Saturday, February 16, 2013
Weekend Weigh-in: What is the Best Action Franchise?
With A Good Day to Die Hard now in theaters and earning praise like "Easily the worst Die Hard yet!" and "This is one of the worst movies of the year!" it seems like the right time to reflect on what is the best action franchise of all time. Because it doesn't seem like it's Die Hard. But maybe you really love the Die Hard series! And you should! Make your case below.
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Easy: JAMES BOND. There have been dogs as far back as the early years with the original (best?) Bond Sean Connery, i.e. "You Only Live Twice." And each of the Bond actors except maybe for Timothy Dalton has a mediocre-or-worse entry (depending on your love/tolerance for his two movies), and in the case of Roger Moore several below-average entries (not an opinion, scientific fact). But even pieces of shit like "Die Another Day" and "A View To a Kill" have behind it the effort, sweat, hard work and best filmmaking tools of their moment.ReplyDelete
The bad/mediocre Bonds (and there are enough of them to have a wide variety of opinions) still feel like, misguided as their writers or crew members were creatively, they tried to make a great and fun action film every single time at bat. You might hate the pigeon double-take in "Moonraker" but some (OK, me) love it because, as part of that movie's insane cash-grab for the "Star Wars" market, it's fun as hell. Up until "Goldeneye" brought Bond back into respectability "Mooonraker" was the highest-grossing Bond movie ever. So people may talk shit about it but people liked it enough to keep Roger Moore going for four more Bonds after that.
And that's just one movie, there are 23 of them backed by 50 years' worth of a franchise that has this amazing ability to get over obstacles (different actors playing the same character, disposing of original villains/nemesis because of litigation from Kevin 'Thunderball was my idea' McClory, the end of the Cold War and politcal correctness depriving the franchise/character of their manly essence, etc.) that make other franchises die or reboot themselves into pretzels ("Spider-Man," "Batman," etc.).
I seem to remember Die Another Day was also a record breaker for Bond. Again, I hated it but someone went to see it a lot of times. I think fans of the series and people who just pop in sometimes to see a movie have different ideas about where the series should go.Delete
If you guys haven't seen Everything or Nothing on Netflix instant, you probably should. It's a great documentary about the making of the series.
That would be a great subject for a column/series from "Hollywood" Heath or Dr. Riske (if Patrick & Co. haven't done one already): sequels in a franchise/series so bad they had to reboot the entire franchise because that last one FUBAR'ed things beyond recognition.Delete
There's some obvious one's ("Die Another Day," "Batman & Robin," "Spider-Man 3," "Superman IV," "Halloween: The Return of Michael Myers," etc.) but the most fun are the one's that either killed a franchise for good ("Lethal Weapon 4," "A Good Day to Die Hard" from what I hear) or are messes in their own twilight zone of weird off-screen situations ("On Her Majesty's Secret Service," "The Trail of the Pink Panther," etc.) affecting the final on-screen product.
James Bond gets my vote, too. I think all action franchises have their stinkers, and this is no exception, but it's maybe just because there are so damn many of them that I am able to find several that I like among the crap. I have remained intrigued to see a new bond movie every time one is released, something I can't say for Die Hard, or any other action movie franchise. I think that the fact different actors take on the material every now and then has something to do with what keeps it interesting. It's at least intriguing to see how different actors approach the same character, as well as directors with the material. I also just enjoy the kind of spy story that Bond is in general, too.ReplyDelete
I think you guys have talked about this on the Universal Monsters Podcast, or maybe it was one of the franchise horror podcasts, but I think it applies here.ReplyDelete
The first movie of any franchise is really good, then they turn to garbage pretty quickly. You can say that First Blood is a great movie, but Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rambo III are pretty bad. At least in my opinion. Terminator had two good movies, then two not so good. And so on, and so forth.
Unlike the horror series, most action series don't get more then three movies. There are some exceptions that went to four or even five, but those are very rare. There's a point where you just lump the movies together by who stars in them, since Stallone is basically playing the same person in every movie.
