It is said that rock band AC/DC used to test their songs by playing them on piano—if a song sounded good on piano, then it was a good song. Stripping away the guitar amplifiers and distortion and thumping drums weeded out any bad riffs or half-hearted efforts, leaving only the cream of the crop to make it onto the next album.
It is a good system, and one I think should be adapted to movie-writing. Especially action movies. These days, Hollywood studios churn out action flicks at a remarkable rate, and like it or not, they feature a lot of computer-generated imagery. This does not mean they cannot make good action movies, it just means the bad ones are more likely to slip through net. Like a fresh coat of paint on a structurally unsound house, a well-known actor and a couple of big CGI fight scenes are too often used to distract from a bad movie’s flaws.
This is where the AC/DC piano method comes in. Only not with a piano.
When watching an action movie trailer, imagine the lead actor has been replaced by a duck—a large duck that can speak English and fire a prop gun, but a duck nonetheless. This removes the appeal of the star’s physical appearance, as well as their reputation (a string of good movies does not guarantee his or her next one will be a winner). The duck method strips away the muscles/curves and the name recognition, and leaves a (sometimes painfully) bare view of the movie’s plot, dialogue and believability.
The unfortunate state of affairs is that not much these days passes the duck test. Evidently, the bankability of sequels and superheroes is more appealing to studio executives than originality and substance. The John Wick films, in my opinion, passed the test. Though they were action driven, there was enough story and character to make them worthwhile. I could imagine John Wick as a duck. Compare those movies to the new DC Comics franchise. Put a duck in the Batman suit and it doesn’t work. It is just a bunch of nonsense wrapped in costumes and explosions.
The best example of a good action flick is (with a few corny exceptions) the James Bond movies. With charisma, thrills and fun, the films are made so even a duck 007 would be as delightful as a Sean Connery one. I mean, a waterfowl with a licence to kill, driving a missile-equipped Aston Martin? Who wouldn’t want to watch that?
24″ x 16″ Acrylic on canvas
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