Into the Action Digi 369 Research Project

Genre Introduction

The genre of action goes back long before movies and all the way into the early theater. An action story usually involves a hero who has a goal in mind but faces considerable obstacles to get there. The story will often have a very continuous flow to it with chases, fights or high excitement. It will usually involve a very defined protagonist with a few flaws to overcome and a defined antagonist who is set on stopping the protagonist in any way.

George Miller's Mad Max Fury Road

Films Introduction

To get a good idea of the genre as a whole the presentation will be taking you through each era of film and a great action movie that clear stood out amongst the rest. For the third era there's All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), The fourth era is Casablanca (1942), Lawrence of Arabia (1962) for the fifth era, The Godfather (1972) for the sixth, Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) and lastly Saving Private Ryan (1998) for the eight and present era.

All Quiet on the Western Front directed by Lewis Milestone

All Quiet on the Western Front

A harrowing tale of bravery and the brutality of war this tale details the accounts of a group of schoolboys who by the push of nationalism and they're teacher sign up into the German Army during WWI. As the story unfolds it is revealed the realities of such a brutal conflict from the gas attacks to the suicidal charges to claim mere inches of land. Told completely through the eyes of the unit of German soldiers as drawn from the book of the same name byErich Maria Remarque, it brings you from start of war to its conclusion leaving nothing to the imagination.

At the time of the movies release the Great War had been over roughly 12 years and many of the wounds left by it had not healed. No one wanted to fight a war such a brutal and terrifying war again. This film pushed the anti-war feeling that many people had adopted in the aftermath of the Great War and opposed the ideals of German Nationalism which the rising Nazi party used as its dogma. The film reminded people of the atrocities committed on both sides and showed the human side of the German state which had been painted as the enemy of the war.

Over the years the American society has leaned toward a more anti-war feeling with many films reflecting this idea. During World War II the film industry used many films and cartoons to push propaganda one way or the other. In the attempt to bring about anti-war feelings films tend to try and make the enemy more humanistic as it then makes them relatable and harder to hate. The film All Quiet on the Western Front portrays this tactic by showing the war through the Germans eyes who hated the war just as equally as the Allies. This tactic will be seen repeated in many films including some modern films like Jarhead where marines question their true purpose in Iraq.

Casablanca directed by Michael Curtiz


Rick Blaine runs a cafe in Casablanca where he runs a business underground helping people flee the Nazi Regime. All was as it should have been until Blaine's ex-lover Ilsa shows up requesting safe passage for her and her husband Victor Laszlo a well-known resistance fighter who just escaped the concentration camps. As a result, Ricks must not only deal with the nazis but also his feelings for Ilsa in order to get her safely out of the country.

Coming out merely a month after the December attacks this movie served not only as a wake-up call but a view into the politics and emotions of those in the middle of Nazi oppression. It set an example for movies of the era in character development and story arches while driving the politics of world war II. It would go one to serve as part of a stepping stone towards making Humphrey Bogart as a star.

With the end of the war, films began to change but they did not forget the lesson from this era. Casablanca gave an example of a wartime romance with fleshed out characters and a memorable well-written script that stuck with an audience. The use of the script to build the character's persona can be seen through the eras in movies like The Godfather ("I'll make them an offer they can't refuse") and Star Wars (I have a bad feeling). These simple lines of dialogue develop the characters by how and when they say it.

Lawrence of Arabia directed by David Lean

Lawrence of Arabia

During World War I the British government sent T.E. Lawrence out into Saudi Arabia to help defend British interest in the area. Instead, Lawrence rebels against his orders and takes up the cause of the Arabs. He rallies the different tribes together and leads them to victory and freedom against Turkish rule with the help of his ally Sherif Ali. As one they lead daring attacks against the Turks that would eventually go down in history.

Lawrence of Arabia takes the true story of T.E. Lawrence and depicts it in such a way that shows the true grit of a real-life war hero and how his exploits affected him. It marked the decline of the epic and set the stage for a darker hero with complex emotions and goals to emerge. This can be seen in some of the Bond movies and even the certain westerns that began to develop the anti-hero character.

The story and overarching tones have gone on to influence many war films since its release and 40th-anniversary rerelease. Most notably is its influence over George Lucas' Star Wars A New Hope. The theatrical tones of Lawrence of Arabia can be seen throughout the Star Wars movie most obvious would be the use of the desert in the earlier scenes and the similarities between the plight of the rebellion and the plight of the Arabs struggling against a superior force can be drawn.

The Godfather directed by Francis F. Coppola

The Godfather

After the end of World War II, Michael Corleone returns to his aging father who is the head of the powerful Corleone family in 1945. After readjusting to home Michael is then slowly groomed to become the new Don as Vito, his father, is slowly comes toward the end of his life. Though corruption and violence and the eventual death of his father Vito Michael reluctantly accepts the mantel of Don and begins to establish his dominance. He begins by weeding out the traitors and conspirators then kills them to earn his rightful place as head of the Corleone family.

