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The Movie News and John Wick Appreciation Thread


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#161 Darknoon

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Posted 12 January 2016 - 06:09 AM

 

I think basically all big action blockbusters would be about a thousand times better if they cut out all the character development and story stuff entirely. Trash like Transformers or Pacific Rim, which advertise themselves as non-stop action and then you get there and find that it's mostly a bunch of bad actors reciting terrible expository lines explaining a meaningless story you could not possibly care less about. Oh my God, just skip to the fighting! Cut a two-hour-and-forty-five minute movie down to a nice hour of pure action, and you'd still have your whole afternoon free once it's done.

 

These movies pay lip service to character development because they think they're required to have it. The textbook says your character has to change by the end of the movie, so we all have to follow the rules. But what if they just didn't, though? What if movies didn't have to be two hours long and conform to all these standards? What if you just made forty-five minutes of handsome people fighting things and eachother, and occasionally taking their clothes off a little bit, and we all stopped pretending there needed to be some lofty reason for it all to happen?

 

Good action is its own reward. And, honestly, good action is much harder to do than good stories and character development and stuff. There are thousands of movies out there that tell engaging stories, but how many of them can get your heart racing with a truly brilliant action scene? The choreography, the camerawork, the editing, the performances, the sound effects, the weeks of training and rehearsal; they all have to come together, and not a single one can be lacking. If your actor throws a punch with a bent wrist, or you have to hide a lack of creativity behind shaky camerawork, or if the editor can't make the continuity work because you didn't pick the right shots in storyboarding, the audience can tell straight away.

 

Look at this:

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Look at it! They dressed a man up as a car seat! One guy's hanging off the back of a car with a guy holding onto him, and then another guy is lying down three inches away from getting sandpapered to death by speeding concrete, just to get this shot!

 

Look at this!

untitled-4z7p7j.gif

 

There is like forty years of collective martial arts experience in those four seconds. No regular actor with a couple of weeks of Krav Maga lessons could move that fast, or trust their fighting partner to dodge the full strength spinning kick they're about to aim directly at his head. Look at Jackie's glorious hair helmet wobbling around like that. I could watch this gif loop all day.

 

This is what action movies are all about. They excite your eyeballs, make you marvel at the amazing feats of which human beings are capable. They give you that indescribable feeling in your gut that makes you want to go and get into a fistfight in the parking lot that nothing else can give you. I mean, throw in a little exposition if you need a way to get from one action scene to the next, maybe a touch of character development to give them some motivation to do all the fighting, but that stuff is not what the audience is here for. I want to see two people kung-fu-ing eachother at crazy speeds. I want to see shootouts where bullets are pinging into walls and raining rubble down on people's faces. Ronin has this one shot where the main characters drive the wrong way down a freeway at top speed, and it's filmed in a wide enough angle that you can see like a hundred cars at once, and I can't even imagine the insane logistics that go into blocking off a shot like that and getting a hundred stunt drivers their own choreographed steps to drive.

 

I mean, let's look at the scientifically perfect action movie: Mad Max Fury Road. It's action cinema boiled down to its absolute basics. What's the story? Furiosa's taking the wives and breaking away from the bad guys, and they're chasing her. What's the character development? Max is a loner out for himself, then he gets won over by these girls' moxie and decides to help them. Bam. Bing bang boom, you're done. Script written. Bada bing bada boom, now let's get started filming this two hour long car chase and making the greatest movie ever made!

 

In the case of Infinity War, we already know the setup for the movie: Thanos is collecting Infinity Gems, he's going to plug'em into the gauntlet and then kill everyone. We already know all the characters (I bet I could already name all 67 if I gave it some thought), we already know their personalities and powersets. All that's left is the good stuff: KUNG FU FIGHTING.

I think we have fundamentally different views here, which is fine. Good action, for me, is not a reward in-and-of itself, good action is a way to progress the storyline and characters. I don't really care how many times a guy gets kicked in the face unless I'm given a reason to, ie. what this means in terms of the story and characters.

 

Like, I think the Raid 2 is an amazing showcase for Martial Arts, but I can't remember a thing about what actually happened. Where as the lightsaber battle in A New Hope is etched into my brain, because even though it's weak technically, its an excellent pay-off for the conflict established between Obi-Wan and Vader, and allows Luke to undergo the loss needed to help push him forward. It's important to the narrative, rather than merely being a spectacle in its own right. If that's too much adventure and not enough action, what about the ending to Aliens? The whole forklift fight is, again, great payoff after how much Ripley has been through fighting these things to keep Newt safe. "Get away from her, you ___!" Cool!

 

That's because the gratification we get from the action isn't because we're blood-thirsty psychopaths, but because we want to see that Alien Queen get a forklift to the face. 

