Car chases. Beautiful love interests. Exotic locations, intense fight scenes, and snappy one-liners. No matter how you look at it, pretty much any action movie is about a thousand times more bitchin’ than anything you’ve ever experienced in your own boring existence. You might (reasonably) conclude that your life would be awesome if you jumped into an action movie, but you would be wrong. If you think about it, you will soon realize that life sucks for everybody in action-movie-land. Let’s proceed systematically:
1) The random bystander
Remember those people who are credited as “Mall Cop #3” or “Syphilitic Girl #2”? Yeah, me neither. These are the Average Joes of the world who live the least action-y existences of anyone in an action movie. Their main role is to simply exist while the other characters do all the awesome stuff. This sounds an awful lot like reality. The main difference is that living in the movie means that now you die all the time. Remember all those villainous plots that plan to kill untold thousands? That means you.
Okay, so the hero usually saves the untold thousands from the villains, but the heroes are sometimes distracted by witty banter with hot co-stars. Randos die all the time in Speed, despite Keanu Reeves’s best efforts at imitating a statue. And you know that Jack Bauer wouldn’t hesitate to use you as bait in order to lure the terrorist-turned-CIA-men-turned-terrorists off his trail; a 20 second distraction is more valuable to the action hero than a random-bystander’s life. In other words, you are the equivalent of about a third of a FailBlog video.
“But wait,” I know you are saying, “I won’t be one of those bystanders. I’ll be one of the cool characters.” Considering how action movie chase sequences seem to use a ratio of one cool person for every three gazillion people standing in the background, odds are you are one of the three gazillion, especially if you are not a ninja-trained super-assassin with hair that stays put in a top-down convertible. But sure, let’s assume that you are…
2) The henchman
Really? Do you really need an explanation as to why being a henchman in an action movie would be terrible? It would be as if you jumped into the movie and somebody handed you a gun with the instructions to shoot that unstoppable embodiment of badassery over there. Movie henchmen never learn that this will always fail epically. Just consider the hordes of goons dispatched against James Bond every time he infiltrates some stronghold. Then consider how many of those goons walk away unharmed. In other words, becoming a henchman would be awesome for about five minutes, after which you would be dead. Your death, for the record, would still be reasonably awesome: maybe falling off a cliff, taking a spear to the chest, or simply exploding along with your flux-capacitor-enabled hang glider. It is important to note, though, that it might seem less awesome from your perspective.
The same applies for the “super-henchmen” – those henchmen who are exceptionally tough and might have dialogue or even (gasp) character traits. Think of James Bond movies again: just about every archenemy has some super-henchmen with some awesome characteristic (Oddjob had his bowler hat, Jaws had his jaws, that woman from Goldeneye killed men during sex [giggity], etc.). The only differences between the super-henchmen and the regular henchmen is that the super-henchmen are more awesome and last through most of the movie (so far, so good) but then die the most spectacular death of any character (a minor catch). Even the rare super-henchmen who survive spectacular deaths (here’s looking at you, Jaws) eventually disappear from continuity and presumably go on to becoming accountants, which would not be awesome.
But what if you had some power? You know, someone like…
3) The archenemy
Congratulations. You are the head of an evil enterprise, complete with evil plan, evil henchmen, and an evil impenetrable fortress. You have the resources to be on top of the world, and you now have to means to do something about it. Too bad that your life will shortly collapse into a steaming pile of evil.
First, consider that most of your henchmen have the intelligence and competence of the evil toilet into which you empty your evil bowels. The guys charged with implementing your complex and important plan and with your protection will never succeed in beating the hero. Second, you will feel compelled to create intricate plans to defy the tenets of physics, international law, and Kosher dietary restrictions. An example of such a plan would be using a satellite-based bacon launcher to menace the world. Who cares if it doesn’t make any sense? It is evil and will require an action hero to stop it. The plan’s complexity will play a big role in its ultimate failure as it will take tons of time, money and sexy distractions to execute. You might come close to victory, at minute 86 when the popcorn is running low and people need to be kept interested, but you will fail. The hero will stop you at the last minute, as a convenient visible clock counts down the seconds, which really means that you should have cut down on the sexy distractions. Third, the action hero will eventually kill you. That might just ruin your day.
