Why Families Are Ruining Action Movies

It is my esteemed pleasure to introduce a new guest writer- Emma Hydleman– who will be adding her two cents…

Simon Gallagher

Executive Editor

It is my esteemed pleasure to introduce a new guest writer- Emma Hydleman– who will be adding her two cents periodically. Let us know what you think…


Maybe it is because I’m an adult now (and therefore despise all of the ‘youth of today’), but I am finding myself increasingly embittered by the fact that the 20-something plus age group really isn’t catered for in the Action market. Yes, I’m a girl who is scared by Horrors and offended by patronising so-called ‘Chick Flicks’. My name is Emma and I’m an Action movie Junkie.

As I sat in the cinema, waiting for the lights to dim and the trailers to start, I got that old familiar feeling of low expectations for Terminator Salvation that has been such a frequent but unwelcome date to most of my cinematic trips to action/ Sci-Fi franchises and one-off action films in recent years. This isn’t necessarily because of the fact that they are simply re-hashing an already fully flogged horse corpse, but more the fact that the film they inevitably produce falls far short of its full potential.

I was outraged to see that Salvation was classified in the UK as a 12A. A 12A!!! That is a certificate that should never be allowed to be on this particular movie; it had so much promise to be as dark as the original too (I know that Rise of the Machines was a 12 but that only proves my point about low certificate Action films being inherently rubbish! And, let’s face it, that movie acted as more of a bridge to one we were expecting to be so much cooler. Yes, I enjoyed Salvation, but it can only be described as an Action ‘romp’, not butt-bleedingly scary.

The ‘80s & ‘90s Action films were classics because they catered to the adult market – the bread-winners, the frustrated hard-workers, the people stuck in crappy jobs trying to beat the oppression of Capitalism gone wrong in the form of the Recession. They were written by people sick of ‘Da Man’ and sought to show what would inevtiably happen to the world if we let greed take over. Look at Running Man, Demolition Man, Terminator 1 & 2: full of dark psychotics, killing in cold blood and all because they can. And at night. Now that’s scary!

A good friend of mine made a very good point as we discussed my disappointment in new Action films; he noted that there is nothing thrilling about these films anymore. When you’re a kid, part of the appeal of that particular brand of action movie was that they were a taboo, because they were inherently adult: films like the first Terminator would guarantee nightmares and were all the more thrilling for it. It was a window into an unattainable adult world- shifting the moral compass of those genres fundamentally compromises the appeal of them. This only seems to link to Pornography nowadays – and even that has had to keep pushing the ‘gross’ bar higher so that it retains people’s interest.

Even family-oriented Action films such as Indiana Jones have taken a massive nose-dive with the fourth film. Yes, they were always far fetched and ridiculous, but it is easier to forgive that idea when the films still had darker scenes – the face melting, the skulls impaled on spikes, the crazy man trying to rip out Jones’s heart with his bare hands. It’s been said before-but crystal aliens? Really? And the temple being made out of their spacecraft which we then see fly away? Please! Come on! There were no children hypnotised to murder adults, there was no being buried alive with snakes, there wasn’t even a hint of a face melt! And it’s all because families complain that there are no good films for adults and children to enjoy together.

And another thing, I know it’s a 12A, but I don’t expect to have my view of Indiana Jones 4 disrupted by a family who decided to take their 8 year olds to see a 2 hour film at 8.40pm and then have them complain all the way through the they are tired. Take them on a Saturday.

Action films, on the whole, have pretty much lost their cool edge and thus their appeal now. They unfortunately form an overly-easily marketable genre, are far more appealing to the masses and have become unfortunate and predicatble shadows of their former selves for it. Audiences expect the protagonist to struggle with some form of mental demons, fall in love with someone within the first act (not beforea little sexually loaded friction of course), and defeat the bad guy by getting him arrested because he was very mean to everyone. The traditional credentials are becoming increasingly scarce within the biggest tentpole Hollywood Actioner releases.

Liam Neeson’s Taken is one fantastic example of how Action movies should still play out. Okay, so critical reception wasnt particularly good, but that is perhaps because everyone is used to judging the genre against the model created by this new idea of sanitised action movies. I loved Taken because of its more traditional, high-octane credentials, which suspended the twee moral code that has seeped into newer generic additions, and a straw-poll among my friends and associates confirmed a united feeling that there should be more films like this in the world.

There have only been a handful of great 15(+) Action/ Sci-Fi/ Graphic Novel movies that I can think of in recent times:

  • Watchmen – an 18 mainly due to the fact that Dr Manhattan wanders around naked, and there is one quite vanilla sex scene.
  • Sin City – absolutely fantastic. Dark, evil, stuff of nightmares in some places, a well deserved 18 certificate.
  • Crank – sheer outrageous fun! Swearing, bad one-liners, drugs, sex and an old-school helicopter fight scene.
  • 300 – imagine how good it would have been if it was an 18 instead of a 15.
  • Die Hard 4.0– a great 15c film with highly unlikely scenes – the jet on the flyover springs to mind – all an integral part of a good action movie, one of the few that has stuck 2 fingers up to the new template.
  • Taken – an 18 on DVD in the UK, and a fantastic unashamed Action/ Thriller movie.

Too few.

I don’t care that people are worried that children are cutting their childhoods short and ‘growing up too fast’: I care that they are stealing the adults fun and that the film industries are yielding to it for sheer greed reasons- the family dollar goes a lot further than the single action fan’s pocket change.

Let kids have their Pixar & Aardman family movies, and if adults want to go watch the films as well, fair play to them- they are after all fantastic. But don’t bring children to an evening showing of films like Terminator Salvation. You shouldn’t bring them at all. That is Adult Town. If you have kids and you want to watch the film, get a baby sitter, and stop polluting an inherently Adult market with your moral arguments and outrage.