 

I agree Transformers and Pacific Rim are poor films. BUT, I'd argue that this is because they are poor examples of character-based storytelling, rather than that the presence of characters and arcs itself was the wrong approach. Like you said, "it's mostly a bunch of bad actors reciting terrible expository lines explaining a meaningless story you could not possibly care less about." The problem is that the storytelling is too weak to make you feel anything, rather than because they're trying to make you care in the first place. It's the difference between Neo's training in the Matrix just being him learning how to hit Morpheus real fast and real hard, and Luke having to gruellingly learn discipline, self-control and faith in the force through a series of trials. You care about Luke; you don't care about Neo. You don't care if Neo pummels Smith or vice versa, because it's reduced to a meaningless action spectacle - you've nothing to actually root for, besides the infliction of violence for its own sake. Conversely, the stakes when Luke goes to fight Vader are through the roof, because they've established the need for this conflict.

 

So cut the characters in Transformers and Pacific Rim down to just muscly guys and pretty ladies throwing around action-movie one liners, and all you really have is a bunch of CG-mush hitting into each other. I mean, that might entertain for like 10 minutes on its own, but the audience can't relate to CG monster trucks smashing into each other. Maybe, maybe in Transformers you could cut out the human element, as the robots themselves are (kind of?) characters fighting their own independent conflict. with PR, though, the whole point of the film is that the mech-things are piloted by the best of humanity, to fight for humanity. That doesn't really resonate if you don't adequately show the human element that is supposed to being fought for. Once more, the human element is the key to actually making the action gratifying, because we should have been able to cheer when Meathead 1's mechatron 3000 pummelled that CG Kaiju. Instead, all we have is again violence for its own sake once more, which isn't really gratifying or rewarding (especially when it's just awful CG blobs in charmless, grimdark punch-ups to begin with - I didn't really like PR).

 

That's why you need to cut back on the action and intersperse it with development for the parties involved; it's more important to have fewer action sequences with great payoff than tonnes of action sequences with no payoff or gratification. Less is more, as with many things.

 

I think your argument on being technically impressive as its own regard is more of an aside, but again, I feel that is a very superficial measure of quality. I mean, the car chase sequence in The Matrix: Reloaded is very technically impressive, but it doesn't change the fact I don't care about the characters involved, nor the fact that its an awful film. It's also a bit odd to claim that because a lot of effort went into a scene that we, the audience, therefore should enjoy it because of that. Who cares how a shot or a scene is achieved, so long as it's convincing? (for the record, good action is most certainly a craft, but again I feel is not its own reward)

 

Also, I don't think Max Max is a great example to prove your point, either, as it's story is streamlined but is nevertheless still there and still important. It's characters are properly established and given a good level of development. Granded, much of it is done through visual storytelling, but it is there - especially in terms of the rich mythos they build for the world itself - and is also supported (in the case of Max) in that a) he's an established character b) has always been the more stoic type anyway. 

 

In fact, I think Mad Max is a better example of what I'm trying to say - that you can have crazy action whilst also having the context and characters needed to care. I mean, the chase is incredibly intense and the start of the film, but you can't rely on that intensity alone to keep the audience invested as they get more accustomed to bits of flying metals and fireballs and bunsen burner Les Pauls. That's why they slowly, subtly and deliberately show you more and more insight into the characters on both side of the chase, because that raises the stakes and means they can keep chucking these really intense and unpredictable action sequences - the audience doesn't know how these scenes will end, but they do have at least some investment in their outcome. (and for the record, I'm not one of those obsessive 10/10 Mad Max fans, I think it's a very good action film but not the holy grail of cinema)

 


Edited by Darknoon, 12 January 2016 - 06:46 AM.

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#162 Herbert

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Posted 12 January 2016 - 08:27 AM

I was gonna say gonna say all of Darknoon's good stuff, so instead I'll add one thing.
A great stength of Mad Max, is that, besides furthering the main plot, every action sequence in the movie ends with someone further along their own character arc.
Max will be a little more human (seriously he can barely speak words at the start, and when he does inflects oddly.)
Furiosa will be a bit more trusting (Furiosa does have a full arc, but it's already halfway concluded at the start of the movie, with most of it implied).
Or maybe Nux will be a little closer to realizing that the warboy culture is no good for him.

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#163 Ocelot

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Posted 12 January 2016 - 08:58 AM

k, I've been being glib here (as usual :P). Storytelling, world-building, a touch of character development here and there; I don't necessarily begrudge them every time. Like you said, Mad Max tells a perfectly coherent story without wasting any time on dialogue for the most part.

 

However, I'd like to draw a distinction between your examples of Star Wars, Aliens and The Matrix, and the pure, rootin' tootin' people-shootin' action movies I was blathering about, because I totally agree with you about those. Star Wars is all about character drama and engaging storylines and world-building and all that good stuff, and it's really well done in (most of) those movies and I would never get rid of it. Same with Aliens, same with The Matrix, same with most movies, to be honest. 

