I’ll just own it right now. I want to see the movie Lockout (which opened today). Here’s the trailer:
I saw it advertised on the ol’ boob tube and the generic male voiceover called it a cross between Bladerunner (one of my faves) and Die Hard. The basic premise of Lockout is that there’s a seriously hardcore prison orbiting Earth, where the scariest criminals are housed.
OH, yeah. Those are a couple of good ingredients for a major action, butt-kicking, big ol’ American blockbuster hootenanny.
Let’s see how many action movie tropes we can pick out in the trailer alone.
Join me for some trope-hunting…
Here’s what I came up with:
1) Scary dudes in a prison (a variety of violent psycho dudes in a variety of sizes with a variety of tats).
2) OH NOES one of the scary dudes manages to create trouble and initiate a chain reaction which allows scary dudes in orbit to take over the prison and threaten to crash it onto Earth’s surface
3) Important person or relative of important person in line of fire. Here, it’s the President’s daughter, who, for whatever crazy reasons, is at the prison on some kind of government-sponsored visit/mission because of course, the President of the US of A can’t find anybody else to go to visit the prison except his freakin’ daughter (more tropage: she’s pretty; BONUS against-the-grain trope: the prez’s daughter is kind of a bad-ass in her own right.
4) SUPER tropage: the guy who can get us out of this is, of course, the brooding, ruggedly handsome, hates-authority, wrongly-convicted-of-espionage, wise-cracking dude who will get his freedom if he can get the prez’s daughter out of the prison alive and before everything goes to hell (at least 5 tropes in 1 dude!).
5) RIDICULOUS (as in, BOO-YUH) action sequences that must include the following: a) our hero looking around, scoping things out b) hero running, intense camera angles c) hero climbing/vaulting/sliding d) hero jumping from either a scary height or across something that’s shaking or both shaking and he’s got a bad guy right behind him e) hero saying something about something he doesn’t like, which is foreshadowing and sets him up to have to deal with that throughout (here, he hates heights, so you know he’ll be having to climb/jump something that involves a lot of height at least once–“snakes…why’d it have to be snakes…”) f) gets smacked around and bashed up (think Bruce Willis in all the Die Hard movies) g) has his own cool weapon or improvises/captures a cool weapon, and camera angles emphasize how cool it is h) more tropes to be determined when I see it! (or add ones you caught in the comments)
I write mysteries and space opera, both of which have their own sets of tropes (you can find my take on space opera tropes here). Tropes are like recipe ingredients. I have my fave recipes, and I never get tired of them. I might tweak the ingredients, tweak the amounts, add something new here or there, but the basic recipe remains the same. So, too, with literary, movie, and TV genres. Certain ingredients work well together and can create a mighty tasty story, as long as they’re cooked and/or mixed well.
Sometimes, they’re not. I’ve seen action movies that employ these trope recipes and they just don’t work. Maybe the movie takes itself too seriously, or maybe it’s just not written well enough to pull it off. Or whatever. Other movies with a good mix gleefully embrace the tropes and give you a wild, awesome romp through action-land. Those movies — the ones in which the tropes work — are “troperiffic.” I’m hoping that Lockout is in the latter category.