoring, but it needs something to coat.

Honestly, this can be a “fault” with any kind of drama. When it becomes a replacement for character growth instead of an addition to it, drama loses its meaning. It just happens that action movies are some of the biggest culprits of this because astonishing fights and explosions (etc.) are some of the quickest, easiest, and most impactful forms of drama.

Some of the most action-packed movies I know are the Bourne movies, yet there is still plenty of dimension to them. Jason Bourne may be a living weapon, but he is also a person. His mission to find out who he is/was, would be a worthwhile goal to anyone. Through the journey, the audience gets to know him as a character, and what is crazy is we don’t even know about his backstory, we just know what he is because of it. He not only has to go through physical toil but also emotional toil. It allows the audience to relate and connect with him, and further fuels their rooting for him in the fast-paced action sequences.

Think about it: if you ever saw a random fight scene you might think it was cool but you wouldn’t really care which of the opponents won, because you knew literally nothing about either of them. The more you know about/connect with a character the more you can cheer them on, especially if you know their goal/goals.

Another great example is the Dark Knight Trilogy.

These movies are action movies but more than that they are stories about what is deep inside us. Bruce/Batman’s villains attack more than his body. They attack his ideas, psyche, and his morality. It adds so much weight to the physical blows he receives. What is he really fighting for? The fights in this movie are the response to mental conflicts.

So, next time you watch an action movie think about how character development might be enhancing the action sequences. Or… if the action feels heavy-handed, think about why it feels that way. Sure, it may be too intense for your taste, but more than likely, the action feels just pointless. The stakes are the wounds inflicted, not the good worth fighting for. What is the motivation behind the action? Why are the characters in the fight worth your time?

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Do you like action movies? If so, which is your favorite? Is there one that drives you nuts? Let me know! Bye, for now, everyone!

-Jewel (1)

4 thoughts on “Why Action Movies Can Have Too Much Action

  1. I…I can finally explain why I didn’t like Justice League now.

    This was a really good post! I loved how you used examples for each movie. I’m not really a fan of action in movies, which is probably why I like Guardians of the Galaxy so much. I normally get lost in most fistfights, or gun fights, but somehow I can focus on everything that’s going on in a GOTG movie. I also like it when the action is timed to music, which can make action scenes so much more enjoyable. I’m not really a fan of DC movies, but I did quite like Shazam.

    Liked by 1 person

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