 

What I'm trying to get at is that, if you're going to do it well, go for it. Tell me an awesome story, make me love and/or hate and/or empathise with your three-dimensional characters; I'm into it. However, if you don't have a story to tell, or if you don't want to write great characters, I don't think you have to. I don't think every movie needs those things. I don't think every movie needs the human element. I kind of feel like saying that every movie needs any particular thing is much the same as saying every song needs to be in 4:4, or every painting needs an apple in it. This is art we're talking about here, y'know? Anything goes.

 

I've prepared some examples, and I imagine we're probably not going to see eye to eye on them because, y'know, movies are different things to different people, but allow me to reveal my own thoughts about movies I like all the same:

 

Mad Max Fury Road: I honestly think a very strong argument could be made for this being the most perfect movie ever made, but I'll be cool about it for now. My main point is that you can summarise the entire plot in one short sentence, you can probably count the number of lines the main character says on one hand. I was going to say you could cut out every line of dialogue and it would work just as well, but then I remembered "FANG IT!" and "MEDIOCRE" and realised that the perfect, screaming delivery of those lines added so much to the overall melange of glorious sensory overload in the same way that all the revving engines and deafening explosions do. Instead, I'll say that you could watch this movie with no understanding of the English language and it'd be just as good. Mad Max doesn't aim for your brain; it's a laser-guided missile that enters your gut straight through your eyes and ears. Niceties like dialogue are unimportant next to the explosion of colour, sound, and actual explosions that this movie assaults you with. Oh sure, it throws a little bit of backstory at you here and there, but, again, it's only in the broadest of strokes. There's a subplot that Max is hallucinating images of a little girl, that we take to be someone he's lost at some point; the particulars are unimportant (he had a son in the first movie, but I don't think George Miller cares a wink about continuity). This is not a movie where action exists merely to move a plot along; this is the unfiltered vision of a brilliantly creative mind, acknowledging the standard trappings of cinema as much as is absolutely necessary and not a bit more.

 

Gravity: Again, simple premise: Space is terrifying, watch this lady get out of it. Gravity is a razor-sharp 90 minutes, with barely an ounce of fat on its bones. It gives you just enough calm, professional, largely meaningless dialogue at the beginning to set a scene of placidity before everything goes as bad as it can possibly be and almost every spoken line in the rest of the movie is terrified panting. The pace is breathless, the stakes are constantly being raised, the audio-visual spectacle is almost too much for a human brain to take. And the one moment when the movie does slow down, for the weird scene where Sandy B picks up a radio signal from an Inuit fellow and his baby, is probably the most widely-criticised part of the movie because it's just so unnecessary. It feels unearned, because up until that point the movie had been nothing but an unapologetic theme park ride of space horror with a 'character' who was little more than the audience's analogue in the world.

 

The Raid: I actually really like the story of The Raid 2; I thought it was a really well-done Mafia/Godfather/Yakuza crime story, with a pinch of Spaghetti Western thrown in, but that's neither here nor there. The first Raid movie is pure action, zero aspirations toward anything loftier, and it set my soul on fire the first time I saw it. A team of cops find themselves in a building where every single inhabitant wants to kill them. A hundred minutes of fighting ensues. It's incredible. Everyone is screaming at all times, everyone dies in the most wonderfully horrific ways; the movie is a skeleton framework upon which the work of a team of brilliantly creative and talented action choreographers is hung. What little story it has is purely in the impromptu methods by which the few surviving cops survive the hell in which they're trapped, nothing more than a path from one action scene to the next. At one point the main dude is trapped in the crawlspace of a friendly apartment when he drops off his wounded partner, which leads to one of the most nail-bitingly tense scenes I've ever seen in cinema. GOD THE RAID IS SO GOOD!

 

Inception: OK, so this one's a little different. Inception is jam-packed with exposition and storytelling, almost nothing but. But it doesn't have a single character in it, and that's perfectly fine. Inception's characters exist to explain the story, and to hold shoot the guns and do the fighting in all the awesome action scenes. I mean, Leo has the paper-thin characterisation of wanting his kids back, I guess, but does anyone remember JGL's motivation? What's Tom Hardy doing there? Indian guy? Is Morgan Freeman in it? I don't even remember, and it's not important anyway. Some movies use well-trod stereotypes as a way of not wasting time on characterisation; I feel like Inception goes one step further by simply hiring well-known actors. We know what kind of character Leonardo DiCaprio usually plays, so the movie just takes it for granted that we're up to speed because it has a whole heap of exposition to throw at us and only barely enough time to do it in.

 

OK, enough of that. You've obviously noticed that a lot of my view towards movies is informed by my all-encompassing passion for action, so we can agree to disagree here. It sounds like you tend to lump all action together under one category, which is fine, but oh man I could write essays all day about what I like in a kung fu fight or a shoot out or a car chase. There is never a moment in my life when I'm not ready to deliver a speech about how Jackie Chan is cinema's greatest hero. Ooooh, don't tempt me.

