Tedious havoc

Bob Myers, in his comment on the “Dean Jones” post identified my “tedious havoc” quotation as coming from “Paradise Lost.” Milton was criticizing epics that are nothing but battles, ignoring the “better fortitude” of patience and heroic martyrdom; that is, internal battles of character. That applies perfectly to today’s action movies. I am finding mere cinematic havoc–fighting, chase scenes, explosions, special effects–to be increasingly tedious. Seriously. I find myself dozing off during the “action” sequences. There was a time when they were impressive but they have become so conventional, so repetitive, so expected, that they do nothing for me. Am I the only one who finds what is supposed to be exciting in movies to be unexciting?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    Oh yes. I’m especially sick of seeing large numbers of bullets expended at the hero, even by means of automatic weapons at fairly close range, without visible effect. And yes, I am thinking of Indy 4.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    Oh yes. I’m especially sick of seeing large numbers of bullets expended at the hero, even by means of automatic weapons at fairly close range, without visible effect. And yes, I am thinking of Indy 4.

  • WebMonk

    Depends on the action sequences. When Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon came out, it was the first time that most of America was exposed to that style of action fighting, and it was impressive and interesting. Now, that type of action has been done over and over, and is rather prosaic even though the action sequences are just as skillfully done.

    Action sequences are just like any other sort of excitement – after enough of it, people get tired of it even if the skill and quality of the action is the same. But, in movies, there are a constant stream of new viewers, so action movies will always have a lot of viewers for whom the action is still exciting.

    I haven’t maxed out my ‘action scene quota’ yet, but the only action movie I’ve seen this year has been Iron Man, so I haven’t even come close to OD-ing on action yet. If I start seeing a lot of movies this summer, I too might be in your position of being tired of action scenes by the end of the summer movie season.

  • WebMonk

    Depends on the action sequences. When Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon came out, it was the first time that most of America was exposed to that style of action fighting, and it was impressive and interesting. Now, that type of action has been done over and over, and is rather prosaic even though the action sequences are just as skillfully done.

    Action sequences are just like any other sort of excitement – after enough of it, people get tired of it even if the skill and quality of the action is the same. But, in movies, there are a constant stream of new viewers, so action movies will always have a lot of viewers for whom the action is still exciting.

    I haven’t maxed out my ‘action scene quota’ yet, but the only action movie I’ve seen this year has been Iron Man, so I haven’t even come close to OD-ing on action yet. If I start seeing a lot of movies this summer, I too might be in your position of being tired of action scenes by the end of the summer movie season.

  • Theodore Gullixson

    I wonder what modern Hollywood would do with a remake of Ben Hur? The action scenes could be greatly enhanced around the battle scenes and the chariot race, but would the drama and dialogue be gutted for more action scenes? Unfortunately, they might want to re-write the closing scenes about Jesus’ death and the healing of Ben Hur’s mother.
    Could it be that action scenes are being used as a substitute for the difficult writing interesting plots and dialogue?

  • Theodore Gullixson

    I wonder what modern Hollywood would do with a remake of Ben Hur? The action scenes could be greatly enhanced around the battle scenes and the chariot race, but would the drama and dialogue be gutted for more action scenes? Unfortunately, they might want to re-write the closing scenes about Jesus’ death and the healing of Ben Hur’s mother.
    Could it be that action scenes are being used as a substitute for the difficult writing interesting plots and dialogue?

  • http://religiouscontemplations.blogspot.com Robert N. Landrum

    I’m so with you. I have almost stoped watching movies altogether because of this. It’s a waste of time and money. Volume as opposed to quality seems to be the driving force behind movie production.

  • http://religiouscontemplations.blogspot.com Robert N. Landrum

    I’m so with you. I have almost stoped watching movies altogether because of this. It’s a waste of time and money. Volume as opposed to quality seems to be the driving force behind movie production.

  • Bruce

    I agree to some extent. The response modern film makers have made to more exciting actions scenes is to make MORE exciting action scenes. This worked for awhile; now we are desensitized to it. Clearly, Indy4 was expanding on Indy1, ad nauseum. My favorite action scene in recent memory in fact was the on-foot chase scene at the beginning of the most recent James Bond movie. My second favorite was the almost ten minute uncut on-foot hand-held-camera scene in CHILDREN OF MEN. It can be done creatively, but in the end what is fascinating is not the scene but HOW it was done. That does nothing to further a plot, to say the least.

    As an aside, did anyone catch Indy Jones using a Han Solo quote in Indy4?

  • Bruce

    I agree to some extent. The response modern film makers have made to more exciting actions scenes is to make MORE exciting action scenes. This worked for awhile; now we are desensitized to it. Clearly, Indy4 was expanding on Indy1, ad nauseum. My favorite action scene in recent memory in fact was the on-foot chase scene at the beginning of the most recent James Bond movie. My second favorite was the almost ten minute uncut on-foot hand-held-camera scene in CHILDREN OF MEN. It can be done creatively, but in the end what is fascinating is not the scene but HOW it was done. That does nothing to further a plot, to say the least.

