Over the recent decades, film technology has increased significantly that we are able to recreate more exciting and fast-paced action scenes using better special effects. One only needs to look back to the 1970s to see the difference. Take for example, the film Battlestar Galactica. Spaceships were warring it out amongst themselves, but you could tell the laser beams of enemy ships and the good guys were merely light being reflected onto strings of model ships. Nowadays we have stunt doubles and pyrotechnics, and the improvements in CGI have meant that it is possible to create a scene without it actually having physically taken place.
Action movies and action scenes draw crowds and revenue. After all, we go to to the movies for some form of escapism – we wouldn’t if the film showed something we were already experincing in real life. In the last few decades, action movies have risen in number. They have always faced criticism about the level of violence inherent, and are often blamed for inciting anti-social behaviour, but is this accusation valid?
In the book Everybody Lies, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, a data scientist and writer, makes the point that during the run of a violent movie at local theatres, especially on opening night, crime actually goes down. The evidence is that young men, who have a propensity for violence, are actually at the movies. And late night movies actually see a proportionate decrease in violence and crime. Why is this so? The book again suggests that movies are an outlet, a form of distraction, and the fact that a lot of crime is alcohol-fuelled – and cinemas and theatres don’t serve alcohol – means that there is a form of aggression release that substitutes for crime.
But one should not get too eager about showing all the KilL Bill movies at the local cinema. There are many examples of life imitating art, with men hypnotised with what they had just seen on screen. A showing of the gang movie Colours was followed by violent shooting. The movie New Jack City incited riots. And four days after the film The Money Train was shown, men used lighter fluid to ignite a subway toll booth, as if to see if it would really work. In the movie, the operator escaped. The real life operator burned to death.
There is evidence from experiements that subjects exposed to a violent film show more anger and hostility, even if they do not imitate what they have seen.
We could say the same of alcohol. Alcohol may be a substitute for an anti-social evening. That is to say that men and women who might otherwise go out for a night of crime may be prevented so by staying in on a night of catching up over a glass of wine. But the same could be used to say that alcohol instead fuels crime outside of the immediate time frame.
Another useful area to examine is in the effect of music in the film. Does watching a film with “violent” music influence how we act in the aftermath? We know about the effects of music in a film, but it would be useful to see how music – especially since it is such a fabric of society – influences individuals.