 

Anyway, long story short: I feel like I can just about always predict the way a story's going to go, or where a character's going to end up. I'm absolutely interested in watching wonderfully written stories that show me something I've never seen before, or tug my heartstrings in just the right way, but I have zero interest in siiting through the millionth run through of "he was a bad guy but then through the power of friendship ..." or "he thought he was fighting for the good guys but they were actually the bad guys", etc etc. I feel like a lot of movies start off as brilliant concepts and are then spoiled in the execution when filmmakers are told (or perhaps believe) that they absolutely have to have an elaborate story, a romance plot, a redemption theme, all these checkboxes must be ticked. You don't have to! You just don't!



#164 Ryoma

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Posted 12 January 2016 - 01:49 PM

Gonna be honest, I would not watch a movie that was all action with no character development. Why would I? I have no reason to care about the people beating the crap out of each other. The best put together fight scenes mean nothing without a bit of character to get me interested in them. Otherwise, there are no stakes. There is no reason to care. It's just a waste of time.

 

Mad Max: Fury Road, I would argue, has character. It does not have an abundance of dialogue, witty quips, or really...any kind of standard character development. But, it has character, and lots of it. From the designs of the cars to the make-up and clothes of the people, to the way the actors bring the characters to life. Are their characterizations particularly deep or unique? No, but they are there. They are strong. They are fun to watch, they are engaging. You want to see them succeed.

 

I think it's easy to forget the power of things like set design and makeup/outfits to establish character. In Mad Max, everyone is distinct, and their roles are pretty clearly defined as well. Everyone has some kind of interesting thing visually to set them apart. You can recognize them as the camera pans over them. They have character.

 

Film is a visual medium over anything else, and it's easy to forget that a single shot of a character could tell their entire story, if the shot is well put together. Dialogue itself can be its own reward, certainly, but you can be just as powerful without it. 

 

Actors have won Oscars for roles that are on screen less than ten minutes, but they've made a lasting impression. If a film doesn't have that, it's just noise, as far as I'm concerned.

 

Darknoon said most everything else I wanted to say. I just wanted to chime in on the "Mad-Mad-is-the-best-movie-ever" bandwagon. 



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#165 Ryoma

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Posted 12 January 2016 - 03:04 PM

Speaking of Mad Max, apparently director George Miller will not return for a sequel, despite rumors floating about for another one in the works.

 

On the one hand, this is a shame. I would love more Mad Max. On the other hand, best to go out on top. 



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#166 Darknoon

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Posted 12 January 2016 - 03:10 PM

k, I've been being glib here (as usual  :P). Storytelling, world-building, a touch of character development here and there; I don't necessarily begrudge them every time. Like you said, Mad Max tells a perfectly coherent story without wasting any time on dialogue for the most part.

 

However, I'd like to draw a distinction between your examples of Star Wars, Aliens and The Matrix, and the pure, rootin' tootin' people-shootin' action movies I was blathering about, because I totally agree with you about those. Star Wars is all about character drama and engaging storylines and world-building and all that good stuff, and it's really well done in (most of) those movies and I would never get rid of it. Same with Aliens, same with The Matrix, same with most movies, to be honest. 

 

What I'm trying to get at is that, if you're going to do it well, go for it. Tell me an awesome story, make me love and/or hate and/or empathise with your three-dimensional characters; I'm into it. However, if you don't have a story to tell, or if you don't want to write great characters, I don't think you have to. I don't think every movie needs those things. I don't think every movie needs the human element. I kind of feel like saying that every movie needs any particular thing is much the same as saying every song needs to be in 4:4, or every painting needs an apple in it. This is art we're talking about here, y'know? Anything goes.

 

I've prepared some examples, and I imagine we're probably not going to see eye to eye on them because, y'know, movies are different things to different people, but allow me to reveal my own thoughts about movies I like all the same:

Ok I think we do agree here more than is first apparent, and I think I have kind of argued myself into a corner here through not be clearing enough about what I mean haha.
 
A note on the examples: I can kind of get the distinctions, especially with regards to Star Wars. However, The Matrix and Aliens (or at least the last two thirds) are essentially standard action films, imo. As I gathered all the quotes for this reply though I noticed you returned to the specific distinctions within the action genre itself later on, so I'll reply properly to that below.
 
I agree 100% that a story doesn't necessarily need strong characters, and thus neither do films. For one, 2001: A Space Odyssey is one of my all-time favourite films, however the only thing close to a real character is HAL 3000 - the ship's computer! In this case, the cosmic abstractness of the story that Kubrick was trying to tell, and the themes he was trying to engage with, wouldn't have been served by a grounded, human story. It was entirely appropriate to make the human characters bland and small parts in the film itself, as anything else would have distracted from what he was trying to achieve; the focus of the film was never the characters, but civilisation itself.
 
