A genre where one or more heroes is thrust into a series of challenges that require physical feats, extended fights and frenetic chases. The plot has twists and turns and moments of peril that the main charcaters have to survive, while showing grace under pressure. Of course, the narrative is one of GOOD versus EVIL, in which GOOD will eventually triumph.
Story and character development are generally secondary to explosions, fist fights, gunplay and car chases. While action has long been an element of films, the "action film" as a genre of its own began to develop in the 1970s. The genre is closely linked with the thriller and adventure film genres, and it may sometimes have elements of spy fiction and espionage.
The long-running success of the James Bond series (which easily dominated the 1960s) essentially introduced all the staples of the modern-day action film. The "Bond movies" were characterized by larger-than-life characters, such as the resourceful hero: a veritable "one-man army" who was able to dispatch villainous masterminds (and their disposable "henchmen") in ever-more creative ways, often followed by a ready one-liner. The Bond films also utilized quick cutting, car chases, fist fights, a variety of weapons and "gadgets", and ever more elaborate action sequences.
In essence, the genre is a hybrid of existing genres - the Western, the war movie, the thriller, the spy film, the swashbuckler, the disaster movie, the quest, fantasy, science fiction, historical epic and martial arts (the last named is the one non-western root of the genre).
The obvious example of Action Adventure cinema would be something like the Indiana Jones series (itself inspired by the Bond series and 1930s film serials, where every episode ended on a cliffhanger with either the hero or the girl facing impossible odds of one sort or another), where there’s an obvious quest and a genuine treasure (of sorts), but the action elements of the genre can be found in many other genres.Is Terminator 2 a science fiction film or an example of action adventure? There’s a clear quest, after all. The T1000 must find his arm and save the world. Obviously, there are differences too – he doesn’t get the girl and live happily ever after (or until the next sequel). Increasing use of over the top action sequences often involving CGI and dramatic stunts, main characters who overcome impossible odds, chase sequences and rescues have become staple ingredients of other genres and the lines have become blurred.
Is Spiderman a science fiction/fantasy film? A comic book film? Or an action adventure movie. The quest isn’t to acquire some treasure but he has to save the girl, defeat the bad guy and in the end, I guess the quest involves him gaining knowledge
From the end of the 1980s, the influence of the successful action film could be felt in almost every genre- hybrids were becoming the norm; war-action hybrids (like First Blood and Missing in Action), science fiction action (like Terminator, and RoboCop), horror-action (like Aliens and Predator), and even the occasional musical-action-comedy hybrid (like The Blues Brothers). With the growing revolution in CGI (computer generated imagery), the "real-world" settings began to give way to increasingly fantastic environments. This new era of action films often had budgets unlike any in the history of motion pictures and their success led to whole franchises. Where in earlier decades, sequels were frowned upon by most filmmakers and filmgoers alike, the 1980s saw a serious effort on the part of studios and their stars to not only attempt to capture the magic one more time, but to continually top what had come before. This basic drive led to an increasing desire on the part of many filmmakers to create new technologies that would allow them to beat the competition by taking audiences to new heights of roller-coaster-like fantasy.
Around the world
Of course, the Bond films are esentially British, even if they are made with merican money and the American audience in mind, but there ae action-adventure films made elsewhere. For example, many are made in the Far East, but there has always been a tendencey to rely on martial arts acrobatics; now, however, as the technology has become cheaper, the use of CGI is becoming more noticeable – as in the South Korean film, The Host.Another successful action film produced outside of Hollywood was the French made Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001), which managed to mix pre-revolutionary period French politics, the plot of The Hound of the Baskervilles, horror, martial arts and a touch of the Western. It became the second-highest-grossing French-language film in the United States in the last two decades.Currently on release is another French action adventure movie, Luc Besson’s The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010), an adaptation of a French comic book series. The film takes place in Paris before The Great War, in 1912. While trying out his telepathic powers, professor Espérandieu hatches a 136 million year old pterodactyl egg within the Museum of Natural History and wreaks havoc on the citizens of Paris. Adèle Blanc-Sec, a journalist, finds herself involved in all of it after returning from Egypt where she started a quest to find the Pharaoh's mummified doctor. She meets and saves the life of the French President, presumably - from his appearance and the mention of his having been elected in 1906 - Armand Fallieres. She intends to revive the mummy with the help of professor Espérandieu in order to save her sister Agathe, who is in a coma following an unfortunate incident. It has all the ingredients of the classic action adventure movie – except that the hero is a woman!
Basic generic features:
1. Main character (usually white American male) is on some sort of mission or quest (though the ‘treasure’ might be metaphorical)
2. Will have a sidekick of some sort.
3. He’ll fall in love with a beautiful woman who he’ll have to rescue at some point
4. He will face a powerful villain who he will have to defest to accomplish his mission
5. The hero will be on the side of good, but may be a bit of a maverick
6. He will overcome impossible odds
7. Some of the action will invovle majestic landscapes in which the hero looks small and vulnerable
8. There will be lots of fights and extended chases invloving elaborate stunts
9. There will be spectacular speciall effects, often involving CGI
10. There will be cliffhangers and daring rescues
11. There will be rousing music – the hero is likely to have his own theme – remember in The Mummy, the way the hero’s theme and the darker theme for Imhotep battle it out on the soundtrack, reflecting the action on screen.
12. There will be some sort of disvovery of treasure or the secret ingredient or knowledge or whatever, although there may be fights ahead before the hero can have this securely
13. There will be an element of betrayal – though, of course, the hero will overcome this!
14. The villain will likely be male and non-American
Shots and editing:
1. Action sequences will often involve fast-paced cutting to try and increase the excitement amongst the audience
2. CGI/stunt/chase sequences will often cut to a close up of the actors so the audience will be convinced that it is them taking part
3. The hero will often been privileged by the amount of screen time he has and by the fact hw will be centre screen in many sequences. Low angle shots will also help heroicise him – you can see this at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark, for example.
4. There will be long shots of the hero against vast landscapes or cityscapes to symbolise the impossibility of the task ahead.
5. The villain will be shot from below – to make him look powerful.
6. An increasing trend – the result of the influence of martial arts films – is to speed up and slow down some action sequences to help increase the excitement and to reveal the skilful fighting by the hero.
7. During fight scenes, you may get close-ups of the impact of blows or the reaction of the person hit.