Thursday, November 12, 2009
Dissection of an Action Sequence
PITTING THE PLIGHTS OF YOUR PROTAGONISTS UNWITTINGLY AGAINST ONE ANOTHER
A good action sequence should always raise the stakes and have the reader or viewer genuinely concerned for the safety of the protagonists. I believe it should have layers and a level of complexity that doesn't necessarily make the reader or viewer have to think, but delivers some sort of twist or surprise. The best action sequences are the ones that make me think, "Wow! I didn't see that coming!"
When the forces of good act unknowingly in opposition to one another, you've got a great recipe for suspense and action. One of my favorite action sequences of all time is "Hire Wire Stunts" from Jurassic Park. There's no real chase and fast-flying action in it, but it delivers a great deal of tension because it pits Ellie's (Laura Dern) efforts to rescue everyone unwittingly against the survival of Alan (Sam Neill) and the kids, Lex and Timmy. Ellie has to turn the island's power on if they all want to get out of the park alive, but in doing so she endangers Timmy who is climbing the electric fence at the precise moment Ellie powers up the island. The stakes are high and there's a very short fuse before Timmy gets fried. It's wonderful writing!