However, I think let's backtrack a bit to how this discussion started - because it sure wasn't with a discussion of the merits of 2001. So yeah, the idea of 67 characters in Infinity War. What I would say is that the Avengers film are not big, cosmic adventures, they are action flicks centred around charming, likeable, well-defined characters who are a major part of the public consciousness, defending our planet and our species. In this way, this isn't like 2001 or Mad Max (you said it yourself, there's no real continuity) - this is, whilst not a sequel, a film that should feel consistent with the prior work. These Marvel films have always been built around very traditional means of storytelling and character-building, unlike the films mentioned above, and herein lies the problem.
 
But I will try and discuss all the films you mentioned, and again I feel there is more similarities in our approaches here than were first apparent:
 
 

Mad Max Fury Road: I honestly think a very strong argument could be made for this being the most perfect movie ever made, but I'll be cool about it for now. My main point is that you can summarise the entire plot in one short sentence, you can probably count the number of lines the main character says on one hand. I was going to say you could cut out every line of dialogue and it would work just as well, but then I remembered "FANG IT!" and "MEDIOCRE" and realised that the perfect, screaming delivery of those lines added so much to the overall melange of glorious sensory overload in the same way that all the revving engines and deafening explosions do. Instead, I'll say that you could watch this movie with no understanding of the English language and it'd be just as good. Mad Max doesn't aim for your brain; it's a laser-guided missile that enters your gut straight through your eyes and ears. Niceties like dialogue are unimportant next to the explosion of colour, sound, and actual explosions that this movie assaults you with. Oh sure, it throws a little bit of backstory at you here and there, but, again, it's only in the broadest of strokes. There's a subplot that Max is hallucinating images of a little girl, that we take to be someone he's lost at some point; the particulars are unimportant (he had a son in the first movie, but I don't think George Miller cares a wink about continuity). This is not a movie where action exists merely to move a plot along; this is the unfiltered vision of a brilliantly creative mind, acknowledging the standard trappings of cinema as much as is absolutely necessary and not a bit more.

See, I agree that the film is visceral, intense, vivid etc etc. But I think it's both misleading to suggest that the story itself is unimportant. People don't just incessantly repeat "oh what a day! What a lovely day!" because it sounds cool, but because they associate with the War Boy culture and identity - the kind of visual character-building Ryoma mentioned. However, I agree 100% with the idea that "this is not a movie where action exists merely to move a plot along." I think, more than that, the plot and action are very much intertwined here to the point where they are, at some points, inseparable. The problem is, it's extremely difficult to pull this off through the standard storytelling means - again, I think we can agree George Miller is a very creative man. I can't see many other directors achieving in this approach to action.
 
 

Gravity: Again, simple premise: Space is terrifying, watch this lady get out of it. Gravity is a razor-sharp 90 minutes, with barely an ounce of fat on its bones. It gives you just enough calm, professional, largely meaningless dialogue at the beginning to set a scene of placidity before everything goes as bad as it can possibly be and almost every spoken line in the rest of the movie is terrified panting. The pace is breathless, the stakes are constantly being raised, the audio-visual spectacle is almost too much for a human brain to take. And the one moment when the movie does slow down, for the weird scene where Sandy B picks up a radio signal from an Inuit fellow and his baby, is probably the most widely-criticised part of the movie because it's just so unnecessary. It feels unearned, because up until that point the movie had been nothing but an unapologetic theme park ride of space horror with a 'character' who was little more than the audience's analogue in the world.

I actually think Gravity supports my views in the same as Mad Max does, through minimal, but very effective character development in keeping with the themes of the film. I can remember their names, for one. Ryan and Kowalski (or something like that haha). Ok, Kowalski is basically just George Clooney, but that's all he needed to be, because he's just the charming, reassuring sort of mentor figure that reassures the audience and Ryan. Ryan, on the other hand, doesn't have much of a character besides being withdrawn, but she has what I think is quite a beautiful arc, going from a mother who is mourning the loss of a child to somebody who sees both how beautiful and how short-lived life can be, and finds a reason to live again. However, you're right that the film does sag with the Inuit radio scene, which just feels out of place. I do think the other scenes when the movie slowed down somewhat were effective, however, as whilst Gravity is meant to be an assault on the audience's senses, you need some time to take stock just like Ryan after (spoilers) Kowalski dies.

 

Inception: OK, so this one's a little different. Inception is jam-packed with exposition and storytelling, almost nothing but. But it doesn't have a single character in it, and that's perfectly fine. Inception's characters exist to explain the story, and to hold shoot the guns and do the fighting in all the awesome action scenes. I mean, Leo has the paper-thin characterisation of wanting his kids back, I guess, but does anyone remember JGL's motivation? What's Tom Hardy doing there? Indian guy? Is Morgan Freeman in it? I don't even remember, and it's not important anyway. Some movies use well-trod stereotypes as a way of not wasting time on characterisation; I feel like Inception goes one step further by simply hiring well-known actors. We know what kind of character Leonardo DiCaprio usually plays, so the movie just takes it for granted that we're up to speed because it has a whole heap of exposition to throw at us and only barely enough time to do it in.

