Discussion of movies and ReelThoughts topics

It is currently Thu Jul 24, 2014 7:25 am




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 40 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next
What Makes a Good Action Scene? 
Author Message
Critic
User avatar

Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:35 am
Posts: 7267
Location: Easton, MD
Post What Makes a Good Action Scene?
I was looking at the discussion in the Last Movie I Watched thread and it got me thinking about what aspects make a good or great action scene, and why shaky-cam isn't the answer. Here's what I came up with.

1. Real sense of danger for the participants.

Why was the "burly brawl" in the Matrix Revolutions such a terrible action sequence? Well, many reasons really, including some really terrible CGI that at times made Neo look like he walked out of a video game. But also the complete lack of any danger. He punches some Agent Smiths, they go down, they get back up, he punches them again. Then eventually he flies away. Contrast this to the rather similar (and same year) Kill Bill Vol. 1. Even if we know the Bride won't be killed by the Crazy 88, they bleed (profusely) and add at least some human element.

2. Some goal or "plot" to the fight

Now sometimes directors want to show abstract bloodshed, but the best action scenes have a point to them. Take the justly-heralded Omaha Beach sequence in Saving Private Ryan. First the men want to get to the beach, then they have to get up over the shingle, then they have to get behind the bunkers, etc. Even in the chaos and carnage, it's clear what the men must do. For one on one fights, this is less crucial (each person wants to win/survive) but in larger action sequences it's essential

3. Clarity

No one wants to wait until the fight ends to see who the winner is. Use shaky-cam if you must, but for the love of God make it clear what's going on. As a matter of fact, don't use shaky cam. Take the naked fight scene in Eastern Promises as an example, not the crappy Bourne movies.

4. Creativity


We've seen a lot of action sequences in the 100 years of cinema...please don't set yours in an abandoned warehouse.

_________________
I'm lithe and fierce as a tiger


Sat Feb 02, 2013 2:35 pm
Profile
Producer
User avatar

Joined: Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:04 am
Posts: 2383
Location: Lancashire, England.
Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
Actions that function as metaphors and a continuation of themes for the story as a whole.

_________________
... because I'm a wild animal


Sat Feb 02, 2013 2:55 pm
Profile
Producer
User avatar

Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2012 6:26 pm
Posts: 2157
Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
Show what happens to the guy who gets hit, after he gets hit. Don't just drop him from the frame and never show him again.

You'd be surprised how much this simple technique not only controls the sense of importance and danger in the fight, but also the visceral impact of the hit. A guy who gets hit and vanishes feels just as ephemeral as he looks. A guy who gets hit, falls hard on his arm, and lies there screaming and holding it like it's been broken? You feel that.

_________________
The temptation is to like what you should like--not what you do like... another temptation is to come up with an interesting reason for liking it that may not actually be the reason you like it.


Sat Feb 02, 2013 3:38 pm
Profile
Auteur
User avatar

Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2012 12:02 pm
Posts: 3357
Location: Zion, IL
Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
I thought that scene in Revolutions was pretty exciting, anyways I agree on the "clarity" part, that was my biggest problem with the Bourne sequels too, it was very difficult to discern what was going on half the time during the fight scenes. Maybe it wouldn't have been so bad if Doug Liman hadn't done such a great job of directing in Identity, going from crystal clear action scenes to nausea-inducing shaky-cam heavy scenes was a bit much to handle, thankfully Bourne Legacy was closer to Liman's style.

I don't agree so much on the "creativity" part, the finale for Bullet To The Head was set in an abandoned warehouse(in fact, the exact same warehouse featured in Hills directorial debut "Hard Time") but it was still pretty exciting having Jason Momoa and Stallone dueling each other with fire axes. Also I don't mind excessive bloodshed, for me there dosen't really have to be a point to it as long as it's entertaining.


Sat Feb 02, 2013 3:40 pm
Profile
Critic
User avatar

Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:35 am
Posts: 7267
Location: Easton, MD
Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
Vexer wrote:
for me there dosen't really have to be a point to it as long as it's entertaining.


If there isn't a point, it isn't entertaining. At least not for very long

_________________
I'm lithe and fierce as a tiger


Sat Feb 02, 2013 3:54 pm
Profile
Second Unit Director
User avatar

Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2012 4:57 pm
Posts: 418
Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
NotHughGrant wrote:
Actions that function as metaphors and a continuation of themes for the story as a whole.


