Lecture: Action Film (Listen and Read)

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Lecture: Action Film
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So we've been looking at different genres of film over the past few weeks,
and today we're going to look at action film,
specifically discussing its history and characteristics in each era.
As you can see from the first slide,
action films featured historical themes during the 1920s and 1930s.
During this time, many filmmakers drew on history for inspiration,
so we can see that there were a number of action films,
with themes such as the French Revolution and the Roman Empire.
As a matter of fact, they also filmed popular legends, like Robin Hood, King Arthur and so on.
Now I want you to remember that just like any art movement,
the development of film is influenced by social and economic factors,
this is important
because it explains why action films revolved around themes of the second world war during the 1940s and 50s.
In this era, action films have an abundance of war adventures.
The movie Guns of Navarone is an example of this.
The second war also led to action films involving spies.
For example, the movie 'North by Northwest' which was filmed by Alfred Hitchcock,
but keep in mind that North by Northwest is not just a spy film,
it's more than that.
It has that famous perilous scene involving the crop-duster,
which definitely puts it into an action film category.
The famous director Albert R. Broccoli was presumably inspired by this movie,
so, shortly afterwards, he started creating films based on the novels of Ian Fleming,
and made James Bond a household name in the 1960s.
So, as you can see from the second slide,
in the 1960s, James Bond became the epitome of an action hero
and his films became the standard by which all action films are measured.
In these films, he was able to dispatch the villain and his henchmen single-handedly.
The character of the archetypal hero also came through here.
He's a ladies' man, but one who refuses to settle down.
Meanwhile, he's ready with one-liners, puns, and quips,
making him not only handsome and fearless but droll as well.
Because James Bond films depicted all corners of the globe,
Live and Let Die, for example, was partially set in China, and featured Asian martial arts.
Its popularity started to inspire more filmmakers to meld these two genres.
For example, Bruce Lee's 1973 film Enter the Dragon,
Jackie Chan's Rush Hour and Chuck Norris's Good Guys Wear Black to name but a few.
In the 1980s, we had the Star Wars films,
perhaps the most famous action movie series in recent history.
They were also an amalgamation of two genres of film:
action film fused with science fiction.
Hard core Star Wars fans might want to argue against that,
but there's no denying it,
although the earlier films had more sci-fi elements,
like star-ship chases and dog-fights,
the last film in the original trilogy had much more in the way of acrobatic stunts and hand-to-hand combat
and other features that we would generally associate with action films.
Into the 21st century,
one obvious change is the introduction of CGI.
As you can see from the textbook,
the CGI is referred to as computer graphic interface.
This has made action sequences far cheaper and easier to create,
and as a result, scenes that have once have been nigh-on impossible to film can be done quite easily.
However, some critics have said that significant amounts of CGI in a film can lessen its impact on the audience,
and I for one, agree with this.
I think that much of the drama and excitement is lost when filmmakers rely too heavily on the CGI effects.
A second, rather startling change in recent action films
is that we really don't have any action heroes any more.
I mean, which actors do you know who are really known as action heroes these days?
Jason Statham, is one perhaps, or Daniel Craig, the present Bond actor.
But these are rather dramatic, realistic sorts of hero,
a far cry from the previous Bonds who were - well,more fantastical and larger than life.
And that's why some of the popular action heros from the 90s…
Sylvestor Stallone, Bruce Willis, Harrison Ford…
are still, in many ways, going strong.
The Expendables, for example, a recent action film, parodies this aging crop of superstars.
And films like this are possible because no-one else… um.. well...
no other actors have stepped in to take their place.
The roles just aren't there for them, perhaps because the character of the archetypal action hero is changing.
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