Action scenes

Earlier this week I read an article on io9 about why you shouldn’t write action scenes, an article aimed at screenwriters, especially those making big-budget action movies. Then this afternoon, I went to see one of the biggest action films currently in theatres: Avengers: Age of Ultron.

From the article:

You don’t do an action sequence for the sake of doing a damn action sequence — you do an action sequence because it’s a new or more effective way to advance your character or story.

Ultron featured a lot — a lot — of action sequences. The bulk of them, to my eye, were action for the sake of action. A few of them — the mass fight at the start, for example — featured some character building. Among other things, it established the team as an actual, cohesive team, and it showed the start of the Widow/Hulk storyline. But a lot of the later action sequences were there, it seemed, to Make Things Explode. More than once I found myself wondering when they were going to get back to the story. (That, or trying to calculate just how much money Stark’s rebuilding fund must burn through in a year. It’s got to be a lot.)

This is not to say I didn’t enjoy the movie. I liked it. It was a pleasant diversion. For a big stupid fun movie, it was decently smart (though the whole plot hinged on a couple of supergenius scientists making some pretty boneheaded decisions).

Once more, quoting from the article:

Don’t write action sequences. Write suspense sequences that require action to resolve.

We’ll call Ultron a partial success there. Here’s hoping that the next film I see — slated to be Mad Max: Fury Road1 — does as well or better.


Update: I watched Mad Max: Fury Road on the holiday Monday. Even though the movie is one protracted action scene (or maybe it’s more like a dozen or so action scenes, linked together with brief pauses so the audience can catch their collective breath), it had more character development and sense of story than Avengers: Age of Ultron. So that’s a win.


  1. I appear to have a thing for commas2 colons in movie titles. 
  2. Typo. Gah!