It’s an amazing talent to be able to take the part of a movie that by definition should be exciting and engaging, then make it a boring chore to sit through. There are some directors that have made an absolute art form out of doing so. So how do they do it, you may ask?
The easiest way is to pause the movie for an over long period of time without progressing the plot. Our culture is so saturated with amazing action films that even die hard adrenaline junkie doesn’t need to sacrifice narrative to enjoy their explosions and punching. In fact, involving story lines create the stakes that make a good conflict so enjoyable.
If you pause your movie for what is tantamount to punching porn, there’s a special circle of hell reserved for you. Here’s a list of 5 egregious examples of movies that managed to make action scenes the most boring part of their entire movie. In order based on which action sequence did the greatest damage to the film or franchise as a whole:
5. King Kong (2005)
Peter Jackson’s 3 hour long remake of King Kong is considered to be a successful film, currently sitting at a Rotten Tomatoes score of 84%. With fantastic acting, a beautiful rendition of a classic tale, and breathtaking cinematography, criticism for this film is thin and hard to come by. Few will argue, however, that it was longer than desired.
A chunk of that blame falls squarely on action sequences, such as a fight between King Kong and a pair of tyrannosauruses that lasted a full 3 minutes by itself. This wasn’t the last time that Peter Jackson sullied an otherwise good movie with overlong scenes that halt all story progression for little more than a CG animated aside, but it’s probably the time the movie was the least damaged by it.
4. Watchmen (2009)
Widely considered to be a near impossible accomplishment, Zack Snyder managed to bring a smoldering, nuanced, and mature graphic novel to the big screen. However, Watchmen only sits at a mediocre 65%, even the more forgiving general audiences have only rated it at 71%. Critics frequently list the superhuman fight scenes as one of the biggest flaws with Watchmen, a movie that is already a little long.
Opening with a punching match between The Comedian and his unknown assailant, the tone of the movie is set right from the beginning with two super humans punching each other endlessly for over 3 minutes. It’s impossible to even be invested in it as neither character appears to suffer pain, shaking off every single punch like it’s nothing. It’s hard to argue that Watchmen wouldn’t have benefited for a more subdued tone, and a shorter run time, and scenes like this are just begging to be cut.
Watcmen only ranks number four on our list because these flaws didn’t diminish the incredible accomplishment of converting a story once considered impossible to film, and to do so with exceptional flare. However, it is hard to say that we couldn’t have gotten something better.
3. Man of Steel (2013)
Zack Snyder strikes again with this 2013 snore fest. Even fans of the Man of Steel find it hard to defend invincible aliens slugging it out with no consequences for anyone except the poor people unfortunate enough to build homes and businesses near their battlegrounds. Snyder is an otherwise competent director, so his insistence on scenes that halt the movie and for which we are never afraid for the well being of any of the combatants is a bit mind boggling.
Weighing in at over four and a half minutes, the Smallville fight scene pauses the progression of the story for a punching match between two characters who we know are invincible. Tiresome and repetitive, it’s a slog of a scene, and not the only one in the movie.
I believe it’s a strong contributing factor to the 55% percent that Man of Steel currently enjoys from Rotten Tomatoes. Man of Steel only ranks at number three on this list because Superman hadn’t really been hot in film leading up to this, and the movie around it was filled with a plethora of other problems, so there wasn’t much damage to do.
2. The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
After the critical and financial success of the first Matrix movie, The Matrix Reloaded was poised to take the world by storm. With 1999’s The Matrix, the Wachowskis created an intense roller coaster ride where every single fight and action scene was an integral part of the story where the status quo changed and characters evolved.
Unlike its predecessor, however, The Matrix Reloaded used fight scenes for filler. Memorable for watching Neo be swamped by fake looking rag doll versions of Mr. Smith, or endlessly hopping across car tops, it’s hard to be invested in a film that follows up such a lasting masterpiece with so little plot across its run time. Given the side by side comparison to the original, this is a perfect example of how more is not the same as better.
When it comes to throwing away so much audience good will, The Matrix Reloaded was more than up to the challenge.
1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
The dubious honor of the movie worst afflicted by boring and lifeless fight scenes that extend well past their welcome is Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. It’s hard to pick just one sequence from this film to warrant propelling this entry to the top of the list. Audiences must trudge through never ending barrel rides down a river or downright Loony Toons chases through the inside of a mountain, both of which detract from the narrative and contribute nothing for the time they consume.
The ridiculous and over the top nature of every action sequence in this movie solidifies it in the number one spot for this list. Between the stifflingly dull film making and how Jackson underwhelmingly conveyed this beloved action adventure novel, you’ll find yourself falling to sleep while trying to endure the 3 hour and 7 minute runtime.
Peter Jackson was hot off of the landmark achievement of transforming The Lord of the Rings to one of the all time great motion pictures, in part by making it more like it’s more action oriented prequel. It’s easy to see how he was tempted to draw The Hobbit out to be more like it’s longer more epic follow up.
If Jackson had been more reserved and used a more level sense of pacing and less overtly cartoonish action sequences, we might have gotten the follow up we deserved.