Action is More Than Activity

Watch bad action movies and you see nothing but special effects and frenetic movement but not story. That shows that action alone is never enough. What action needs to ┬ámake it interesting is a story that affects the characters’ lives and forces them to change.

“Mission Impossible: Fallout” may not be perfect but provides plenty of action that actually makes sense. When the action stops, the movie simply skips ahead to the next action sequence. What makes “Mission Impossible: Fallout” interesting is that the action is about advancing the story. Strip away the action and the story advances in two ways:

  • What’s really going on and who is doing what?
  • How does this story affect the character’s lives?

Each action sequence creates a problem for the hero to solve. Then the action shows us how the hero solves that problem. In one scene, the hero is forced to impersonate a vicious terrorist leader and he’s in charge of attacking and killing police officers to free a prisoner. Since the hero is a good guy, he doesn’t want to hurt, let alone kill any police officers, so the dilemma is how does he free the prisoner without killing or hurting any police officers? To find out, we have to watch the action.

Another problem occurs when the hero’s ex-wife is being threatened. That seems bad enough but then the hero learns that his ex-wife is working at a medical camp where the villain has planted tow nuclear bombs. Now the hero must not only stop the villain, but the action determines if the hero can save his ex-wife as well.

Bad movies pile on the action sequences with car crashes, explosions, and special effects without an underlying story behind it. Good movies use action to tell the story and show how the hero solves problems. Because we want to know how the hero will solve the problem, we watch the action and the action is meaningful.

Watch mediocre action movies like “Skyscraper” or “Terminator 3″ to see how the action exists solely for the sake of showing action but has little effect on the story and how it explains more about the what’s going on and how it affects the characters’ lives in the process. Good action is informative. Bad action is just plain boring no matte how big the explosions might be.

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