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One of the Unwritten Rules of Big Action Films-Kids NEVER Get Killed


TomJH
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I first noticed this to be true in the big CGI-affected Spielberg films. No matter what kind of perils kids may be in (and really shaken, rattled and rolled, at times), you just know that, unlike many of the adults in those films, they won't get killed. Oh, they'll scream a lot, to be sure, just like they do on a thrill ride at the amusement park. But they won't pay the ultimate price as characters. It's a movie screenwriting cliche. And it always severely reduces the suspense of those action sequences in which kids are terrified for me.

 

I just watched last year's Godzilla on DVD. A typical modern big action film in my opinion with the usual pluses and minuses: great CGI effects, but populated with characters that are cipher-thin and with whom the audience cannot place any emotional investment as to their fates. There's only one actor in the film who gives a really solid piece of acting and he gets knocked off early. We're then left with an incredibly bland "hero" and it's largely through his eyes by which much of the action unfolds. 

 

It's really an old fashioned Godzilla versus the monsters terrorizing the world movie, done up in a lot of flashy fast edits, slick photography, and impressive CGI effects. For those who love special effects it may be your kind of movie, but don't look for anything beyond that.

 

But I digress.

 

There's a scene set on a bridge with traffic backed up on it, as Godzilla and the monsters approach it. Everyone, of course, is in peril due to the traffic jam. But the action is largely seen through the eyes of children trapped in a school bus. Yes, they are frightened, as the bus driver tries his best to get his bus out of the line of big lizard destruction.

 

But, for me, the suspense of the scene was reduced to nothing because of that same unwritten rule to which I referred in this thread's title - the audience's knowledge that, no matter what happens to the soldiers and screaming adults around this bus, these kids will be OK in the end.

 

Children don't get killed in big action films. Perhaps it's because adults in the audience don't want to see it happen, and they'll get angry at the film, and it may backfire on the box office. These films, are, after all, supposed to be escapism, and the death of a child leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

 

Now I admit that I've only seen a handful or so of these big special effects type of productions (not my cup of tea, for the most part). Possibly someone can list an exception to this general rule of thumb for movie producers and screenwriters regarding this type of film. But if there is an exception,  I've yet to see it.

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Watch 'em DIE...Hasta la vista, babies.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BR_midwZ2f0

I haven't seen that film, ham, but if that scene is what it appears to be, just a dream sequence, then it doesn't count as kids dying in a film.

 

As a matter of fact, it proves my unwritten rule about not letting children die in these films all the more by making it a dream sequence, then revealing it as such to the audience, saying "Just kidding."

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I haven't seen that film, ham, but if that scene is what it appears to be, just a dream sequence, then it doesn't count as kids dying in a film.

 

As a matter of fact, it proves my unwritten rule about not letting children die in these films all the more by making it a dream sequence, then revealing it as such to the audience, saying "Just kidding."

 

It did happen (aftermath in beginning of film scene) that's why the Terminators were sent back to the past.  Don't know how many times the scenario occurred in a time loop before some quantum butterfly effect stopped the paradox - cycle broken.

 

 

 

Well this is not a dream - "Assault on Precinct 13"  Maybe too many Richards in movies so producer bumped one off?

 

 

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It did happen (aftermath in beginning of film scene) that's why the Terminators were sent back to the past.  Don't know how many times the scenario occurred in a time loop before some quantum butterfly effect stopped the paradox - cycle broken.

If that's the case, then thanks for citing an exception to a general rule of movie screenwriting. Can you think of any other big action special effects laden films in which you see children die?

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If that's the case, then thanks for citing an exception to a general rule of movie screenwriting. Can you think of any other big action special effects **** films in which you see children die?

 

Look at my previous post, I was editing. By the way what does "Big Action" has to do with kids getting killed??

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Well, it WASN'T a big, expensive box office sweeping CGI type movie, but in an old Jeffery Hunter film from 1960;  HELL TO ETERNITY, there's a scene in which  a Japanese woman, in the belief that American soldiers would kill them and eat them( based on a true incident in WWII in which Japanese propaganda promoted that myth.  I think it may have been OKINAWA, or another nearby Japanese island)  Anyway, the woman and her small child supposedly jump off a cliff.  In the movie,Hunter's character, having before the war been raised by a Japanese-American family, hallucinates that it is the woman who raised him and his close friend as a young boy, who jump off the cliff..

 

 

Sepiatone

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Well, it WASN'T a big, expensive box office sweeping CGI type movie, but in an old Jeffery Hunter film from 1960;  HELL TO ETERNITY, there's a scene in which  a Japanese woman, in the belief that American soldiers would kill them and eat them( based on a true incident in WWII in which Japanese propaganda promoted that myth.  I think it may have been OKINAWA, or another nearby Japanese island)  Anyway, the woman and her small child supposedly jump off a cliff.  In the movie,Hunter's character, having before the war been raised by a Japanese-American family, hallucinates that it is the woman who raised him and his close friend as a young boy, who jump off the cliff..

 

 

Sepiatone

I never said that kids don't die in movies. I said they don't die in the genre of big action escapist films.

 

I'm not familair with Assault on Precinct 13 but it doesn't look like the kind of big budget action film (like a Terminator or Godzilla, for example) to which I was referring.

