Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Filmmakers See Bigger as Better in Action Movies Studios Answering Audiences' Demands

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Filmmakers See Bigger as Better in Action Movies Studios Answering Audiences' Demands

Article excerpt

Those nutty action stars: They sure can pull off some miracles.

Got a favorite?

Maybe it's Tom Cruise in the first Mission: Impossible, flying through the air, propelled by an explosion behind him, to catch up with a bullet-train.

You or I? We'd be hamburger. But Tom? He just grabbed on with his brawny biceps.

Maybe it was Bruce Willis in the last Die Hard movie, surfing through a flooded tunnel atop a truck, then getting blasted out of a manhole cover to the surface -- at the exact same time that his partner, Samuel L. Jackson, happened to be driving by.

Then there's Nicolas Cage in Gone in 60 Seconds, opening today. He's a car thief who makes off with 50 expensive cars in one night, then caps that off with a car chase during which he eludes a few dozen cop cars and a couple of police helicopters -- topped off by a flying leap of 100 feet or more in a vintage Mustang. He's so high, he looks like E.T. in that bicycle basket.

Today's action movies have gotten bigger, noisier, more intense, more improbable. The mantra is simple: more, more, more.

Filmmakers are just trying to capture the attention of jaded, sensation-stuffed (and usually young) audiences.

Their chief weapon? Special effects that make possible anything imaginable.

So we get aliens blowing up the White House. Flying cows in a tornado. Godzilla's monster-sized foot coming down on our heads. Dinosaurs on the loose.

Not cheesy models against a patently fake backdrop, but convincing dinos, convincing tornados.

The ante is continually raised.

Deep Impact showed us a tidal wave engulfing New York City. Big deal. Armageddon soon topped it by showing Paris go under water -- from the point of view of the gargoyles on Notre Dame!

Hollywood is just giving action addicts what they require.

"It's like any kind of exquisite, mild addiction -- we'd like a little more each time," said James Twitchell, a University of Florida English professor who wrote Carnival Culture: The Trashing of Taste in America.

But don't let the rather forbidding title of his book lead you astray: Twitchell thinks big, noisy, splashy action movies are fun. People like them. He even sees a movie such as The Matrix, with its wild stunts and feverish pace, as the answer to a craving as old as humanity.

"The human imagination has always gone for preposterous extremes, and The Matrix showed that better than anything," he said.

So what if modern action movies leave audiences as much pummeled as entertained?

Once you've seen The Matrix and its kin, you can never go back.

Just compare the first James Bond movie, 1962's Dr. No, with the latest, The World Is Not Enough, in which Bond single-handedly takes down two attack helicopters and a dozen evil henchmen, then goes on an improbable journey through an oil pipeline about to be blown up by a nuclear bomb -- or something like that. …

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