Kelly wrote last week about her casual love of disaster movies. It was such a lovely piece about memory and my totally bizarre sense of humor that I figured why not continue the conversation with my casual love of action movies.
Spoiler alert: there’s nothing casual about it.
Additionally, my love of action movies does not have anything to do with memories of my beloved sister, unless you count a three year long fight about how you define the quality of “good” in art and narrative, or said sister saying VERY MEAN THINGS to me about my VERY REAL sadness regarding the death of Paul Walker.
For reals though, she’s pretty cool. I kind of like her. But back to me.
I love action movies. I love the destruction, and how, if you thought about it, it would probably be devastating, but action movies don’t give you time to think about it. I particularly love action movies are the ones that involve the team-as-family trope. Where a group of disparate people, usually the best at what they do, join forces and find themselves with people to fight for as much as a cause. I like the celebration of excellence, and the way heroes are complicated. I like heroes in general.
There is some degree of escapism here and for a lot of people that may be all these stories are. And that’s fine. I am not going to lie – part of the draw of action movies is that they bear no resemblance to real life. As much as I would like to, I am never going to be involved in a giant robot battle to save the earth. And yes, some of it is the unrealistically simple plot lines.
I firmly believe, however, that there can be something less escapist and more critical about action movies. In every story, in every genre, there is art and valuable conversations to be had. Of course it doesn’t always work – the Fast and the Furious movies could have done something really interesting about a segment of society largely abandoned by their government because of their race and socio-economic class. They gesture at it sometimes, but mostly its just family and fast cars. And I like that too.
But for example, the Marvel movies explore what it means to be a hero vs. what it means to be human. I think their heroes are super interesting because their faults and strengths are magnified by their powers in equal measure. Also there is something there about disability and mental trauma – something that would be more interesting if they stuck to canon and made Hawkeye deaf in the movies. Kelly’s favorites, ye olde disaster movies, are another good one because there is so much (appropriate) anxiety these days about climate change and what we’ve done to this planet of ours.
And this would be a really wonderful time to transition into talking about Mad Max: Fury Road, which manages to be an action movie with incredible critical insights and little to no escapism. But that’s a whole other blog post in itself.
For me action movies are fun. I love their simplicity, their lack of consequences, their team dynamics. The more robots and space ships the better. But I also love thinking about action movies, poking and prodding them into a place where, like in all good art, we can see an interpretation or a critical investigation of ourselves. Perhaps if we stopped dismissing them, people would be more willing to see their critical potential.
Or maybe I just like watching things blow up.