All that being said, James Bond has more room to have really good movies. Even if you think one of the guys playing bond is terrible, you have five other Bonds to pick from. I can forgive Moonraker because I know Casino Royale is still coming. Bond is probably my pick, but I never think of it as "Action" so much as a genre of it's own. A James Bond movie is in the genre of "James Bond Movies" to me.
The Zatoichi movies are like that too, there are so many that you can find six solid movies, six terrible movies and fifteen movies in between.
Once you leave the English speaking cinema though, things turn weird. I'm never sure if I like, say, The Once Upon A Time in China movies because they're actually better, or because there is a language/cultural barrier that makes me more forgiving of the perceived flaws.
As series go though, on pure action, I'm going to say Jackie Chan's Police Story. There are five entries, and while each movie has some problems, I enjoy watching them.
Seriously, Rambo: First Blood Part II is my favorite in the whole series. I know, crazy. It's so over the top, and I'm a sucker for a heavily muscled, oiled up dude running away from an explosion in slow motion.Delete
My favorite action franchise is Wild Thi....oh...no, wait, my favorite is the Indiana Jones series. Even the fourth one, Crystal Skull (which I know doesn't even exist in the same stratosphere as the others), totally captures my attention when I watch it. I think Indiana Jones is literally the coolest person on the face of the earth. When I grow up, I wanna belong in a museum.
I have the same blind spot for Indy as I do for Bond. I honestly don't think of themb as action movies. I always think of them (and Star Wars) as Adventure movies. There is action, but there's so much more other things that there is a mental divider that keeps me from thinking of them as action.Delete
I actually don't hate Crystal Skull, I just don't think it's very good. I can watch it, and there even bits where I really enjoy what I'm seeing. It got called lazy a lot, but I don't think that's right. It's not a lazy effort, but a tired one. Even tired though, the motorcycle chase and the two of them working out the notes works for me every time.
Those Once Upon a Time in China films got old fast; my memory of the first one was positive, but revisiting it was pretty disappointing (except for the ladder fight. Excellent!).Delete
I'm with you guys about Indiana Jones, but like James Bond, Indy feels like its own thing too.
I'm with GW. Though I won't disagree with anyone about Bond being the best franchise, I tend to think of the series as its own independent thing. To compare the Bond series to something like Lethal Weapon is impossible for me.Delete
Hmm tough question but I gotta agree with the majority its 007. Indiana Jones may have won it for me if it wasn't for Crystal Skull's incredible awfulness. Bond has had it's down times (sorry JM couldn't disagree more about Moonraker) but the quantity and longevity of the series gets the title from me. As for the Die Hard films maybe John Mclaine can break John Mctiernan out of prison so we can get Die Hard back on track, that is of course after The Expendables team breaks out Wesley Snipes (god please let that be the opening scene of Expendables 3)ReplyDelete
Mission Impossible and Fast and the Furious seem to have the momentum right now, besides Bon of course. I'd argue they had some clunkers along the way too.ReplyDelete
It's tough because no action series has ever been always good.
Don't forget about the "Bourne" movies. Granted, I haven't seen "Legacy", which seems to considered a disappointment. In my opinion, "Mission Impossible" has been the best action franchise to stay relevant, though I highly enjoy the "Die Hard" and "Indiana Jones" movies(yes, including "Crystal Skull", which I would argue is a good movie, but I don't feel like being stoned).ReplyDelete
I haven't seen "A Good Day to Die Hard" yet, but I'm surprised that the same critics who liked "Live Free or Die Hard",(it had a 81% on Rotten Tomatoes last time I checked) viciously hate this one. It sounds like one of the bigger criticisms of "Good Day" is how John McClane no longer acts like John McClane. Then again, a case could be made that this has been true for a long time.
I agree with you, Adam, every action franchise has at least one bad or disappointing entry.
