Action films are growing stale. What’s needed?


Earlier this summer, Universal Pictures released the fifth “Bourne” movie in “Jason Bourne.” Featuring a star studded cast as usual with Matt Damon, Julia Stiles and Tommy Lee Jones, “Jason Bourne” was a movie I was very enthusiastic about watching. But my enthusiasm swiftly ended approximately 11 minutes into the movie, when Damon’s character Jason Bourne comes back from “retirement” and hacks into the CIA’s database. Another action movie with the potential to be interesting was thrown back into the pre-existing action movie formula moshpit and ignored the innovation that all movie-goers like me cherish.

Like the recent “Jason Bourne” film, many action films these days have lost that creative feel, that what-will-happen vibe that I used to treasure back in the good ol’ days of movies like the “Indiana Jones” franchise and “The Matrix” as well as recent outliers like “Mad Max: Fury Road.” The genre has grown dull using the generic plot of the main star coming from some early setback to vanquish the evil foe. Movie-goers like me have simply gotten bored of this oh-so-repetitive plot, and now even the popcorn has started to taste bland.

But there is hope. First, we need to start with the main characters. Now, I know that casting the occasional A-list celebrity will bring money to the box office (which is definitely a bonus,) but “Jason Bourne” really overdid it and lost touch with individualizing the characters and separating them from the actors’ previous roles in film. I remember Tommy Lee Jones from his appearances in the “Men in Black” franchise, and I connect with his character Agent K much more than the villain he portrays in “Jason Bourne,” Robert Dewey. I believe that new actors with fresh faces should star in new high-budget action movies to really have a character for the audience to truly connect with.

Even the plot of the new “Bourne” movie could have been taken from any of its predecessors or any other action movie before, and nobody would have batted an eye. Bourne, with the help of a hacktivist group led by Nicky Parsons, must evade the watchful eye of the CIA to take down the agency’s corrupt director, Robert Dewey. It is the same old plot of the good guy working with the underdogs against a villain “too powerful to fall.” And in the end, we all know that Bourne will come out on top. There needs to be a twist, some part of the movie where the audience can’t predict the main character’s next decision. A movie that comes to mind that really exhibited that nail-biting intensity and the occasional curveball in the plot was “The Usual Suspects.”

Although “Suspects” fits the thriller genre more than the action movie genre, the intensity and suspense that Kevin Spacey holds through his portrayal of Roger “Verbal” Kint is far greater than recent action movies. Kint is a mysterious character, similar to Jason Bourne, but he has all the characteristics of a real human being, the faults as well as the charm. He is not a simple character for the audience to root for, but someone stuck in a gray area of morality, relatable to the average audience member. On the other hand, Bourne is hardly portrayed as having the emotional  range of a real human, and this disconnect makes his death-defying stunts more fiction than not. With every twist and turn in the “The Usual Suspects”, I gradually shifted further and further off my seat, curiously waiting for the big finale. But “Bourne” was far too predictable, with every obstacle in Bourne’s way being a sure-fire stepover for our main character. There was little to no true suspense and we all knew the main hero would win in the end.

Maybe consumer culture for movies needs to change, but I think it is the industry’s job to facilitate this revolution. Although many industry executives will argue that the way action movies are currently produced will lead to an easy money-making success, a new franchise with original plots and fresh faces will begin this evolution to a much more diverse, creative, and successful movie industry. We need to truly appreciate creativity and ingenuity to encourage the movie industry to produce entertaining and novel content, to make your average bland action movie a truly thrilling film. Finally, I can enjoy my caramel popcorn while watching a movie, where every twist and turn will truly keep me anticipating our character’s next move, and action movies will be great again.