    As an aside, did anyone catch Indy Jones using a Han Solo quote in Indy4?

  • http://www.augustanaministerium.org John Frahm

    I think the fight scenes are becoming increasingly formulaic, plugged-in. Story is really lacking. When baby boomers are marketing to Gen Xers and GenY folk these days they seem to keep recycling the same old formulae.

    Clothing has been surprisingly stagnant. It is recycled hippie stuff. Music has lost melody and harmony – even 1980s music could be melodic and exhibit harmony. I think it might be laziness.

    But back to the point, these action movies are basically video games and marketed that way. Comedies are just remakes of old movies or TV shows. Gen Xers appreciate historical grounding, but not on kitchy pop culture stuff, in my opinion. I think there will be a point when Gen Xers are going to say, “enough with the baby boomer imperialism — go away.”

    It reminds me of what Lutheran Church of Australia folk call the younger, more orthodox pastors there, “Young Fogies.”

  • http://www.augustanaministerium.org John Frahm

    I think the fight scenes are becoming increasingly formulaic, plugged-in. Story is really lacking. When baby boomers are marketing to Gen Xers and GenY folk these days they seem to keep recycling the same old formulae.

    Clothing has been surprisingly stagnant. It is recycled hippie stuff. Music has lost melody and harmony – even 1980s music could be melodic and exhibit harmony. I think it might be laziness.

    But back to the point, these action movies are basically video games and marketed that way. Comedies are just remakes of old movies or TV shows. Gen Xers appreciate historical grounding, but not on kitchy pop culture stuff, in my opinion. I think there will be a point when Gen Xers are going to say, “enough with the baby boomer imperialism — go away.”

    It reminds me of what Lutheran Church of Australia folk call the younger, more orthodox pastors there, “Young Fogies.”

  • Bryan Lindemood

    This is what struck me most about the recent Disney version of Prince Caspian. It got so battle-riffic at times I was bored. I kept thinking, “isn’t there more story to this? I really have to read the book again.” The only relief from the mayhem were funny little Reepicheap moments. My daughter and I decided we liked the little mouse the best.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    This is what struck me most about the recent Disney version of Prince Caspian. It got so battle-riffic at times I was bored. I kept thinking, “isn’t there more story to this? I really have to read the book again.” The only relief from the mayhem were funny little Reepicheap moments. My daughter and I decided we liked the little mouse the best.

  • Ryan

    My wife, though enjoying Lewis and Tolkein, finds the battles scenes in both series of books “tedious havoc”, especially Tolkein.

    She has wondered if this is an aspect of the genre or of the masculine ethos in writing.

    “Young Foggie”… I love it, thats exactly who I am.

  • Ryan

    My wife, though enjoying Lewis and Tolkein, finds the battles scenes in both series of books “tedious havoc”, especially Tolkein.

    She has wondered if this is an aspect of the genre or of the masculine ethos in writing.

    “Young Foggie”… I love it, thats exactly who I am.

  • Kyralessa

    I’m reminded of the quote found here:

    http://starwars.com/episode-vi/explore/classic/2000/04/classic20000424.html

    “There was a feeling I had that I would like the (Jedi lightsaber duel between Luke and Vader) to be bigger than the fight in Empire. And then George said that it doesn’t have to be bigger, because basically it can’t be. George is very blunt. He said, ‘It’s just a couple of guys banging sticks against each other. Don’t worry about that. It is bigger because of what is going on in their heads. That is what makes it bigger.’”

    What makes the havoc tedious is that some movies don’t give you any reason to care about either of the two guys banging sticks.

    That was the failure of Prince Caspian, which made the Pevensies into cranky kids (especially Peter), and most of the other characters rather indistinct. (In fact, I daresay the most fleshed-out characters were the Telmarines other than Prince Caspian. The director seems to have found the palace intrigue the most interesting part of the story. He may have been right!)

  • Kyralessa

    I’m reminded of the quote found here:

    http://starwars.com/episode-vi/explore/classic/2000/04/classic20000424.html

    “There was a feeling I had that I would like the (Jedi lightsaber duel between Luke and Vader) to be bigger than the fight in Empire. And then George said that it doesn’t have to be bigger, because basically it can’t be. George is very blunt. He said, ‘It’s just a couple of guys banging sticks against each other. Don’t worry about that. It is bigger because of what is going on in their heads. That is what makes it bigger.’”

    What makes the havoc tedious is that some movies don’t give you any reason to care about either of the two guys banging sticks.

    That was the failure of Prince Caspian, which made the Pevensies into cranky kids (especially Peter), and most of the other characters rather indistinct. (In fact, I daresay the most fleshed-out characters were the Telmarines other than Prince Caspian. The director seems to have found the palace intrigue the most interesting part of the story. He may have been right!)

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