*smacks NotHughGrant with a paper*

NO! Take your art house stylings elsewhere!

Also, something that makes the viewer go "HOLY SHIT!" is also a factor in a good action scene.


Sat Feb 02, 2013 3:56 pm
Profile
Auteur
User avatar

Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2012 12:02 pm
Posts: 3357
Location: Zion, IL
Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
JamesKunz wrote:
Vexer wrote:
for me there dosen't really have to be a point to it as long as it's entertaining.


If there isn't a point, it isn't entertaining. At least not for very long

Well that's your opinion, "Shoot Em Up" didn't really have a point but that sure as hell didn't stop it from being fun.


Sat Feb 02, 2013 4:19 pm
Profile
Director
User avatar

Joined: Sun Jun 20, 2010 4:04 pm
Posts: 1662
Location: New Hampshire
Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
The fight scene in Eastern Promises is an excellent example of a perfect action sequence. Great choice, Kunz...I think it is one of the best fight scenes in cinema history.

_________________
Death is pretty final
I'm collecting vinyl
I'm gonna DJ at the end of the world.


Sat Feb 02, 2013 4:55 pm
Profile
Critic
User avatar

Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:35 am
Posts: 7267
Location: Easton, MD
Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
Sexual Chocolate wrote:
The fight scene in Eastern Promises is an excellent example of a perfect action sequence. Great choice, Kunz...I think it is one of the best fight scenes in cinema history.


I agree! Obviously. Here it is again:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Re37IVYO_MY

_________________
I'm lithe and fierce as a tiger


Sat Feb 02, 2013 5:20 pm
Profile
Director
User avatar

Joined: Sun Jun 20, 2010 4:04 pm
Posts: 1662
Location: New Hampshire
Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
Thanks for posting that. Those who have not seen the scene, watch it immediately. It is the #1 example of how to properly film and edit a fight scene.

_________________
Death is pretty final
I'm collecting vinyl
I'm gonna DJ at the end of the world.


Sat Feb 02, 2013 6:08 pm
Profile
Producer
User avatar

Joined: Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:04 am
Posts: 2383
Location: Lancashire, England.
Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
patrick wrote:
NotHughGrant wrote:
Actions that function as metaphors and a continuation of themes for the story as a whole.


*smacks NotHughGrant with a paper*

NO! Take your art house stylings elsewhere!

Also, something that makes the viewer go "HOLY SHIT!" is also a factor in a good action scene.


I stand by my post... you goddam fuckin commie-nazi!

(i've never been accused of being arthouse before. Thanks for the new experience)

_________________
... because I'm a wild animal


Sat Feb 02, 2013 6:25 pm
Profile
Critic
User avatar

Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:35 am
Posts: 7267
Location: Easton, MD
Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
Sexual Chocolate wrote:
Thanks for posting that. Those who have not seen the scene, watch it immediately. It is the #1 example of how to properly film and edit a fight scene.


Agreed. Violence should feel ugly, brutal, and (above all) violent.

_________________
I'm lithe and fierce as a tiger


Sat Feb 02, 2013 6:29 pm
Profile
Producer
User avatar

Joined: Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:04 am
Posts: 2383
Location: Lancashire, England.
Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
Silva's attack on "Skyfall" is the ultimate action sequence. Contains culture, an element of surprise, a bit of wit, beautifully shot, spectacular, it turns the tables on the agressor. It exists in a Universe that preserves the themes of the film

It's fucking amazing. I (in case you hadn"t noticed already) love it!

_________________
... because I'm a wild animal


Sat Feb 02, 2013 6:33 pm
Profile
Online
Director

Joined: Thu Oct 11, 2012 7:44 pm
Posts: 1582
Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
A good action scene is one which understands it's just another action scene and can never be anything truly monumental. Let's face it; the action genre is an egalitarian form. You don't need a big budget, you just need to be driven to do it. Action as spectacle isn't really action, it's just spectacle. It's an autonomous thing; good action doesn't seek to thrill so much as just to be what it is. Certainly that's what Bond has always been about for me. At it's best, action is a form of visceral expressionism on part of both the lead actor and the director.


