Modern Adventure/Action Movies: Where Did the Fun Go?

In the thread aboutMovie Genres Hollywood May Have Stopped Investing In, I brought up the 80s Big-Hair Big-Boobs Sword and Sandal Movies (like Deathstalker, Barbarian Queen, etc.) and suggested that although “Game of Thrones” and “Spartacus” might be considered successors to the 80s Big Hair Big Boobs Sword and Sandal movies because they do feature lots of swordplay and have boobs (of all sorts) in them. But I said they weren’t true successors because they don’t have the same sense of fun to them.
Recusant **picked up on this and said that fun in general was missing from modern adventure movies. He ascribed it to a lack of comedy, all the movies are kind of grim in nature and the stories are taken so seriously.

I think he has a point. I also think the graphic violence in modern adventure movies adds to it. For example, in Deathstalker they had a big arena tournament where barbarian adventurers fought to the death. And one of the fighters was a giant dude with a giant hammer. His finishing move was to bring the hammer down on head of his opponent, squashing it. In Deathstalker we saw the hammer on the downstroke but we never saw it hit. If the same guy had been in Spartacus, we would have seen the hammer strike, blood spurting everywhere, and squashed faces in the aftermath, all in slo-mo so you could catch every bit of gore. If you’ve ever seen an episode of Spartacus, you know it’s true.

I think the graphic violence sucks all the fun out of a movie. You can’t just enjoy the stupid when it involved people being graphically killed and maimed. OK, I can’t, maybe YOU can, but I think I’m not alone here.

I’d say one of the reasons for the success of comic book movies is that they are in a sense throwbacks – they generally eschew the graphic violence and often have a sense of humor to them (see; Guardians of the Galaxy).

Question is: has the fun been sucked out of modern action and adventure movies (and premium TV series)? If so, what do you think sucked the fun out? Or am I just crabbing away at modern fooforawity?

The two aren’t mutually exclusive, you know. :wink:

I blame the rise of “message” shows/movies. “I’m a writer/director/actor, and I have to prove how deep I am.” Couple that with the rising costs involved in getting a show or movie done and people don’t want to spend all that money for just a “fun movie.”

And it’s not just action movies we’re talking about here. The 70s/80s gave us* Big Bird Cage* and Dolls In Chains. Now we get Oz, Prison Break, and totally defeating my point, OITNB.

It’s not sword and sandals but Guardians of the Galaxy was an adventure movie and fun as hell.

Arnold and Bruce in a smart car is pretty fun.

I pretty much agree with you. Most action movies these days are all big explosions and ridiculous over the top action sequences. Two movies I found fun, if brainless, are Wanted and Ninja Assassin. Wanted was completely ridiculous, but is ridiculousness was done with style and flair. And Ninja Assassin had everything you could want in a movie called Ninja Assassin.

  1. We live in a cynical era. Personally I think its a conceit, since the 60’s were more corrupt and violent but gave us whacky fare like TV’s Batman.

  2. Humor doesn’t translate so well. Movies are made for the global market, and have to hit an emotional LCD

ETA: I see the phrase “over the top” already used in this thread. It’s replaced the word “ham” with reduction in disparagement.

Those doors sure come off easy.

Which is why I mentioned Guardians of the Galaxy and comic book movies in general in the OP as exceptions to the rule, and speculated that their humor and lack of graphic violence might be a reason for their success.

I don’t think it’s so much the presence of the occasional comic bit in a film that matters, it’s the overall tone of the film, which graphic violence tends to change. The hokey swordplay and non-graphic violence in the 80s films were just plain fun. The graphic stabbing and torture in Spartacus and Game of Thrones, not so much. In comic book movies, there is often a lot of implied violence – thousands of people might be crushed or killed in a superhero donnybrook in a city, but we don’t see it graphically so it doesn’t alter the tone of the movie. I suggest that’s one reason comic book movies are successful.

It might also be the beginning of a turn. I watched Edge of Tomorrow, and the violence is not very graphic, compared to most action movies anyway, and has a lot of humour, even about the macabre nature of the repeating deaths. I think that means filmmakers are also starting to get frustrated by the grim movies of late. If so, it will make me very happy.

