It may seem incomprehensible to some people that the movie “Speed” came out 20 years ago at the time of this writing. For many at the time, “Speed” seemed like a new and refreshing form of action movie where the intensity of action never let up after earlier action movies only did half as much and usually in the last act. Those who went to see “Speed” either as kids or adults likely remember thinking that action movies would never be the same again and perhaps almost unmatched in trying to top the relentlessness of pyrotechnics and overall cinematic chaos.
Perhaps the awful sequel a few years later almost killed this idea since other films had nearly surpassed it by 1997 in attempting to prevent audience boredom. It’s led to many movies since that celebrate speed and the philosophy that you shouldn’t let the viewer catch a breath if you want to keep their attention. “The Fast and the Furious” series has perhaps become the evolved successor to “Speed” and what the latter franchise could have turned into had the sequel gone over better.
While the “Fast & Furious” franchise continues to be financially successful at the box office, has the desire by audiences to see more movies trying to top “Speed” continued, or has it waned? There may be a divided camp on that in recent years, especially when trailers promoting such movies might be more turnoffs than turn-ons. And there may be a specific reason why “Fast & Furious” continues to do so well when others like it may not be faring so well with everyone.
Have We Turned Off Fast Action and Pyro?
After “Speed”, it seems that every movie trailer promoting a relentlessly fast-paced action movie bombarded audiences with perpetual pyro and fast-paced action packed into three minutes. It also wasn’t just one movie trailer, but several in a row looking all like one movie with different actors and settings. With trailer volume usually jacked up to capture viewer attention, seeing a series of explosions and car chases before even seeing the movie you came to see wasn’t necessarily loved by all.
Nevertheless, the craving for more movies like “Speed” was definitely there, and it seemed to work enough for a considerably long time. It’s been within the last decade where movies that have constant car chases and fast-paced action scenes started to seem routine. Even trailers for action movies came to the point where it was the same thing over and over and reached the level of being annoying rather than exhilarating. It might not have been that way for everybody (and perhaps still isn’t), though how many times have you ignored action movie trailers recently to do texting on your iPhone or think of something else?
That’s one reason why doing quiet or silent movie trailers is the best way to capture attention today when desensitization to the “Speed” style of action movie probably means more audiences turning it off.
Does that mean the “Speed” style of action movie is becoming outdated? Not if they have a chance to develop compelling characters like the “Fast & Furious” movies have.
Familiarity of Character in Intense Action Movies
Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock had such good chemistry (probably the best chemistry Reeves had with any actress), that you wouldn’t have minded seeing them in a long movie franchise. The sequel could have been saved had Reeves agreed to star in the film, which he didn’t. In the “Fast & Furious” movie franchise, the team of actors has been fairly consistent, other than the third movie, “Tokyo Drift.” In fact, it could be the most interesting action movie cast ever assembled thanks to appealing personalities and characters audiences care about.
Most intense action movies don’t have time to provide character development. The fact that the “Fast & Furious” series has both male and female characters played by appealing actors, it’s no surprise why the franchise continues the waning “Speed” tradition. With a seventh movie out next year, it may keep the genre alive for a while longer based strictly on familiarity.
Any other movie that attempts to copy the same formula of “Speed” 20 years ago may just look as if it’s trying too hard and more than a little anachronistic. To sell such a movie, not giving any contrast between quiet and intense is only going to nurture an audience that’s equivalent to being at a rock concert with earplugs.