I’ve been reading a great series of essays this year on the A.V. Club called “A History of Violence.” Critic Tom Breihan picks his favorite action movie from each year starting in 1968 to discuss why it’s a standout, an audacious task with terrific results.
It got me thinking about storytelling and our fear of re-telling the same stories over and over in our marketing. Let’s study these action examples to allay our concerns.
Breihan’s picks have me excited about seeing some classics I’ve missed and re-watching old favorites. It’s amazing to see the depth and breadth of his choices going back 40 years.
My personal favorites include “Die Hard,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Speed” and “The Terminator.”
What’s even more amazing is his deep dive into the language of cinema and how directors and writers transformed the action experience over the decades. As audience members, we take a lot for granted when it comes to film literacy. Many of us have near-instant access to all of these movies, and grew up spoiled on cheap video rentals from the corner store or free from the library.
Studying movies was once limited to new releases and rare theatrical encore runs. We can easily review a wide variety of action genres, styles, actors and directors. As much as I love reading about films, I’d much rather watch these examples carefully to understand why they work and how they built on previous works (or completely up-ended them). Editing alone has made scenes of hand-to-hand combat more powerful and raw.
Action hasn’t grown stale, even if the plot elements — explosions, shoot-outs, car chases, stabbings, fisticuffs — persist. It grows and changes to match fans, technology and budgets.
As marketers, we have to put aside the notion that we have nothing new to say. It’s up to us to build our stories in creative ways to challenge our audience, engage them in a way they aren’t seeing elsewhere.
Not every campaign has to feature fireworks. But, like action movies, we must hone our message to get pulses racing and people gasping.
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