Action movies have been a staple of Hollywood for decades, and despite the rise of superhero movies in re- cent years, the action genre has remained relevant and popular. In fact, the recent releases of Keanu Reeves’ John Wick 4 and Tom Cruise’s Top Gun: Maverick have proven that action heroes are still dominating the industry. Both movies have been released and have received critical acclaim and box office success, further solidifying the enduring appeal of the genre.
A RESURGENCE OF ACTION MOVIES
According to a report by the New England Centre for Investigative Reporting, action movies have seen a resurgence in recent years. This is due in part to the success of franchises like the Fast and Furious series, which has grossed over $6 billion worldwide, and the John Wick franchise, which has also grossed a hefty amount worldwide. These movies have proven that audiences still have a thirst for high-octane action and larger-than-life heroes.
YOU CAN ALSO READ: JK 1971 TALE OF AN UNSUNG HERO
The pandemic and the resulting isolation had a profound effect on the film industry. The growth of streaming services meant that movies had to adapt to stay relevant. As movie theatres opened and audiences gradually returned to them, this sector began to rehabilitate. However, the options at the box office may not have been as attractive to the general public. In this context, the follow- ing stood out Spider-Man: No Way Home in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After this feature film, few titles competed to establish themselves on the billboard as a production capable of attracting thousands of spectators. In this case, it is not a question of cinematographic quality. During these years, many good films have been released. The differential detail is the box office, together with the positive reviews that some of them have received. In this sense, Top Gun: Maverick and John Wick 4, as action productions, are the most relevant cases of the last three years.
The success of Top Gun: Maverick and John Wick 4 also highlights the difference between the superhero and action movie genres. The stories about superheroes have taken up a space that previously could have been occupied by movies like Die Hard.
Although the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Extended Universe offer action films, they do not respond to the same style of other iconic pieces such as The Matrix. Particularly if we pay attention to a key detail: most of the productions of these franchises are part of a whole in which they are related to each other.
In contrast to superhero stories, other kinds of action movies offer characters that are usually more vulnerable. This factor is key when thinking about verisimilitude and closeness to the viewer.
Top Gun: Maverick and John Wick 4 are productions that do not claim an intellectual as a spectator nor to someone who has seen a whole cinematic universe. Their stories are self-contained and offer a more personal and emotional connection with the audience. The success of these movies also suggests that audiences are looking for a different type of hero in these times, one that is more grounded and relatable.
JOHN WICK 4: CHANGING THE GAME
The John Wick franchise has been a game-changer for the action genre, and the release of John Wick 4 was highly anticipated. The movie has continued to raise the bar for action filmmaking, with its innovative fight choreography and attention to detail, cementing Keanu Reeves’ status as an action icon.
John Wick’s premise of a hitman coming out of retirement to avenge his dog’s death seemed risky at first. However, after Keanu Reeves brought on directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch to do just that, the film and its three sequels proved just how popular that premise could be.
The franchise has transformed into an amalgam of underworld intrigue, wonderfully choreographed fight scenes, and tongue-in-cheek knowingness that has made it a cable and streaming service mainstay.
World-build- ing like this put Wick creatively head and shoulders above several franchise competitors. Its action scenes could go toe-to-toe with those of, say, a Jason Bourne movie. But whereas those are political espionage thrillers set in the world of the CIA, Wick’s titular assassin operates in an imagined universe where criminal organizations have their own currency with those iconic gold coins, rules, switchboard, and governing bodies aka the High Table.
Meanwhile, the Wick films offer a more adult-friendly alternative to superhero movies. Superhero flicks are fun as hell, but their action is more sanitized, laden with CGI, and ultimately beholden to the tropes of comics in a way the Wick franchise is not. Wick’s playground is built around action as a storytelling tool and a character-building one. John Wick: Chapter 4 was released in 2023, and it surpassed expectations by breaking box office records in its opening weekend.
The movie’s success has led to a spinoff movie in the works about a ballerina assassin called Ballerina, played by Ana de Armas, and a TV series called The Continental based on the early days of the titular hotel’s owner, Winston. Despite the humble beginnings of the franchise, the popularity of the John Wick movies has proven to be the basis of something refreshingly unique: an entirely new canon. John Wick is just based on the fact that people like to watch Keanu Reeves fight and shoot guns and do car chases. Not bad for a series spawned from the death of a hitman’s dog.
TOM CRUISE’S TOP GUN: MAVERICK
Tom Cruise is another actor who has become synonymous with action movies, and his recent film, Top Gun: Maverick, was a highly anticipated sequel to the 1986 hit Top Gun. The film sees Cruise reprising his role as Maverick, and it was released worldwide in May 2022.
According to Forbes, the success of Top Gun: Maverick, grossing over $1.49 billion worldwide, could signal a shift away from the dominance of superhero movies in Hollywood. The sequel was directed by Joseph Kosinski, known for his stunning visuals and action-packed set pieces, and starred a host of talented actors, including Jennifer Connelly,
Jon Hamm, and Miles Teller. Top Gun: Maverick was praised for its thrilling aerial sequences, which were captured using the latest technology, and Cruise’s performance as Maverick was as impressive as ever. The success of Top Gun: Maverick is a testament to the enduring appeal of the franchise, which has been a box-office sensation since the original film’s release in 1986.
The film grossed $356 million worldwide, an impressive feat considering its relatively small budget of $15 million. The sequel, with an estimated budget of $170 million, blew those numbers out of the water. Overall, Top Gun: Maverick proved that non- superhero action movies still have a place in Hollywood and can draw in huge audiences. The film’s success has sparked hope that more filmmakers will take risks with original action movie concepts in the future.
ACTION MOVIES VS SUPERHERO MOVIES
While superhero movies have certainly been dominating the box office in recent years, there’s no denying that action movies still have a place in the industry. As an article in Pedestrian notes, action movies offer a different kind of escapism than superhero movies. While superhero movies often focus on fantastical worlds and superhuman abilities, action movies tend to be more grounded in reality, with heroes who are skilled fighters or soldiers. This can make them more relatable to audiences and offer a different kind of thrill. Moreover, action movies can often have a wider appeal than superhero movies, which may only appeal to fans of the comic book source material. For example, the Fast and Furious franchise has been hugely successful despite not being based on a preexisting comic book property. Additionally, action movies can feature a diverse range of characters and stories, whereas superhero movies have often been criticised for lacking representation and diversity. To wrap up, while superhero movies may be dominating the industry, the success of non-superhero action franchises like John Wick and Top Gun prove that there is still a place for action heroes on the big screen. With their emphasis on skill and physicality, action movies offer a different kind of thrill and escapism than superhero movies, and it’s clear that audiences still love to see larger-than-life heroes in action. And as the movie industry continues to evolve and change, it’s likely that we’ll see a continued demand for these kinds of movies.