When theatergoers find their seats to watch "Safe" on April 27, 2012, Jason Statham fans will be excited to see his latest action movie. Fans might wonder why Statham has not become a household name like Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and other major action stars in the decade since "The Transporter." The environment of the action movie has changed, and there is not much room left for traditional action stars.
The Action Movie's Rise and Fall
When thinking about action movies, people often think about the over-the-top examples from the 1980s, when Stallone and Schwarzenegger truly made their mark. The movies ended up becoming carbon copies of each other as studios tried to make the films more and more fantastic.
By the time the 1990s were in swing, actors like Stallone, Willis, and Schwarzenegger were expanding into other areas like comedies and the formation of Planet Hollywood. Meanwhile, the direct-to-video and direct-to-cable markets inundated screens with action movies.
Though we always had A-list action stars like Stallone and B-list action stars like Steven Seagal and Jean Claude Van Damme, these new markets opened doors for C-list and D-list stars. Studios simply used a formula where an action star would get in a handful of fights, make love to a beautiful woman, and then a building would explode.
Though we still have action movies today, we do not have any well-known names appearing in new films year after year. The top of the market anyone can hope for is secondary recognition, as Statham has gained.
The action movie heroes of today all wear colorful uniforms and were originally created by either Marvel or DC. There is not much room anymore for a character who is simply a great fighter when the market is filled with super soldiers, demigods, eccentric billionaire crime fighters, and altered humans.
If the superhero genre falls flat in the future, there is a good chance for traditional action heroes like Statham to rise again. The action market right now is dominated by larger-than-life superheroes, leaving no room for larger-than-life action heroes who happen to be normal people out of costume. Maybe movies like "Safe" will draw the crowds in after a few more years, but not right now.
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