Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Last Great Fight Scene: Capt. America vs. Winter Soldier

Poetry in motion is a form of artistry that exhibits style, grace and fluidity that is as insightful and impactful as the use of words.  Dance is considered poetry in motion.  Hitting a sequence of moves, practiced and perfected by a choreographer.  In cinema, choreography is used to get actors from point A to point B, anything as navigating an actor scene that may involve numerous extras to timing an actor's entrance into a scene.  A common use of choreography in cinema is a fight scene.

A fight scene is a common in an action movie.  There's a hero of the movie who has an adversary that most likely has a gang of goons on deck that will try their best to take the hero out, fail and the main adversary usually won't square up until the penultimate scene in the movie.  A fight scene will be  constructed to entice various levels of intensity, high pace action and a few tricks up the sleeve.  The last great fight scene that factored all of this and an underlining mystery was the highway fight in Captain America: Winter Soldier.  The last great fight scene in American cinema.  Now that's big claim to say but hear me out, it's absolutely true.

(Now I'd like to clarify, the highway fight in Winter Soldier was the last great fight in American cinema.  I know you were thinking of The Raid and The Raid 2, so I'll stop you there.  The Raid was made in Indonesia later bought by Sony for distribution.) 

In recent years, fight scenes have become in layman's terms: hectic.  The camera is shaking heavily, editing is swift with little to no choreography, all while two actors are in battled in a fight.  Action fans and critics chose one movie franchise to blame for this "Chaos Cinema" a term coined by Matthias Stork in his three-part 2011 Press Play video analysis of modern action techniques, the Jason Bourne series.

When Bourne Identity came out it was seen as a smart, gripping and kinetic action thriller.  The fight scenes were fast paced, the cameras didn't stay on the actors for no longer than 1-2 seconds.  The fights were good but it left some confusion and general lack of space.  This doesn't take away from the fights themselves but it began a trend that many action movies copied for years.  What stands out about the fight in Winter Soldier it's the first fight in years that was refreshing old school action movie fight. 

There's various elements in the fight that makes it great includes gun fire, great hand to hand, a sprinkle of wrestling moves and specialty moves thanks to Winter Soldier's metal arm.  All without too many closeups, which are dominate in today's action scenes.  The framing of the scene mixed between close tight knit fighting to a wide shots for Cap's legendary shield to be thrown away to be brought back later into the fight.

The music helped build the fight into much more.  Stopping and slowly building after each stoppage.  Not allowing the music to overtake the scene, the tribal drumming in the hand to hand combat triggered the audience to get amp.  After The Winter Soldier throws Cap over a hood of a car, the tone in the music makes it feel like a roller coaster climbing to the big reveal at the end of the fight.  All this wrapped together for one of the biggest movies to come out in 2014.

An honorable mention goes to the hotel fight between Gina Carano and Michael Fassbender in 2011's Haywire.  One, the actors did their own stunts.  Two, you saw everything.  Literally everything.  No fast cuts that took away from the action, the camera caught every fist and kick.  And third, it was silent, just the sound of fists, body blows and glass breaking.  The movie wasn't half bad either.