Originally protest by many Italian Americans, this movie was thought to be just another gangster movie playing up the Italian stereotypes that had became ingrained into society. They were surprised to find a movie that challenged these stereotypes and changed how the Mafia was presented in films following. It was so iconic it made two other movies following the story of the Corleone family.

One of the top movies of its time The Godfather defined the gangster subgenre for the all the way to even modern times. It changed not only how Italian Americans were presented in film but how the mafia was presented. Its influence and even direct references can be seen in movies stretching to modern times such as the Goodfellas, the remake of Scarface and the Iceman. All taking the idea and importance of family that is key in Italian culture.

Star Wars A New Hope directed by George Lucas

Star Wars A New Hope

In a galaxy ruled with an iron fist by an empire, the rebellion is in trouble with the forces of Darth Vader closing in on their base with a weapon of planetary destruction. In order to stop the Empire and save the rebellion a farm boy named Luke Skywalker, an old hermit named Ben Kenobi and a couple smugglers named Han Solo and Chewbacca must sneak aboard the secret battle station and save princess Leia so that she may deliver the plans to destroy the weapon. Along the way, Luke will train in the ways of his father to become a Jedi in order to bring balance into the universe once again.

The success of Star Wars A New Hope revived the science fiction genre and introduced a new way and style to approach films. The use of new technologies and innovative set and sound technology allowed for not only the continuation of the Star Wars saga over the years but also movies such as Aliens, Predator, Blade Runner and even the tv show Firefly. It also marked the start of transmedia with Lucas decision to diversify the market with merchandise, books and later tv shows and spin-off movies.

One of the most iconic movies, Star Wars A New Hope brought the science fiction genre back into the forefront and showed its prowess through the use of new technology. It not only influenced many sagas to come such as Aliens, Terminator, the new Star Trek and even tv shows like Firefly but also sparked the creation of media empires. The decision by Lucas to focus on marketing and build out an empire on top of a small saga can be seen in the likes of the marvel cinematic universe today and even more evident in the megacorporation of Disney that now owns both empires. It forever changed how Hollywood went about marketing their films for generations to come.

Saving Private Ryan directed by Steven Spielberg

Saving Private Ryan

During the waning months of the war Captain Miller and his squad is sent to find and retrieve Private Ryan so that he might return home to his mother. Pushing through one of the largest amphibious landings ever staged Capt. Miller and his men must forage deep into enemy lines to find Private Ryan before it is too late. Finding death around every corner the squad begins to not only fight the enemy but also question the orders to find one man in the middle of chaos.

The absolute brutal and gruesome style of this movie is claimed by many to be the closest one could get to the real thing. The authenticity of the entire movie will go on to set the standard for movies of this era from Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down to Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk. Spielberg shows in many of his military films that the use of actual historically accurate props adds to the overall realism of the movie and enforces the overall atmosphere.

Chad Stahelski's John Wick


After viewing these movies and looking at them analytically there is very few question that I have left to ask. One what is it that drives people to enjoy action films and what drives directors and writers to make specific directional choices with the story. How much personal feelings of the director go into the interpretation of for example WWII Casablanca. Upon looking closely at the genre as a whole and the influences it draws from the culture I believe we will see a rise and fall of violent and peaceful action films. In other words, One could be brought to believe that for a time we will see movies promoting a peace and anti-war agenda and then beliefs will shift and a rise to propaganda like films will begin again pushing one belief over the other. At the moment we belong to an antiwar society, with liberals and some conservatives against the actions in the middle east and the films reflect that with movies like American sniper showing the dark side of war. This insight is what I will bring to the table when I go about creating a movie. As someone who is more comfortable in the thriller/ action genre to know the trends can make or break a movie. If one comes to understand the past and how society affected the acceptance of a film, then they can know when they should use a certain story or not.


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All Quiet on the Western Front. Dir. Lewis Milestone. By Erich Maria Remarque and Maxwell Anderson. Perf. Lew Ayres, John Wray, Arnold Lucy, and Slim Summerville. Universal Pictures, 1930. Film.

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Casablanca. Dir. Michael Curtiz. Perf. Humphery Bogart, Ingrid Bergman. Bruce Webster, 1942. Film.

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The Godfather. Dir. Francis Ford Coppola. Perf. Marlon Brando, Al Pacino. Paramount/Alfran, 1972. Film.

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Lawrence of Arabia. Dir. David Lean. By T. E. Lawrence. Perf. Alec Guinness, Peter O'Toole. Columbia Pictures, 1962. Film.

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Saving Private Ryan. Dir. Steven Spielberg. Perf. Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore. DreamWorks, Paramount Pictures, 1998. Film.

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Star Wars IV: A New Hope. Dir. George Lucas. Perf. Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher. Lucas Film Ltd, 1977. Film.

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Ridley Scott's Kingdom Of Heaven

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