Disclaimer: I don't really like Nolan. He had a good thing going with Batman, but since then all his films have (imo) been pretentious, self-indulgent messes of exposition and logical deficiencies, justified by their SFX budget and "revolutionary" ideas. The characters aren't characters in a Nolan film, they're merely devices to spout exposition and pithy phrases every other line ("it's impossible""no it's necessary") rather than believable dialogue. However, both because and in spite of all of this, I genuinely believe Inception is one of the great science-fiction films. I do still believe there's too much exposition, too much forced cleverness, and too many weak characters, but as you rightly highlight, the focus is on the incredible premise, and corresponding action, which is simultaneously visually arresting and intellectually stimulating. It's got sweeping scale, great imagination and intelligent execution as a simply exceptional piece of cinema. The caveat I will say that, whilst not hugely well-defined, DiCaprio's Cobb does have an arc that is central to the film, and does keep it at least somewhat grounded in the emotional sphere.
 
 

The Raid: I actually really like the story of The Raid 2; I thought it was a really well-done Mafia/Godfather/Yakuza crime story, with a pinch of Spaghetti Western thrown in, but that's neither here nor there. The first Raid movie is pure action, zero aspirations toward anything loftier, and it set my soul on fire the first time I saw it. A team of cops find themselves in a building where every single inhabitant wants to kill them. A hundred minutes of fighting ensues. It's incredible. Everyone is screaming at all times, everyone dies in the most wonderfully horrific ways; the movie is a skeleton framework upon which the work of a team of brilliantly creative and talented action choreographers is hung. What little story it has is purely in the impromptu methods by which the few surviving cops survive the hell in which they're trapped, nothing more than a path from one action scene to the next. At one point the main dude is trapped in the crawlspace of a friendly apartment when he drops off his wounded partner, which leads to one of the most nail-bitingly tense scenes I've ever seen in cinema. GOD THE RAID IS SO GOOD!

I haven't actually seen The Raid, only its sequel. However, with the addition of a story I found difficult to get invested it, it sounds like has mostly the same strengths and weaknesses as the first film - inventive cinematography, fantastic action, ill-defined characters and limited intelligence put it the film outside of the action sequences. IMO, it feels like a lot of talent and creativity skewed too badly towards one end of the filmmaking spectrum. I really did think The Raid 2 was well-made, and the action sequences were intense - I can still remember the prison yard fight. However, I don't really have any feelings I associate with the images in my brain. Were more of a compromise made between the character-building, storytelling and action-based needs of the film, I feel this could have been a really special film. As it stands, wasted potential.
 
 

 

OK, enough of that. You've obviously noticed that a lot of my view towards movies is informed by my all-encompassing passion for action, so we can agree to disagree here. It sounds like you tend to lump all action together under one category, which is fine, but oh man I could write essays all day about what I like in a kung fu fight or a shoot out or a car chase. There is never a moment in my life when I'm not ready to deliver a speech about how Jackie Chan is cinema's greatest hero. Ooooh, don't tempt me.

 

Anyway, long story short: I feel like I can just about always predict the way a story's going to go, or where a character's going to end up. I'm absolutely interested in watching wonderfully written stories that show me something I've never seen before, or tug my heartstrings in just the right way, but I have zero interest in siiting through the millionth run through of "he was a bad guy but then through the power of friendship ..." or "he thought he was fighting for the good guys but they were actually the bad guys", etc etc. I feel like a lot of movies start off as brilliant concepts and are then spoiled in the execution when filmmakers are told (or perhaps believe) that they absolutely have to have an elaborate story, a romance plot, a redemption theme, all these checkboxes must be ticked. You don't have to! You just don't!

With action films getting lumped into one category, yeah I am probably guilty of that. I only really enjoy the kind of action films that would be considered "greats" like Fury Road, Aliens, Terminator 2 etc. The rest just usually don't gel with me, and I guess that's reflective of the expectations of and preferences for cinema that I possess. What I would say in closing is that the predictability story or arc isn't necessarily that important. Neither is its originality, or at least originality per se, because I believe it all comes down to execution. Ultimately, all the stories we see in blockbuster cinema have been told before, but what generally makes the good stand out from the bad is that it manages to offer a new take on an old story to make us see it a new way, and appreciate it in a new way. Like I said earlier, I agree with you that disappointing storylines aren't fun for anybody, but I think the reasoning of "the story wasn't interesting but the action was good, let's cut the former out and just have the latter" is inherently flawed, for the reasons I explained in my last post. You just can't divorce action from its narrative concept and expect to have anything of other than the most superficial value. 
 