Sat Feb 02, 2013 7:48 pm
Profile
Producer
User avatar

Joined: Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:04 am
Posts: 2383
Location: Lancashire, England.
Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
I disagree with that for my reasons above

_________________
... because I'm a wild animal


Sat Feb 02, 2013 7:55 pm
Profile
Second Unit Director

Joined: Thu Oct 11, 2012 5:38 pm
Posts: 249
Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
I think JB once elaborated that having well developed characters that the audience connects to on some level, is more important than how well executed or elaborate the scene itself is.

This is true for me at least. I love Inglorious Bastards but the tavern scene where they meet up with the female spy falls flat, no matter how well directed and written that particular scene is, it falls flat. It took me a couple of viewings to figure out why, but it's kind of obvious. No one in that scene was in more than one scene prior to it. Everyone was either introduced to us in it or had barely been in the movie at that point. I find it possible to still enjoy the scene on a few levels, but I never found it suspenseful because there's no one who's well developed enough to care about their fate.
-Jeremy Redlien

_________________
My Blog: Queering the Closet


Sat Feb 02, 2013 11:28 pm
Profile WWW
Critic
User avatar

Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:35 am
Posts: 7267
Location: Easton, MD
Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
NotHughGrant wrote:
Silva's attack on "Skyfall" is the ultimate action sequence. Contains culture, an element of surprise, a bit of wit, beautifully shot, spectacular, it turns the tables on the agressor. It exists in a Universe that preserves the themes of the film

It's fucking amazing. I (in case you hadn"t noticed already) love it!


I actually would prefer the similar scene in the original Straw Dogs, which has the benefit of being grittier and with a better climax (the denouement between Silva and Bond took forever).

_________________
I'm lithe and fierce as a tiger


Sun Feb 03, 2013 12:59 am
Profile
Critic
User avatar

Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:35 am
Posts: 7267
Location: Easton, MD
Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
thered47 wrote:
I think JB once elaborated that having well developed characters that the audience connects to on some level, is more important than how well executed or elaborate the scene itself is.

This is true for me at least. I love Inglorious Bastards but the tavern scene where they meet up with the female spy falls flat, no matter how well directed and written that particular scene is, it falls flat. It took me a couple of viewings to figure out why, but it's kind of obvious. No one in that scene was in more than one scene prior to it. Everyone was either introduced to us in it or had barely been in the movie at that point. I find it possible to still enjoy the scene on a few levels, but I never found it suspenseful because there's no one who's well developed enough to care about their fate.
-Jeremy Redlien


Oh come on you didn't care about Hugo Stiglitz? I was sad when he died.

_________________
I'm lithe and fierce as a tiger


Sun Feb 03, 2013 1:00 am
Profile
Second Unit Director

Joined: Thu Jun 02, 2011 5:49 pm
Posts: 229
Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
For me, I prefer that the action in action scenes be at least somewhat realistic unless it's something new. For example, in the Matrix films, a lot of the action wasn't very realistic, but it worked because we really hadn't seen "bullet time" before. Plus, the SF setting provided a rationale as to why the protagonists could do that. Now it seems like every other films has scenes where characters dodge bullets in slo-mo, without any of the originality or rationale that it had in Matrix. I don't care to see that.


Sun Feb 03, 2013 1:38 am
Profile
Second Unit Director

Joined: Thu Oct 11, 2012 5:38 pm
Posts: 249
Post Re: What Makes a Good Action Scene?
JamesKunz wrote:
thered47 wrote:
I think JB once elaborated that having well developed characters that the audience connects to on some level, is more important than how well executed or elaborate the scene itself is.

This is true for me at least. I love Inglorious Bastards but the tavern scene where they meet up with the female spy falls flat, no matter how well directed and written that particular scene is, it falls flat. It took me a couple of viewings to figure out why, but it's kind of obvious. No one in that scene was in more than one scene prior to it. Everyone was either introduced to us in it or had barely been in the movie at that point. I find it possible to still enjoy the scene on a few levels, but I never found it suspenseful because there's no one who's well developed enough to care about their fate.
-Jeremy Redlien


Oh come on you didn't care about Hugo Stiglitz? I was sad when he died.


Um, given that he'd only been in one scene prior to that and had almost no lines up to that point... no.
-Jeremy

_________________
My Blog: Queering the Closet


Sun Feb 03, 2013 2:23 am
Profile WWW
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 40 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group.
Designed by Vjacheslav Trushkin for Free Forum/DivisionCore.
Translated by Xaphos © 2007, 2008, 2009 phpBB.fr