Why (ACTION) Matters by Matt House of Chuck Norris Ate My Baby
In general, the action genre is placed in a very specific bubble when mentioned as an individual genre. What likely comes to mind when most people think of action cinema are visions of Jean-Claude Van Damme doing one of his famous helicopter kicks, Arnold spewing out a ridiculously entertaining one-liner as he tosses a knife into someone’s chest cavity, or Bruce Willis dying harder and harder with each passing film. On the other hand, however, more recent franchises such as Transformers, The Fast and the Furious, and the onslaught of Marvel movies might flood the thoughts of those who take a moment to ponder action cinema.
As a genre, action has been unjustly pigeonholed by some filmgoers, though this is more specific to a portion of movie critics or those who consider themselves to be ‘serious’ film fans. Action films are, for all intents and purposes, looked at as popcorn flicks meant to bring in a big opening weekend audience looking for exploding buildings, cars flipping over someone’s head, or whatever else might make an audience member shake their popcorn in excitement. There’s an adrenaline rush that comes with the genre, and one that is certainly deserving of its place in cinema, regardless of the quality that some of the films actually bring to the table as pieces of ‘art’.
With that all being said, action is much more than the popcorn chomping, soda sipping cinema that some might see it as, and while there is certainly a perception of the genre as a whole, action plays a much larger part in our cinema than just being big budget Hollywood blockbusters or direct to video auctioneers. There is a diversity and adaptability with action that most other genres do not have. Like drama, action can seamlessly integrate with every type of genre, limited by nothing other than the imagination of a filmmaker, and that is where its biggest strength lies as a cinematic tool. Whether it’s the dizzying ballet sequences in Black Swan, or Buster Keaton comically rolling down hill after hill in Seven Chances, action can bring a true level of excitement to any film, regardless of its specific genre classification.
Going deeper into the impact of action’s role in cinema, the idea of action is greater than even the genre itself. All movement is a form of action, and without movement and without action there is no life, at least in the cinematic sense. Action can be as simple as a slow motion raindrop falling from the bridge of a woman’s nose as she comes in from a bad storm, or star-crossed lovers making eye contact for the very last time before being separated from one another. Action is what brings to life varying degrees of emotion, and it is emotion that gives us something to attach ourselves to and what makes film as powerful as it is.
To further these thoughts of movement as action, action is also very much represented by the way a movie is physically brought to life by a filmmaker. From the slow, emotion filled panning sequences found in Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love, to the chaotic shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, action is cinematography, it’s music, editing, sound design, and even an actor's performance. With the right technique and ability, a filmmaker can make a character eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich exciting. All it takes is a little editing, some sound design, a score, and an actor to elevate the sensations seen on screen.
If you ask me why action matters, then I answer with this: without action, cinema would be a shell, devoid of excitement and artistic value, and as a result the audience would be suffocated by boredom. Furthermore, without action, we would never have this:
I rest my case.
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