Friday, June 6, 2008

Action Speaks Louder...


Having been immersed in the D2DVD market for most of my career I’ve often wondered about the origins and thought processes that go into the making of an action film. This is a genre that Americans seem to do really well along a variety of budget levels from LETHAL WEAPON to Steven Seagal’s latest DVD action-fest.

What is it about the action film that intrigues us so? Is it the violence? The righteous sense of justice (something that we’ve mythologized throughout our history - hence the term “legendary Old West.”)? What are the elements that go into the character of an archetypal action hero? Can we trace the roots of heroic action (from Greek myth and before) to today(DIRTY HARRY, DEATH WISH, SPIDERMAN, ROBOCOP)?

Fortunately, we don’t have to do that. Eric Lichtenfeld has done that for us in his excellent book ACTION SPEAKS LOUDER: Violence, Spectacle and the American Action Movie (Wesleyan University Press). Eric (and I call him that because we’ve been corresponding on the archetype of the hero, and because he's younger and smarter than this old bastard so I need to get my digs in) delves deep into the DNA of the action hero and the genealogy of how action heroes relate to one another. How does ROBOCOP relate to SHANE? What do Rutger Hauer, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Bruce Willis have in common? What heroes break the mould of the “typical” action hero and why? How many different types of action heroes are there?

It’s these critical analyses of the action hero archetype that makes this book a must-read for those of us in the business of creating such characters. Eric has given these different iconic heroes the dissection they deserve so that we can clearly see where our characters violate the norm (and whether or not that’s a good thing). The book includes reviews, production timelines and excerpts from the studio marketing materials used to “sell” these movies to the public at large.

Do yourself a favor and buy this book (available on Amazon). I am certain it will be the reference work for the action screenwriter. I have it on my desktop here at the office.

Oh and FYI - The Action doesn't stop at the printed word. Eric has himself a blog where he expands on his analyses of the action hero. Read the book. Read the blog.

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