Thursday, June 11, 2009
Last Action Hero
I am a child of the ‘80s. Other than listening to one-hit-wonders, wearing zubaz, and consuming mondo and bubbletape, I pretty much spent my time watching heroes from 80’s action films. Time passed and I grew up. But the more things changed the more they stayed the same. I traded my zubaz for jeans, my bubbletape for a much healthier diet and stowed away the mondo for… well, let’s be honest - who can resist a mondo? But one thing that never changed was my love for the 80’s hero. Original heroes, not the ones from tv series or comic books. Men like John McClane, John Connor, and Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones.
At a young age these movies were the epitome of action for me. Though I never actually saw John Connor in action, it was the myth and the legend of the man that enticed me. Plus kicking the hell out of Terminators is always a good way to spend your day. McClane was a no b.s. cop that flipped the script on the good vs bad dynamic -- he was the reckless mess, but he always fought on the side of good. And then there was Dr. Jones – he always got the girl, always saved the day, and looked cool as hell doing it too! None of the movies required crazy graphics. All the stunts were just enough “over the edge” that my young mind thought it to be plausible, but only for these men. As the years went on these movies began to mean a lot more to me. Die Hard was a quintessential action film served with the comedic garnish, which is something that never got old. I began looking into the art and science of film making and Raiders of the Lost Ark became one of the greatest screenplays - more specifically, one of the best opening acts I’ve ever read or seen. And the themes within Terminator resonated with me, especially the idea of “no fate but what we make” and the constant play and influence of/on time. Even though each of these heroes saved the day in different eras in their movies, they represented the original action hero of the 80’s. And with their adventures they took us on an incredible journey and delivered a great story, and for that I loved them well into my young adulthood.
June 27, 2007 everything changed. That was the day Live Free or Die Hard was released and the day my heroes began to fall one by one. You see, our original heroes cannot survive in today’s entertainment environment. Is the modern world too tough for them? No, in fact it’s too soft and over-glamorized. Our tough guys cannot make it in a world that turns rated-R movies into PG-13 popcorn flicks just to fill seats over a long weekend, and they cannot make it in a world where dollars are pumped in in hopes of getting more dollars out. It is no secret that sequels often fall victim to the “bigger and/is better” strategy, but all of these films made it passed that quite successfully. It was the 4th installments in all of these franchises that were their ultimate downfall. Studios accepted mediocre products just to monetize our loyalty to 80’s classics. It isn't fair and it doesn’t work, no matter if the movie takes place in 2018 or during the Cold War – It Just Won’t Work!
Perhaps it’s because the generation before mine created the good stuff and my generation, as we have done with most things, has only extracted bits and pieces of the great arts and turned them into fluff. Our Woodstock sucked. Our Rock n’ Roll has been shot to hell and has so many sub-genres ripping off specific elements of Rock n’ Roll that it’s gone from groundbreaking to comical to seizure inducing. Even our inventions are worthless - yes, I’m looking at you snuggie. To borrow a quote from one of “my generation’s movies”: God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars.
With no purpose or place we’ve taken our heroes with us. We have nothing to say and they have no stories to tell. Generations before us knew what struggle was and their heroes reflected it – those were the guys we grew up on. Now it’s our turn to take the helm and we’ve turned the perennial badass into a softy with a CGI addiction who uses unoriginal one-liners as a chaser. The McClane’s of the world cannot survive in our day where stunts and explosions matter more than the story, where 20minute action sequences mean more than “how the hell did they get from point A to point B?” We have killed off our original 80’s heroes one by one.
To summarize my feelings in a sentence I look to the end of Tyler Durden’s quote: [I’m] slowly learning that fact. And [I’m] very, very pissed off!