11 Feb 2013

Media - How cars replaced guns

In the 1960's the action in films were becoming less of an facet of the genre films that grew out of the post Second World War. Instead they were becoming a whole genre themselves. The genre flicks back in the early evolution of the action genre were it's parents. The film noir, post war military dramas, and the western style. You had Operation Crossbow with George Peppard, the military epic of the Devils Brigade and On her Majesties Secret Service the greatest of the James Bond's. The Westerns were slowly fading as the world became less large and the detectives gave way to the new generation of espionage. Each had the tropes that would become the action genre.

Strong male characters, sexy females and climatic violence.

The the years continued to churn and the world changed. The 1970's came international communication. The war in Vietnam was instant. Instead of days for stories to cross the seas and enter into the columns of the daily news prints. You saw a bullet frozen in time as it passed through a mans skull. You were witness to a girl covered in napalm only hours later. The world became bitter and our tastes became more international.

It was Kung Fu fighting and Samurai Flicks. Action was Harry asking if we felt lucky and the black-spoliation of Shaft kicking someones ass.

You see as we step through the years that lead up to today I'm going to ask how the Fast and the Furious series saved our action films.

In the 1970's something happend. The action was the crux of the film and it was taking it by force. The list of 'action' labeled films doubled. The fight sequence that was a choppy mess found in On her Majesties Secret Service was now fully filmed without the jarring breaks as choreography left the worlds of dance and theater and became the way of the gun and the fist. The action had a kinetic energy to it. The desire for more complex and vigor in the action sequence was taking the budgest of the films.

It was the 1980's that changed the 'action' genre into the mess that spawns the blood and guts. The over hyped use of guns and mutilation in films like Rambo First Blood: Part 2, Commando and Mad Max led the charge. The world was fake and plastic, the 1980's threw away the cares of the 70's and soul of the 60's. It was only there to make us feel better. The coke was flowing, the booze took hold and the men's muscles had muscles. It was unrealistic and a frantic washing of blood and exploding gas while car flipped through the air and bullets ripped out of every speaker.

The 1990's demanded more then whatever. Ren and Stimpy said it best. 'I don't care'.

We wanted more then the plastic fake worlds from the 80's we grew up and we needed more. The 1990's had to make the action more complex or add back some of the lost theater and cinematic wonder from previous years. Mission Impossible was a big hit along side Face Off and the Rock. It changed with the Matrix. In 1999 the action genre changed. It still had it's guns and violence but it was much more complex in execution and the flash took on a weight as the audience demanded more.

Rob Cohen put together some little names and made a flick about cars in 2001. We had the Fast and the Furious. A title that now seems to echo the wants and desires of the audience more then it described the action film where the number of gun shots could be counted on a single hand. The cars and driving inspired a whole slew of street racing and modded Japanese cars. 

The action is still the crux of the film yet the focus of the action, the frantic conflict, of the film is based on driving cars. There is even a sense of self fault for each crashed car. When looking at John Rambo waste a slew of dudes you know that if they just put up their hands yet you as the viewer knows that if the other car just slows down and leaves the action is over.

The violence is still present and the series has been ramping it up since they had their reboot with the four film of the franchise going from car based reasons for stunts and cinematic events to car filled heists.

Compare the Fast and the Furious to the expendables and it does well in the box office minus what the critics are saying. Why because it's glorious scenes of stunts and tricks. Yet it's missing the class signs of the action flick reminded by the retired cast of the Expendables series. 

I'm not saying that it's better or worse I'm saying that the cars have replaced the guns. The car chase has replaced the extended beat down. Exploding windows from hails of bullets are supplanted by fantastic machines of colour only to be sheered to pieces. 

The action films have changed over the years and the Fast and the Furious is not a bad direction. I'd even say it's a better place then where we've been. I'll take folks jumping cars over gaps or through flipping wrecks on a high speed pursuit to seeing a man get cut in half or having a dude punch through a persons head. 

Action is not bad, its a vice... yet the type of action could be bad. That's for us to decide with our wallets. My evidence is simply the number SIX at the end of the film's title. Few flicks have made so many and still keep succeeding.