Basically, I think the point I was making when this discussion started was that Infinity War, to me, does not sound like it will work in a cinematic format without significant adaptation, which it frustratingly does not sound like Marvel are interested in. They should, imo, be questioning whether the story they have needs telling to begin with, but instead just seem to be questioning how many heroes they can fit in each frame.  
 
edit: lots of typos and mistakes, hopefully now this is more coherent

 


Edited by Darknoon, 12 January 2016 - 03:14 PM.

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#167 Ocelot

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Posted 13 January 2016 - 12:22 AM

What I would say in closing is that the predictability story or arc isn't necessarily that important. Neither is its originality, or at least originality per se, because I believe it all comes down to execution. Ultimately, all the stories we see in blockbuster cinema have been told before, but what generally makes the good stand out from the bad is that it manages to offer a new take on an old story to make us see it a new way, and appreciate it in a new way. Like I said earlier, I agree with you that disappointing storylines aren't fun for anybody, but I think the reasoning of "the story wasn't interesting but the action was good, let's cut the former out and just have the latter" is inherently flawed, for the reasons I explained in my last post. You just can't divorce action from its narrative concept and expect to have anything of other than the most superficial value. 

 

Mmmmmm... yeah, no, you're probably right. I just... oooooh I just love action so much. I think it's one of the very greatest strengths of the whole medium of film, that visceral feeling, that wild amplification of our dull reality into something spine-tingling through naught but sight and sound. My vote to edit schlocky action blockbusters down to 45 minutes of context-free action is something I would personally enjoy immensely, but, yeah, it's probably a much better idea to actually have good stories and well-written characters in them instead :P

 

So, OK, maybe I'm a crazy person, but when I rewatch all my favourite action movies, I rarely sit through the entire thing from start to finish. I don't need to watch the whole story of Police Story, for example, but I'll fast-forward from the intro action scene in the shanty town on the hill that Michael Bay stole for Bad Boys 2, to the fight in the car where Jackie drop kicks two guys straight through the windshield, to the bit where they jump off the roof into the pool, to the final showdown in the mall where a motorbike shows up out of nowhere and they break every single pane of glass in the whole place, and I'll have a fantastic experience and I'll want to go and lift weights and finally learn how to do that thing where you lie down and then swing yourself back up to your feet with your legs.

 

Gonna be honest, I would not watch a movie that was all action with no character development. Why would I? I have no reason to care about the people beating the crap out of each other. The best put together fight scenes mean nothing without a bit of character to get me interested in them. Otherwise, there are no stakes. There is no reason to care. It's just a waste of time.

 

No! No no no, it's the best. Let the goodness into your heart. A good action scene, and I mean a good good one, not just some shaky-cam quick-cuts rubbish but a proper work of art of an action scene, is the best thing

 

 

The way it builds, the way it ramps up the intensity from start to finish, the raw talent on the part of both actors, the wordless jokes, the bit where the music kicks in just when it gets real, and then they break out the sticks, it's so good! Fight scenes are the greatest art form there is, you guys don't even know. YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW

 

God I'm so amped up right now. Which one of you ladies wants to arm wrestle? I WILL PUT YOU IN THE GROUND!



#168 assassinfred

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Posted 13 January 2016 - 02:26 AM

I saw mention of my all-time favourite film in this thread, and feel the need to chime in.

There is a number of reasons why I love Inception. From the sheer imagination of it down to the incredible action scenes, from the incredible concept to the brilliant execution of it, and while the characters are generally weak, they weren't the focus, and the actors themselves portray these characters as well as they possibly could.

Inception is great not because of deep, highly complex characters, but because it is incredibly imaginative, unique, and brilliantly executed. It is intelligent, visually stimulating, and conceptually beautiful. It's premise sets it apart from other films and it executes this premise perfectly. This same premise lends itself to the films amazing action scenes, including the most creative action scene I have seen in a film to date.

Inception is a beautiful mix of imagination, action, intellect and visuals, and while Darknoon is correct in saying that it is exposition heavy and that the characters are overall fairly weak, it executed it's premise so perfectly that it didn't matter.

Inception will always be one of my all-time favourites, if not my absolute favourite. I have yet to see a film that has gripped me the same way Inception did, and while there have been some great movies that have come out since, none of them have managed to take the throne from Inception yet.

Truth be told, no matter how much I can explain all of the reasons why Inception is such a great film, there's always going to be something about that movie that grabs me the way no other movie does, and I don't know how exactly to explain that. Somehow some way that film still awes me every time I see it, which is why I can watch it again and again.

