Just like two weeks ago, this is going to be more about general story telling than actual game design, but yet again these stuff can also be applied to game design if you use this knowledge creatively.
Anyway, I’ve seen so many Action Movies that give you that awesome feeling of suspense and scenes where the characters end up doing death defying stunts and all that.
I’ve also seen many Comedies where you laugh your ass off due to a hilarious physical scene, like two poor chaps who try to get something heavy up the stairs.
And lastly I’ve also seen movies where you have both suspense and humour at the same time, like Jackie Chan movies.
Now notice how the previous two are very general, since for the Action Movies you can very easily picture either Mission Impossible, but you could just as easily picture James Bond or the Matrix. For the Comedy it could just as easily be Laurel and Hardy or Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin. But the third one I specifically say Jackie Chan.
That’s because generally, nobody does the combination of the two genres as well as Jackie Chan. At least in my opinion.
Yes there are funny scenes in Action Movies, even within the actual Action Scenes. And yes, Comedies ARE able to get suspense from the subject manner of their Comedy, heck I’ll quote Leo Rosten here: “Humour is the affectionate communication of insight”. Comedy is a great way of demonstrating the tragedy or to put more context to the darker subject matters.
It’s also again why “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” is my favourite story of all time, and yes I WOULD have married that play since I love it so much. Sadly I don’t think Tom Stoppard would have approved of that marriage. Mostly because he has no idea who I am.
But back to the point, why is it that Jackie Chan’s mixture of Action Comedy just works so well for me?
Well personally, I think it’s because he builds on both the strengths of Action and Comedy individually and made them work together so well.
Action and Comedy is all about build up. You bring the context into the scene as quick as possible and you keep building up from there, adding twists and turns along the way until it comes to an awesome climax.
In hindsight, the lack of the above seems to be a problem with current Action and Comedy movies nowadays since they tend to just stagnate in one place until it goes to the next scene, but that’s for another time. It’s not like there AREN’T current Action and Comedy movies that do that anymore, I’m just talking the majority here.
Anyway with Jackie Chan movies there’s a very simple context, and it just builds up around that context. He has something the bad guys want, the bad guys want to get him, oh no, he’s running away from them, crap a truck is in the way, oh don’t worry, Jackie does a funny stunt to get away from that guy using the truck, oh wait the enemy now thought of something to do with the truck, etc. etc.
When writing action, it’s not always about what kind of long Shakespearean Soliloquys you can put in a scene, sometimes it just works to have a simple concept and have the characters interact around it.
What makes Jackie Chan scenes work is that it’s a two-way street. Yes, many fans simply look at Jackie as he does his stunts, but I personally constantly look at the bad guys. Just their expressions and their looks of surprise as they suddenly realize that Jackie expertly dodged something in a way they didn’t expect. But the bad guys aren’t stupid either, they constantly think on the fly too. They also pick up random stuff on the ground or in the room and try throwing it against Jackie.
There are people who seem to have this idea that serious action and comedic slapstick don’t belong together. I disagree, I think just as much as Comedic Writing can help Dramatic Writing, so can Comedic Slapstick help Action Choreography. It humanizes the fighters. It makes us care about them and makes us root for their survival.
Sure you can’t have literal Tom and Jerry Cartoon physics in the exact same scene where the characters suddenly have Hunger Games types of injury, but that is why new stories should be made specifically tailored to the right mixture of Slapstick and Action.
I mean think about it, it’s not like a guy being hit with a hammer and walking dizzily is any less realistic than the kinds of action sequences you see nowadays where someone is shot and just walks it off as a flesh wound. At the very least the slapstick shows the character as being vulnerable, which is exactly what is missing from Action Movies nowadays to begin with.
Bottom line, just have a simple context for your scenes, add more and more complications to it that work for and against the main character, have it be a two-way street where the villains also think for themselves and just add some humanity to the characters by adding some vulnerability with the slapstick.
Oh, and maybe also have characters that are likable, that may help too.