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Action/Adventure films use one of the oldest narrative forms around good vs evil, although the boundaries are

e sometimes rather blurred.

An action adventure film is essentially one long quest with a succession of different chase sequences or action, each one more death defying and seemingly impossible than the one before. The trick for the producers is to ramp up the tension as the film progresses to a storming end sequence. Will our intrepid explorers make it, or will the evil antagonist get there first.

In many respects this genre of films derive their energy from being more exciting, more adult and much more dangerous versions of childrens stories of adventure such as Enid Blightons Famous Five or Arthur Ransomes Swallows and Amazons.

The good protagonist(s) (hero) usually embarks on a quest/journey/adventure. This involves the traditional story structure of there being a normal state of being that is broken by the need to find something or someone, or to embark upon a journey, or both. The forces of evil, the antagonist(s) (villain) necessitate this journey/quest or try to prevent it from happening. There follows a succession of chase sequences, each more spectacular and seemingly more impossible. Along the way sidekicks will be lost or die and evil will win small battles. Sometimes these battles involve the capture of a female sidekick who will then become a damsel in distress and need rescuing. Or the protagonist(s) will be captured but will escape the clutches of evil using their intelligence and physical strength. Whatever the situation the damsel will be rescued and the protagonist(s) will win, against all odds, and complete their quest/journey/adventure.

Characters are very often types and easily recognisable. What they say will move the narrative forwards rather than develop the characters personalities.

12/15 certificate, maximising youth audiences Often hybridised with Sci Fi/Adventure/Romance Major Hollywood studio produced and distributed High production values including CGI FX. Classic Hollywood 3 act narrative structure Predictable chain of events cause and effect Single stranded, linear, closed narrative Dramatic non-diegetic sound More narrative action codes than enigma codes Clear binary opposition Star Marketing: Audience identification/expectations (Cruise/Pitt/Willis/Thurman/Jolie/Stallone/Craig/Schwarz/Di Caprio). Generic Typecasting and Secondary Persona apply Romantic sub-plot, Humorous dialogue A strong story ark of a quest for treasure, or an incredibly valuable object, or an item which has occult power. Love interest that both hinders and supports the main quest. A fast moving narrative with constant set backs that are overcome one by one, leading to fairly complex plots. Use of close up/Insert shots/High Key Lighting Fast paced editing


These are not realistic films, although the characters must be believable. They are set in a stereotypical world of the not too distant past e.g the 1930s, or the fictional world of storybook adventures e.g. The high seas of the 19th century.

A main protagonist who is a recognisably normal guy, and who just happens to have amazing powers of endurance in the face of extreme danger, and is also very clever. Indiana Jones is an archaeology lecturer in an US university. Captain Jack Sparrow is at first an ordinary good for nothing pirate with incredible agility and luck, although he later takes on supernatural powers.

There are always helpers who are a team of innocent characters who happen to get caught up in the action.

Humorous dialogue often diffuses taught and sometimes frightening situations.

The characters take the twist and turns of the plot very seriously as they are often in mortal danger from an assortment of unusual animals, machines and monsters orchestrated by an evil antagonist.

Exotic locations where the characters have to contend with extremes of climate, as well as evil forces.

Some technical codes associated with Action/Adventure films

Sound: Dramatic, often orchestral, non-diegetic soundtrack A mix of diegetic and non-diegetic sound is used to accompany or emphasise the action. Diegetic sound is used to make the scene sound more realistic. Some diegetic sounds are dubbed (added later) to emphasise events or actions, for example gunshots. Editing: Fast paced Tends not to use transitions but favours straight cut editing Emphasises the variety of camera angles and positions used to add to sense of wonder and excitement Transitions tend only to be used to indicate the end of action sequences or movement from one time or place to another. High number of cross-cuts used to allow the viewer to experience both the point of view of good and evil. Usually helps the audience to identify with the hero and to see the threat posed by the villain. Camera: Wide range of camera angles and positions. Close-ups used to emphasise emotions and objects used to drive the narrative forward, weapons for example.

The audience for Action/Adventure tends to be young males, with a significant secondary female audience. The aim is to please the audience by keeping them on the edge of their seats through a series of mind boggling chases, exotic locations and hair raising adventures in historically inaccurate but somehow elementally possible settings. Action Adventure films are designed to create an action-filled, energetic experience for the audience who can live vicariously through the exotic locations, conquests, explorations, struggles and situations that confront the main characters. They provide a diversion from the audiences everyday lives. Audiences identify with the hero and accompany them on their quest/journey/adventure.