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#169 Risk

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Posted 13 January 2016 - 08:45 AM

With all this talk of action movies, I'm reminded that I don't really like the modern style of action. Back in the 80s, there were these abundance of thrillers disguised as action movies; Terminator, Escape From NY, Blade Runner; they all had a very superficial focus on visual style as opposed to acting or action, for me, I feel very immersed in these movies due to the focus on the setting. I'm very much a fan of the dark and moody aesthetics these movies showcased, along with others from the same period, most of which were accented by brooding or melancholy synth orchestration. It's very much a style that has disappeared; I see some movies trying to replicate it, like Beyond the Black Rainbow, but where the effort is made to capture the visual style, the writing and storyline seems too surrealist and avant garde. Then you see popular franchises like Terminator trying to play off the success of popular series like MCU, by making it PG-13 and "accessible" to more audiences, while simultaneously throwing out the window what made it likeable in the first place; it has transformed from a cold, pseudo-slasher film, to a neutered action film heavily reliant on CGI and one particular actor. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that, action is not always the most visually pleasing aspect to movies (for me anyway,) but that the environment and mood in which the action takes place is also important.

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#170 assassinfred

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Posted 13 January 2016 - 10:45 AM

You want an 80's style action movie, go watch Kung Fury. Granted, it's intentionally cheesy and completely over the top, but it is a full 30 minutes of non-stop fun. It pokes fun at itself and knows exactly what it is, and that's why it's so awesome.

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#171 Darknoon

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Posted 13 January 2016 - 11:05 AM

You want an 80's style action movie, go watch Kung Fury. Granted, it's intentionally cheesy and completely over the top, but it is a full 30 minutes of non-stop fun. It pokes fun at itself and knows exactly what it is, and that's why it's so awesome.

Not sure if Kung Fury was exactly what he meant when he said he wanted an action film with the visual atmosphere of Blade Runner. :P But I agree that basically every action movie fan (or even people who are just vaguely familiar with the tropes) should watch Kung Fury.


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#172 Risk

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Posted 13 January 2016 - 11:15 AM

You guys can slow down; I posted the Kung Fury thread here when it came out :P

But while I thought Kung Fury was visually pleasing, it was sort of a parody of all those 80s tropes that shouldn't be taken too seriously. But I think a serious recreation of some of these visual concepts and subtleties is long overdue in movies. Looper came pretty close to what I'm talking about, and The Force Awakens definitely mastered the visual (those magenta and teal contrast shots... Mmm) as well as the audible aspects portrayed.

Edited by Style, 13 January 2016 - 11:21 AM.

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#173 Herbert

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Posted 13 January 2016 - 11:45 AM

I was personally not a fan of Kung Fury, it's 80's parody humour was already well trodden by the time it came out, and most of the jokes fell flat for me. Like Style said, I would love to see more movie play with the 80s style of directing action movies, not to say that there's been bad action movies in recent years (in fact, they're undergoing a bit of a renaissance, and MAD MAX OF COURSE), but an action movie like Blade Runner or Aliens just wouldn't get made today. 


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#174 El Taco

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Posted 13 January 2016 - 03:49 PM

Guys.

 

Kung Fury had a character named Triceracop.

 

Like, he wasn't even related to the time travel plot. He was just there.

 

Kung Fury was the best movie of 2015.


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#175 God-Emperor Thrawnie

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Posted 13 January 2016 - 04:30 PM

Yes, random bizarre out-of-place (often dinosaur-related) things are an incredibly cutting edge humor form that has not in any way been done to death and back again by webcomics and other memetic internet media.



#176 The Doctor

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Posted 13 January 2016 - 04:37 PM

Yes, random bizarre out-of-place (often dinosaur-related) things are an incredibly cutting edge humor form that has not in any way been done to death and back again by webcomics and other memetic internet media.

 

Well, yeah, that's obvious. Randomness is the epitome of high-quality comedic styles.


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#177 Darknoon

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Posted 13 January 2016 - 04:44 PM

Yes, random bizarre out-of-place (often dinosaur-related) things are an incredibly cutting edge humor form that has not in any way been done to death and back again by webcomics and other memetic internet media.

Usually I'd agree, but he's called Triceracop! Dumb, yes, but hey, call it a guilty pleasure. People find The Big Bang Theory funny, so I can find Kung Fury funny, too...maybe it's just the fact I was indisposed both times I watched it.


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#178 Risk

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Posted 13 January 2016 - 05:42 PM

With the style of Kung Fury, I overlooked the memeasaurs, because it was going for that silly randumb style anyway.

On a related note, I thought John Wick was a perfect blend of gun-fu action and stylistic aesthetics, with pretty convincing acting for the characters within the story. I definitely played Hotline Miami music in my head during that club scene.

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#179 El Taco

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Posted 13 January 2016 - 11:03 PM

Man maybe I'm out of touch with pop culture but Dinosaur-related puns are still 100% A-okay in my book.


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#180 assassinfred

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Posted 13 January 2016 - 11:32 PM

Yes, random bizarre out-of-place (often dinosaur-related) things are an incredibly cutting edge humor form that has not in any way been done to death and back again by webcomics and other memetic internet media.

 

Did you even watch Kung Fury? The entire point is random bizarre out-of-place things. It is literally supposed to be a parody of the tropes of the 80's. 


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