Of course, before your demise, fate will force you to have an extended conversation with the action hero, which will end with you chuckling and stroking your white cat and circling each other, or with the action hero just straight up shooting yo’ face. In the end, the archenemy is simply an extended version of a henchman in that you will end up doing extremely stupid things (like thinking you could beat the action hero) before dying. At least your death will also be awesome to watch. “But I want to be a good guy,” you might say. Oh, how naïve…
4) The hero’s boss and friends
This one should be a no-brainer – how can life not be fantastic when James Bond is your buddy? Actually, very easily.
Option #1: You are the hero’s boss. Good for you. Somehow or other, you are now the one person who can give sass to the hero without receiving a fist to the mouth, and if that doesn’t mean you’re special, then nothing will. In a best case scenario, you are like M from the James Bond movies, where you send 007 on globe-trotting missions. Bond runs out the door to fight today’s mustache-twirling megalomaniac, leaving you… still in your office. Then you wait. Then you make figurines out of paperclips. Then the situation will worsen and you will question the wisdom of sending one agent to take down a worldwide conspiracy. The hero will eventually save the day and return to find you… still in your office. Still making paperclip families. Sure, you have a great chance of living through the movie and beyond, but your life will be glorified bureaucratic work, where memos often include words like “global panic,” “nuclear device,” and “28th sexual harassment case filed against 007.” The worst case scenario would be if you were the Treadstone guys from the Jason Bourne movies, where your less-than-innocent actions cause the world’s greatest super-assassin to turn against you. You can’t just say “Whoops” and shrug your shoulders to that kind of screw-up. Guess how everything turns out (hint: see “archenemy” category above, especially the part about dying).
Option #2: You are one of the hero’s friends. The friends share some similarities with the bosses: many will not participate in the action (like Bond’s Q); others will die because they came within a thousand feet of the hero (like Jason Bourne’s girlfriend, Marie), and still others become traitorous archenemies (like Sean Bean in Goldeneye). If they do join the hero’s adventures, friends usually cause more problems than they solve as the hero must defend/rescue his comrades or undo the damage caused by them. In fact, action heroes must by definition be extremely patient or else more movies would include more heroes killing their annoying entourage (if only that happened to Jar Jar Binks…). Also, let’s be real, if you were friends with James Bond, you would have no game in comparison.
But surely we’re missing the best role, right? What if you were…
5) The action hero
The action hero is THE guy you would want to be if you lived in an action movie, and this should be doubly so since we’ve already shown how much everybody else’s life ranges from annoying to downright terrible. Think of an action movie character. If you didn’t think of James Bond, Jason Bourne, Indiana Jones, John Rambo, or John McClane, then you are either a liar who does not deserve to enjoy action movies or a person who has recently suffered massive brain trauma. (Knowing Tiger’s usual readership, I wish you a speedy recovery and encourage you to avoid mixing alcohol and longboarding.) These guys are super cool, right? So what’s the problem?
First, action heroes generally have the most stressful jobs on the planet, as any split-second decision can result in either global euphoria or the nuclear wasteland that allows monkeys to enslave the human race. Okay, maybe the scales might be a little less severe than that, but the heroes are the only ones who can possibly foil the evil plot. I get stressed out when writing a paper about ancient Greek literature, so if somebody told me “You must now kill Hans Gruber and his posse of East German soldiers or else you and your loved one will die,” I would need a fresh pair of pants.
Let’s say you are fine with the stress. What about the fact that you are perhaps the unluckiest person on Planet Earth? Just think of the Die Hard movies. Die Hard features one unlucky cop, John McClane, caught in a bad situation and powering through. Great. But then we get three more movies of him stumbling into random crises that only he can solve. Wait, just kidding. Four movies. Die Hard 5 hits theaters in 2012. Does that leave him time to pursue his real passion of underwater basket weaving? No. No it does not.
To generalize the issue, action movies tend to wrap up their problems rather nicely. Sequels or an entire series then emerge as the hero improbably encounters new problems or struggles with the same issues (like the Jason Bourne trilogy). Also, bear in mind that your friends and love interests tend to die because of their connection to you or they simply disappear never to be mentioned again. While the idea of a romantic fling might sound awesome to you, this would kind of suck if you forgot about people after a three-day friendship. Do you ever see James Bond swapping cell numbers with his latest “companion” (the full-figured kind)? No. It’s extremely hard to text while cartwheeling and aiming machine guns. Basically, if you want to have constant stress, bad luck that would make Job laugh at you, and isolation from society, then you should either become an action hero or explore online gambling.
By Matt Pritchard