What was that recent swords and sandals flick – Greek mythology, lots of business with the hero firing his +4 Bow of Awesomeness – Perseus? Theseus? – maybe two or three years ago? I wanted to see it, but never did. Any good at all?

The remake of “Clash of the Titans” was okay. There was a decent bit of fun in it. (I loved the brief cameo with Bubo, the little robot owl.)

Comedy is hard, and “fun” isn’t the same for any two people. What you or I might see as a fun scene, someone else will see as just stupid, and it will kill their interest in the movie. It’s dangerous for a director to weaken the “viewing trance.” His job is easiest and safest if he can keep you absolutely riveted.

Also, fun scenes require really good acting. Action scenes are a lot easier. (A lot of the time, it’s a stunt double doing the job.)

Immortals i believe.

Sounds like Immortals which I was unfortunate enough to watch in a theater and which absolutely sucked on ice and had some really horrendous torture and graphic violence. I freaking hated it.

Yeah, that was a good one but not particularly sexy.

Dying is easy, comedy is hard, so, good point but I think one of the things the 80s films had was just a sense of fun, without necessarily any overt comedy. I mean, the actors who made “Deathstalker” and “Barbarian Queen” were not exactly topnotch in the comedy department.

You seem to be comparing z-grade films from the '80s with contemporary flagship network productions. That seems to be a flaw in your methodology. I think a more useful comparison would be between stuff like Spartacus with, say, The Thorn Birds, and stuff like Deathstalker with the output of Asylum films.

Oh, shoot. The trailer looked promising. Thanks for the warning!

I don’t know either of those, but, how about Krull? It wasn’t very good, but it had witty bits. Not exactly comedy, but just…vaguely clever and kind of fun.

(One of the big drawbacks of this thread is that “fun” is very, very hard to define!)

I like it when a serious movie pauses, just for a moment, lets its hair down, does something unexpected, grins sheepishly, and then gets back on track again.

The whole motif of the “extra scene after the credits” is pure fun! I hope this gimmick stays in vogue for the next hundred years!

Comic book movies seem to be a pretty big chunk of current action films, so excluding them is a pretty big exception.

But the OP is kind of confusing. You talk about movies, but your two modern examples are both subscriber-channel TV shows. I don’t think there’s any question those have changed a lot since the 80’s (HBO originally stood for “Hey, Beastmasters on!”), but I don’t really see the same change in action movies. If anything, I think there’s less reliance on graphic violence in a lot of films (blockbusters tend to aim for a PG-13 rating), and hammy action seems to be kind of overdone, IMHO.

The Expendables franchise is basically 1980s action flicks with 2010s special effects. They’re more than a little hit-and-miss from a narrative standpoint, but if it’s action and one-liners you want they’ve got that part covered at least.

Also Red and Red 2, the Men in Black franchise, and probably many more. How about Simon Pegg’s movies, which mostly are comedies with a fair amount of action but no nudity?

Evil Captor, you seem to be suffering from confirmation bias among other things people have pointed out, like comparing old fairly low budget movies to modern premium cable TV shows and big budget movies. Maybe you should compare those old movies to something like Sharknado though I don’t really know since I’ve seen none of them.

Also, lets not forget that the two movies mentioned, Deathstalker and Barbarian Queen both came out after Conan the Barbarian and mainly capitalized on Conan’s success. Conan was in pulp fiction and comic books long before he was ever in a successful movie franchise, so I’d argue it’s the same as it ever was.

So I just watched the 2014 Hercules at the local dollar theater. This movie is very much in the genre that Evil Captor was talking about. There are witty quips, some of them actually funny, thousands are slaughtered but very little blood is split, the heroes perform incredible feats…I enjoyed it, but I don’t think many people saw it. BoxOfficeMojo gives it a box office of 72M on a budget of 100M.

Christopher Nolan rebooted Batman and all of a sudden, dark meant adult and adult meant serious and a bunch of slavish imitators dutifully went around reimagining every possible franchise in a dark, serious manner. Now that Guardians has done well, in 3 years time, we’ll get a bunch of awful “fun romps” and the cycle continues.