They’re making movies based on bestsellers, videogames and 1970s toys. Fight choreographers are using everything from wushu to krav maga to Brazilian Jui Jitsu. But the search never stops. It’s always about what’s next, what’s new. Here are my 10 picks for action auteurs to take a gander at.
1. Puroresu: Japanese pro wrestling. Have you seen this stuff? It’s nuts. Check out this video, or this one, and this one. American wrestlers here know all about it and respect their Japanese counterparts. Many travel to Japan to test their skills and pain threshold. It can be played serious or comedic. Imagine a "Semi Pro"-style wrestling comedy where Will Farrell getting knocked off the top turnbuckle like this!
2. Savate: I can’t believe Jean Claude Van Damme has spent his entire career without making a savate movie. I can’t believe Mike Judge is the only one who sees the potential in a Victorian-era chopsocky picture. Silas Murder indeed.
3. Dirigibles: Michael York starred in a pretty good movie called "Zeppelin," which has a pretty awesome theme. There was "The Red Tent" with Sean Connery, which has an even better score by Ennio Morricone. But the mighty airship hasn’t gotten as much love as it should. Imagine you’re in a slow-moving aircraft that can at any moment explode in a fireball all around you. If that’s not a formula for excitement, I don’t know what is.
4. Renaissance Warfare: We’ve had medieval epics, we’ve had flintlock weapons, but here’s a period that combines them. In the years before the flintlock musket and bayonet became standard, infantrymen were armed with either long pikes or match-firing muskets. The nobility still suited up in armor and rode into battle with lances, only now they were charging down cannons and men with long swords hacked away at men armed with muskets.
5. Sammo Hung-style Kung Fu: Fans of ’80s Hong Kong action know Sammo Hung, late of the series "Martial Law," is the man. Ow, ow, ow. That’s all you can say after you’ve seen a really well-done Sammo Hung fight scene. He combined the hard-hitting style of Bruce Lee with Jackie Chan’s insane stuntwork to produce some of the most breathtaking action sequences ever filmed. Wire Fu is rampant now; to be honest, a lot of it looks like an audition tape for Cirque du Soleil. Look at this fight from Sammo’s classic "Dragons Forever" (here’s part two).
6. Kaiju: The United States has always been a little slow on this genre, but I think we’re ready to embrace the tale of a giant something or other lurching out of the ocean. Yeah, I know we tried with our version of Godzilla. But we have our own glorious history of giant monster movies. These movies feed into many of the same fears that are powering the resurgence of zombie movies. Done right, a giant monster movie could tap those same fears.
7. Steampunk: This is one of the most popular sci-fi genres. It includes bestsellers like "Boneshaker." What is it? Imagine Jules Verne on steroids (below) and you have a pretty good idea. It’s been creeping into mainstream movies at the edges. "Sherlock Holmes" was the closest thing to a full-fledged steampunk movie in quite a while and it didn’t do too badly at the B.O.
8. Frank Frazetta: In honor of the fallen master. It’s worth noting that only two Hollywood films ever really embraced Frazetta’s iconic sword-and-sorcery aesthetic, "Fire and Ice" and the original "Conan the Barbarian." But this well can’t possibly be dry. It combines Brazilian beachwear with huge pointy swords. What more do you need?
9. Risk: How the hell did Viewmaster and Stretch Armstrong get movie deals before the game of Risk?
10. Hwacha: Seriously, have you seen this thing? Watch this "Mythbusters" clip (below). How is this not already in every movie? "300" would have been 300 times cooler if Xerxes had pulled a Hwacha out of his arsenal. Yes, that would have been 1,400 years too early, but "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" had Celts turn up in 13th-century Britain.