Monday, October 3, 2016

Over-praised action movies

I like John Wick. John Wick is fine.


There is a second coming of John Wick, though. John Wick: Chapter Two is scheduled for release next February 10th, and people in my Flickcharters Facebook group can't stop jerking themselves off about it.

There are at least three or four people in the group who seem to define themselves cinematically by their love for John Wick. One guy who never shuts up about it listed movies he'd watch during a recent marathon weekend. John Wick made the list, and afterwards in parentheses he included the clarification "(Because of course I did.)"

Why of course? What's so great about this film?

Oh, it's definitely good. I'll give it that. But I think that's why people think it's great -- because it's good. Good action films are harder to come by these days than they once were, so people are eager to rally around any good action film and call it great.

I think this also explains the love for Jack Reacher, another favorite in that group that is getting a sequel, though that one's ready to hit theaters this month. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (terrible title) is coming out in the U.S. on October 21st, and in Australia a day before that, on my birthday.

Jack Reacher is not good. At least, I don't think it is. I was singularly disappointed by that film, especially since I usually like Tom Cruise movies. The best thing about it was an entertaining villain turn by Werner Herzog. Everything else was pretty much tied for the second best thing about it, which was also the worst thing about it. There might have been a clever set piece or two in there, I don't remember. Jack Reacher was not worth remembering.

Yet it comes up regularly in my Facebook group, and that must be a fairly mainstream opinion, else they wouldn't have consider the movie sequel worthy. "JACK REACHER YEAH!!!" Really? "YEAH"?!?

The consequence of Jack Reacher being considered a hit by individuals who are not very discerning is that its director, Christopher McQuarrie, was borrowed to make another over-praised action movie starring Tom Cruise: Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation. In this case I was more conscious of tight set pieces and polished filmmaking. But I thought the movie overall was just lackluster. Maybe I've finally had enough of Ethan Hunt.

I wonder if this whole thing first started when other people saw a brilliant series of action movies in the Jason Bourne movies and I just didn't. I found them diverting, but nothing more. There have now been three in a row that I haven't seen, as discussed here.

There are two things I can conclude about being out of synch with the level of enthusiasm other people have about these movies:

1) I am just not as young as they are, or as in touch with my inner testosterone-infused teenager as they are;

2) I'm an old grump, which may be the same thing.

But I don't think I'm an old grump. One of Tom Cruise's other most recent action movies, Edge of Tomorrow, was in my top ten for the year it came out, and I gave it five stars. And I've got an action movie in this year's top ten as well: Captain America: Civil War. I don't expect it will finish the year in my top ten, but it's there now, and I've ranked more than 80 movies so far this year.

I think the real difference is that my need for action movies to be good differs from theirs, and differs from that of the average movie fan. The average movie fan earns the adjective "average" before his title (an "average movie fan" also seems to be a he) because action movies are part of his DNA. When all else is equal, he'd rather watch an action movie by a margin of two to one over any other type of movie. That's because even though he says he is, he is not really a cinephile. He is a fan of being entertained, and even though I'm making it sound like that's a bad thing, it's a totally fine reason to watch movies. One of the primary reasons, to be certain.

Well, that's not me, at least not anymore. That might have been me when I was an actual teenager, and not just channeling teenage desires as many of these people with whom I differ on John Wick, Jack Reacher and the latest Mission: Impossible movie seem to be doing. But the reason I know I'm really a cinephile is that I want any type of movie to be good, be it an action movie, a costume drama, a hard-hitting documentary or an abstract art film. The people who think John Wick is the best movie of the past five years are not even seeing those last three types of film.

Which is okay. I'm not here today to tell you how much better I am than they are, even though I know it sounds like I'm doing that.

Really, I'm here today to try to stop scratching my head about why these people love the movies they love, and I don't.

And through the writing of this, I've decided it's the opposite of someone who tries to break up with you gently:

It's not me, it's them.


Wendell Ottley said...

Excellent article. I often have these discussions with myself. Like you, I was once one of those people who just wanted to be "entertained" by an action flick before evolving into a cinephile. Though, to be fair, I did really like John Wick and am looking forward to the sequel. It's just not the greatest thing ever as many have made it out to be. I still love to be entertained. The difference is I'm entertained by movies from every genre I've ever come across and willingly seek them out rather than just staying within a narrow comfort zone. Therefore, I agree. It's them.

Derek Armstrong said...

Thanks Wendell! Exactly. And yes, John Wick is the best of the bunch of those I mentioned. I gave it 3.5 stars at the time, and toyed with 4. But it's no 5-star movie.

As much as I make these grand claims of being a cinephile, though, I'm much more likely to unwind with something undemanding, an action movie or a comedy. Those other movies are for Monday and Tuesday nights. :-)