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I never said that kids don't die in movies. I said they don't die in the genre of big action escapist films.

 

I'm not familair with Assault on Precinct 13 but it doesn't look like the kind of big budget action film (like a Terminator or Godzilla, for example) to which I was referring.

 

Like ants underfoot Godzilla probably stepped on quite a few. ;)

 

"Enemy At The Gates", the boy was found hanged.

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'Soldier' (1998) is an action sci-fi movie starring Kurt Russell. A boy of about 12 or 13 is executed for not running fast enough.

 

'Once Upon a Time in the West' (1968) has Henry Fonda - of all people - cold bloodedly gunning down a boy of about 10.

 

But, I get your point. People do get angry if they're presented with the death of a child or a pet in a movie. It takes a brave producer to leave that in - and there are very few brave producers.

 

Big budget action movies are mostly for kids (of all ages), and getting an R rating (or even an NC-17 if the death is graphic) is probably what's gonna happen if kids are killed. Producers do not want that, you can be sure.

 

I remember when I was a boy - about 11 years old - watching 'The Giant Behemoth' (1959) at the theatre and being shocked when a boy gets burnt to death by radiation from the creature. I couldn't believe I just saw a kid get killed, especially by burning, and especially in a sci-fi "dinosaur" movie.

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This one got vaporized but she deserved it.

 

the-bad-seed-18.jpg

devil5.gif

 

It's too bad we didn't see Mary Tilford GETTING KILLED (my imagination) by her grandmother in "The Children's Hour"  How I loved to been a fly on the wall for that one.

 

It's clobbering time!....The Thing - Fantastic Four

1zn38ld.jpg

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Tom, the first thing I thought of when reading the title of your thread, DODGE CITY, the 1939 Errol Flynn western. The death of the young boy (dragged by the runaway horse) convinces Errol to take on the Sheriff job and fight the bad guys.  The Hitchcock film SABOTAGE  is not exactly an action film, but Hitch really got publically hammered by having the young boy get killed in the bomb blast on the bus. Maybe other film makers think of that when making their films.  P.S  Lets not forget the little girl in FRANKENSTEIN (even Mel Brooks didn't repeat that mistake ).

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Tom, the first thing I thought of when reading the title of your thread, DODGE CITY, the 1939 Errol Flynn western. The death of the young boy (dragged by the runaway horse) convinces Errol to take on the Sheriff job and fight the bad guys.  The Hitchcock film SABOTAGE  is not exactly an action film, but Hitch really got publically hammered by having the young boy get killed in the bomb blast on the bus. Maybe other film makers think of that when making their films.  P.S  Lets not forget the little girl in FRANKENSTEIN (even Mel Brooks didn't repeat that mistake ).

The truth is, mrroberts, that with the illustrations cited in my original post, I was really thinking of modern big action films in which kids aren't killed. A few exceptions to this rule have been cited on this thread but, for the most part, I think it's true.

 

However, you cited a few '30s illustrations of child deaths on screen and one of them, Dodge City, certainly qualified as a big action film in 1939. Poor Bobs Watson, a victim of bad guy street gunfire which spooks a team of horses. Bye, bye, Bobs.

 

Although, as you already stated, it's not the type of big action genre vehicle to which I was referring, the Hitchcock film was a bitter lesson for the director as far as negative audience reaction was concerned re-the death of a child. (Particularly after that suspenseful build up to the bomb blast in which his audience was looking for a miracle to save the innocent faced boy). There would be a lot of future murder and mayhem in the director's films, of course, but I don't think that Hitch ever let a child be a fatal victim again. Think of all those deadly victims of aviary violence in The Birds, for example. Hitch might have had a group of screaming schoolchildren run from a flock of attacking birds but he didn't have any of them die. A few adults meeting a messy end from those attacking beaks, however, that's another story.

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Tom, the first thing I thought of when reading the title of your thread, DODGE CITY, the 1939 Errol Flynn western. The death of the young boy (dragged by the runaway horse) convinces Errol to take on the Sheriff job and fight the bad guys.  The Hitchcock film SABOTAGE  is not exactly an action film, but Hitch really got publically hammered by having the young boy get killed in the bomb blast on the bus. Maybe other film makers think of that when making their films.  P.S  Lets not forget the little girl in FRANKENSTEIN (even Mel Brooks didn't repeat that mistake ).

 

I don't view the little girl's death in Frankenstein as being a mistake.    It is a very moving part of the movie and the scene also shows the mental innocence of the monster.

 

Of course how Mel Brooks handled that scene was comic magic.  

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Again, an Andy Warhol film does not qualify as a big action genre film. Nor does a Sergio Leone western (though it is a western and, admittedly, you don't expect children's deaths in them, acknowledging the already mentioned Dodge City, as well).

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I forgot about that one, rohanaka

 

I don't think I could ever forget about that one, Tom. Breaks my heart, every time. Another, more recent example.. would certainly qualify for your "high-action, big-budget" scenario.. Star Wars Episode III with those poor little "Jr. Jedi's" I can't even stand to think of the look on Darth-to-be's face when he comes into that room full of kiddies. 

 

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