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Good Action and Adventure Movies

By Edited Aug 13, 2015 0 0

Not that long ago, there was such a thing as R-rated movies that made a ton of money at the box-office in the middle of summer. Those movies had no giant robots, no Megan Fox running in the middle of the desert, no teenage vampires and no Pg-13 rating in order to have a larger audience. Yet, they qualified as incredibly popular action and adventure movies and were loved by audiences around the globe.

Take the movie The Rock for example. This is an amazing action movie directed by Michael Bay, before he decided to got the Transformers way, that has a scene where Sean Connery throws a knife at a guy's throat. A minute before that he had a pep talk with Nicolas Cage during which he told him that "Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and f**k the prom queen." To which Cage replies that his girlfriend was the prom queen and then cocks his gun.

Despite all of this material that would forbid anybody under the age of 18 to watch this movie, The Rock still ranked in a respectable worldwide gross of $335, 062,621. How is this possible? Simple. There is a strong story supporting all of the violence. Most of what happens makes of modicum of sense, the viewer gets invested in the story, and the characters are not one-dimensional cardboard figures. The villain, played by Ed Harris, is a general who takes tourists hostage on Alcatraz island and threatens to fire biological weapons at San Francisco unless the government pays vast sums of money to the families of soldiers who died in illegal covert missions. If this makes no sense, Sean Connery has the intelligence to point out the flaw in honouring soldiers by killing thousands of civilians.

Of course it would be unfair to say that all good action and adventure movies need to be rated R. One of the best action movies of all times is rated PG, is ranked the second greatest movie of all time by Empire magazine, and has made $384,140,454 on a $20 million budget. That movie is Raiders of the Lost Ark. It has all of the best elements of a good adventure movie: a dashing hero, a dastardly villains, a strong love interest, a faithful side-kick, chases, cliffhangers, and the fate of the world in the balance.

The characters in this film are all very strong and well-written. The female lead is not mere eye-candy but an equal to the hero. When Indiana Jones meets Marion Ravenwood for the first in years, she slaps hard in the face when she realizes that he only came to see her for an object that belonged to her father. She knows how to handle herself in a fight and even saves Indy's life by shooting a thug who was pointing a gun at him.

The villain is a reflection of Indiana Jones, in the sense that he shares some of his traits and interests. René Belloq is an archaeologist who just like Indy wishes to find the Ark of the covenant, only he is paid to give it to the Nazis. However, just like Indy, he is curious to see what is inside from an archaeological point of view. He wishes to be part of history or at least uncover history. Both the hero and the villain of this movie share ambition, resourcefulness, and perseverance in their quest to find the ark.

As the hero of the film, Indiana Jones has his flaws. He is first presented as this imposing figure who carries a whip, a pistol, and wears one of the coolest hats in movie history. Yet there is something that he fears above all else: snakes. He can fight men with his bare fists, swing over a bottomless pit, avoid deadly traps, yet show him a snake and he squeals like a little girl. That is a great to make your hero seem human.

Finally, another immensely entertaining action movie that can truly be considered a classic of the genre is Die Hard. Released in the summer of 1988 this is another clear-cut example of how R-rated action movies can rack up a substantial profit while being so entertaining that it will be considered a Christmas classic. Its story has become a formula for action movies: a group of thugs take over a building filled with civilians, but a lone gunman starts taking them out one by one until there is a final confrontation between him and the villain. Whenever there is a similar movie it is described as Die Hard on...a boat, a train, a submarine, or even an oil-rig.

The hero was something of a novelty back then. John McClane is a cop who is very blue-collar in his demeanour. He smokes, doesn't like to travel, hates technology, loves a good Western, and when he is wounded the viewers see him bleed. Of course, what audiences always associate him with is his signature catchphrase, "Yippie-kai-yay motherf***er." This too is the sign of a great action hero: a catchphrase that sets him apart from the other adventurers and lets you know that this hero means business.

Just like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Die Hard features a villain worthy of the hero, only this one is the polar opposite of McClane. Hans Gruber, played by Alan Rickman, is a German master criminal posing as a master terrorist. His plan is to rob the building's vault, while giving the FBI the impression that his motives are political. He is well-dressed, educated, and quotes Alexander the Great. McClane on the other hand, taunts him by writing the words "Now I have a machine gun, ho, ho, ho" on one of the dead henchmen.

The action of this film is very violent yet old-school in terms of special effects. There are almost no computer generated images, but there are lots of stunts performed by actual stunt men, and when characters get shot, the viewer gets to see a reasonable amount of blood come out of the wounds. Using stunt men and constructed sets gives an action movie a sense of authenticity. When too much CGI is used, like in today's action and adventure movies, it almost makes it look like a cartoon. It places the viewers in an environment that they are unfamiliar with, whereas when real objects and locations are used, viewers identify with the hero and almost feel as though they are there with him. This is why when John McClane steps on broken glass, we feel sympathy for him as he does what any person would do in this situation: go to the bathroom and try to take out the pieces of glass from his feet because the pain is agonizing.

Good action and adventure movies are, in theory, not difficult to make. You need a likable hero, a cunning and challenging villain, a female lead who is quick on her feet and preferably more than a damsel in distress, chases, violence that is not gratuitous and flows with the story, cliffhangers, and stunts that make you hold your breath because of how real it looks. Recent action movies seem to have lost track of that formula out of fear of losing money and have decided to rely on CGI for stunts, provide just enough eye-candy to interest 13-year-olds, take out all of the profanity, and use a mediocre story as an excuse to stage second rate action scenes. As a result, studios are in fact losing money. Thankfully, there are still artists out there who wish to do things old-school and make fun action movies. On July 9, 2010, Adrien Brody will star in Predators, a sequel to the original Predator action movie from 1987. This movie will be rated R and was produced by Robert Rodriguez a true fan of the franchise and of movies in general. It seems there is still hope for action and adventure movies after all.

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