Forget Superheroes And Sequels, Bring Back The ’90s Action Blockbuster

By Robert Scucci | Published

With both the MCU and DCEU struggling to break even with their most recent releases, we can’t help but wonder if superheroes and multiverses are wearing out their welcome at the multiplex. And when you look at the box office revenue for films like The Marvels and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, the numbers are nothing compared to recent action blockbuster films like Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, or John Wick: Chapter 4.

As moviegoers continue to experience superhero fatigue, action blockbusters seem to be making a comeback, and we’re reminded of the ’90s when studios seemingly had Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer on speed dial.

It’s Time To Bring Back The ’90s Style Action Blockbuster

Remember those golden years when filmmakers would set off enough explosions to level a small city so Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and even Nicolas Cage could pop off a one-liner and wink at the camera? We’re talking about the glory days of the action blockbuster, when we went into a movie theater knowing exactly what we were signing up for: a totally unrealistic premise, linear storytelling, a clear distinction between good and evil, and an unthinkable body count.

And there’s something to be said about how entertaining an action blockbuster could truly be despite the genre’s inherent ridiculousness.

An Obvious But Enjoyable Formula

Nobody is going into Con Air without willfully suspending their disbelief. Nobody walked out of the movie theater after watching Armageddon wondering why NASA didn’t just train astronauts how to drill into an asteroid instead of training a bunch of blue-collar workers how to be astronauts. Nobody in the 90s walked into an action blockbuster with the intention of thinking critically, and we’re not saying this to insult the viewing audience.

The whole point of big-budget action blockbuster movies is to take extremely relatable protagonists, throw them into heightened situations, put their familiar something in danger, all while they’re learning a thing or two about the folly of man. And there will always be bonus points if our hero somehow runs through a field of bullets completely unscathed just before jumping off an exploding dock in slow-motion and landing safely in the water below.

Simply put, big-budget action blockbusters are made to entertain, and they do so in spades.

Critics Don’t Praise The ’90s Action Blockbuster, But Audiences Overwhelmingly Love Them

nicolas cage

Action blockbusters, especially ones from the ’90s, are known for having disproportionately high audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes compared to critical reviews. It’s almost as if these movies weren’t made with critics in mind. But it doesn’t matter what the critics think, because the audience understands the assignment. For context, Con Air’s critical score was 58 percent. Audiences, on the other hand, gave it a 75 percent.

We Can’t Relate To Superheroes And Their Powers

lightning lasers

What’s more, an action blockbuster is the ultimate form of wish-fulfillment. It’s hard to relate to any superhero in the MCU or DCEU because nobody gets superpowers in real life. Last time we checked, getting bitten by a radioactive spider will probably just kill you.

But in action blockbuster movies, our heroes tell off their superiors and break the law because they need to stop somebody who’s breaking an even bigger law. A solid action blockbuster will take you on one last job, but before you can even think about rolling your eyes, you’re hooked because the pacing thrusts you into the story.

And when a reporter shoves his microphone in our hero’s face while asking a snarky question after the final showdown, he gets decked, and we all collectively think, “yeah, that guy had it coming.”

We Need To Bring Back Shorter Run Times

But most importantly, a great action blockbuster only needs 90 minutes or so to get its point across. If you want to talk about how to cure superhero fatigue, you can’t have that conversation without bringing up the runtime of some of these movies. At the end of the day, over-the-top action movies are the ultimate escape from reality. If we were to see a reboot of the ’90s action blockbuster style of filmmaking, we definitely wouldn’t complain.