Far too many movies focus on action and forget about the human element behind that action. Specifically, we want to know how all this action changes the hero?
Watch any bad movie that involves giant robots punching each other in the face (“Pacific Rim: Uprising” or “Transformers”) and you’ll get nothing but mindless action and special effects. Yet the most important part of any story isn’t the action itself with endless explosions, car crashes, and gunfire, but what happens to the hero as a result. To see how valuable meaning can be behind action, watch “I Kill Giants,” which is about a fifth grade girl who thinks she needs to slay giants to protect her town from the giant’s assault.
If the movie never went beyond the special effects of giants smashing trees and tearing apart buildings, it would have been a dull movie. However, “I Kill Giants” goes one step further and actually focuses on the mystery of why this little girl believes she needs to slay giants to save the town. Initially, the girl appears to be doing mysterious tasks that make little sense beyond the idea that she’s fighting a giant that only she can see.
Gradually we start getting clues as to why she’s fighting this giant and what this means to her. It’s not that this girl is crazy, but that she’s battling some inner demons that she’s manifesting in a fantasy world of actual giants attacking her town. Once you see how this little girl learns to cope with reality by slaying the giants in her imagination, then you can see how her fights with the giants actually are meant to help herself deal with the pain in her own life.
“I Kill Giants” is really about the mystery behind this little girl’s obsession with giants and when you discover the reason why, it will hit you with such a strong emotional impact that you’ll quickly forget about the outer action of giant fighting, and focus on the inner meaning of the hero’s actions instead as she learns to deal with pain and loss. “I Kill Giants” is less about action and special effects and more about how one little girl tried to cope with pain and how she finally succeeds in facing and dealing with it in the end.
Remember, the best and most memorable stories aren’t just the ones with the biggest budget or the most action, but the ones that use action to give meaning to our own lives. People don’t watch old movies again for the action. They watch old movies like “Titanic” or “Star Wars” again for the emotional impact those stories still have on people even after they’ve seen it for the second, third, or tenth time.
It’s never about action. It’s always about the meaning behind the action, and that’s what makes a movie great.