It's not every day that you get to see a filmmaking convention change before your very eyes.
Over the years, action films have evolved in many different ways, but perhaps the most noticeable change can be seen in how action sequences and fight scenes are shot and edited. To highlight this, video essayist Kevin B. Lee juxtaposes three different fight scenes from the 'Bourne' films, The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum, in order to compare how drastically different action and violence is represented on screen in the span of just 5 years.
There's no doubt that action sequences have changed over the years. In the past, filmmakers wanted to ensure that their audiences could follow what was going on in the scene by carefully choreographing fights and camera movement, shooting on wider lenses to capture more of the action, and using longer edits so viewers could follow. You can see this clearly in the first fight scene from The Bourne Identity.
Filmmakers today try to overload the audience's senses with a ton of rapid-fire action, resulting in an intense adrenaline rush that fans love and want more of.
However, things are different now—so, so different. Filmmakers today actually try to do the opposite: they try to overload the audience's senses with a ton of rapid-fire action, resulting in an intense adrenaline rush that fans love and want more of. This brand of filmmaking is what video essayist and scholar Mattias Stork calls chaos cinema, which relies on rapid editing (or what film theorist David Bordwell calls "intensified continuity"), tight shots, and disorienting camera movement.
There are advantages and disadvantages with both styles: one is clear and easy to follow, while the other is disorienting. One might be a little boring to today's standards, while the other is super exciting but potentially more confusing. Regardless of your tastes, though, it's incredible to see how something can change so much in so little time. It makes you wonder what fight scenes will look like in 2021!