Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Dissection of an Action Sequence


I’m currently fine-tuning the climax of my new book THE CURSE OF THE DRAGON and when I need a break I tend to play movies that keep me inspired and thinking about what makes a good action sequence. The other night I put on INDEPENDENCE DAY which is certainly flawed but is basically a solidly entertaining action sci-fi film, mostly because of Will Smith’s energy and also because of the annihiliation scene a third of the way into the movie which, in 1996, blew us all away and still stands up today! One of the reasons this scene works SO well is the lack of music for the majority of it. Very cleverly, the score shuts down just as the alien ships are about to blast the heck out of us, and then when all hell breaks loose, we have no musical cues whatsoever. Nothing but the sound of cars flying through the air and buildings blowing up. The tension is extreme and it heightens the reality of the moment. Without music, there’s no predicting what will happen, no clue as to who will live or die, nothing at all for us to cling to other than the arm of our chairs. Only when Vivica A. Fox sees the blast wave coming (such a nice shot with her completely unaware son in the backseat of the car and a fiery death fast-approaching from behind) does the music kick in and propel us toward the end of the scene. Cue a mother’s determination to save her family, dog and all!!

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