@ Shannon - The Bourne Legacy is not terrible but it's pretty blah. I can't even summon the enthusiasm enough to dislike it.ReplyDelete
Honestly, aside from the first Bourne movie I hate the series. It is responsible for ruining most action movies for years through poorly choreographed action scenes and control room porn. Whenever I see a government control room in an action movie I want to walk out of the theater.
Sorry, kneejerk reaction. If you like the Bourne series, I am not going to say you're wrong.
More on Die Hard soon.
007, is the best, and it's probably supplemented by the best material produced for television, DVD and Blu-ray. However, close second is what I choose to believe is the Jason Statham "Quantum Leap" series. I always hope that the next leap will not be the leap home.ReplyDelete
I'm not sure that they can be classified as pure 'action', but it has to be the Jason Bourne trilogy for me. Grounded, intelligent, intriguing, with intense action and a compelling, haunted central character. I thought that all three films were of a high quality and that is a rarity in a trilogy.ReplyDelete
I appreciate that not everybody is a fan of the Paul Greengrass style of direction, but, for me, it worked a treat. I also don't think that Greengrass can be blamed for other directors attempting to copy his style and failing miserably.
As for the Bourne Legacy, I consider it a spin-off rather than a continuation of the series, and a cynical one at that. However, after being ready to hate the film when I saw it, I actually thought that it was pretty good - not on the same level of the previous films, but certainly not the terrible film that some seemingly bitter fans made it out to be.
I watched all of the Lethal Weapon movies around the Holidays and I pretty much loved every minute of them. Not that they stray from the "Great First Film Followed by Sequels of Steadily Diminishing Returns" formula, but I think the series as a whole stands up better than say, Die Hard because, um...racism? Or should I say, MORE racism?ReplyDelete
Seriously though, I just find they have a lot of heart - I like how Riggs gets adopted by Murtaugh's family and how the two of them build a relationship that's about more than just petty bickering - I even like how Leo Getz so badly wants to be their friend and that they sorta let him in towards the end. Seriously, there are some genuinely touching moments in that series all the way through, mixed with some pretty kick-ass action. I'd say I like the first Die Hard better than the first Lethal Weapon but as a franchise, it's LW for me all the way.
I think a case could definitely be made for Lethal Weapon. They get steadily worse, but I like the first three and the dropoff in quality isn't so steep that they become unrecognizable as being part of the same series. That happens in the fourth one, though, and I have such problems with that movie that it ruins my goodwill towards the series as a whole. Which is stupid, because I do like the first three. What I'm saying is that you're right?Delete
Hmmm...I know the 4th was definitely the worst of the bunch, but I'm having a hard time remembering anything in particular I absolutely HATED about it. Perhaps I was just caught up in the Christmas Spirit (i.e. drunk)?Delete
It's been several years since I saw it, but I've always felt like they were literally making that movie up on the spot. There's too much emphasis on the "comedy" (not funny) and no stakes. It just rubbed me the wrong way.Delete
Ok, some annoying things are starting to come back to me - the flame-throwing supervillain kinda guy at the beginning, Renee Russo going from sorta kickass to pregnant and boring, a mullet-less Riggs...yeah, I must've been drunk!Delete
Still not enough to sink the franchise for me though!
It doesn't sink the franchise as a whole, but without it, I think this would be the clear winner to the "best action franchise" question (minus the James Bonds and Indiana Joneseseses, which are in a different category in my head).Delete
Yep, I'm with you.Delete
Also with you on the James Bond and Indiana Joneseses thing - I never even thought of those when I first started pondering the question and was surprised to see so many people pick them. Though now I'm kinda questioning myself as to why I don't count Bond as action - you're right that it just seems weird to compare that series to a Lethal Weapon or Die Hard but why? I got it - in an action movie only the VILLAIN is allowed to speak with an accent. Oh wait, Arnie, Dolph and JCVD just punched my head off. So what is it? Just a gut feeling?