Saturday, March 31, 2012

Wow, what a difference twenty-odd years makes.

Wandering the back corridors of YouTube, I ran across this fan video tribute to the Colonial Marines.

It's been years since I've watched Aliens, probably at least since '03 or '04, and I don't remember the gun handling and tactics stuff being that bad. I mean, yeah, I remember that there was a lot of shooting from the hip, but seriously, seeing the footage again last night of the marines unassing the APC and moving up to the doorway of the complex had me laughing out loud with all the skipping and pirouetting up to the abandoned complex, muzzles pointing every which way, and then just standing in the middle of the doorway when it opened, (the area known as the "fatal funnel") pointing their weapons menacingly from the hip like a Tropic Thunder movie poster.

In the intervening years, it's become the norm for movies to retain consultants to try and add verisimilitude, to the point that the only place you see the old traditions of Hollywood gun-handling are in comedies deliberately parodying the skipping-and-pirouetting-and-standing-in-the-open-spraying-from-the-hip traditions of Hollywood Tactical Movement, and seeing it in Aliens felt awkward for me. The movie has such a place in my memory that suddenly seeing the string holding up the rocket or the zipper on the back of the Godzilla suit was both funny and kinda sad at the the same time.

In fact, I'd wager that, given the way Hollywood influences the evolution of pop culture, Hollywood Tactical Movement may soon be gone from our cultural DNA. Hand some random 21-year-old waiting-tables-until-his-big-break actor an airsoft M16 and tell him "Act like some special operations dude going down a hallway and through a door," and he'll do it differently if he's grown up watching Black Hawk Down and 24 than if he'd grown up watching Rambo and The A-Team.

27 comments:

Fred said...

I just watched it last weekend. Mostly for the memorable lines... mostly.

Tam said...

It's got a pretty favorable memorable-lines-per-minute-of-screen-time ratio. :)

Joseph said...

http://youtu.be/I25ykSVA7p8

Perhaps things haven't changed so much? They throw in the Charlie's Angel pose for free.

Tam said...

Joseph,

If you're going insist looking around you with a pistol in your hand, there're only two safe directions to point the weapon. Personally, I prefer the ground because God doesn't like guns pointed at him, either, but I'll grant them that it's harder to flag your feet with the muzzle when it's pointed up.

Anonymous said...

I seem to recall Jack Bauer doing lots of dramatic posing in the middle of doorways and in well lit areas when surrounded by darker lit areas, too.

Critter said...

speaking of movies:

"verisimilitude,

regurgitation."

"Hey! I know that one!"

Tam said...

Anon 8:09,

Well, obviously directors are still going to ask for dramatic stuff that looks good on film.

I'm not saying that Hollywood movies can be used as SOCOM training aids, but that, like special effects, there has been a general dramatic improvement in the base level of not looking like dorks with guns on-screen.

Pakkinpoppa said...

But...but...but....Ripley duct taped the assault rifle to the flamethrower. You won't ruin Aliens for me...la la la la I can't hear you so you're not talking....

Haven't watched that flick in a while, but I do recall a lot of things. Handheld, giant, camping style flashlights. Motion sensors about the size of a Weber grill. But the Tommy...er, Assault Rifles were cool.

Tam said...

Remembder back in the days before CGI, when studios filming a war movie would rent the Spanish army and paint their M-47s in whatever colors they needed?

Ancient Woodsman said...

The best part about Aliens was watching Paul Reiser getting eaten.

Too bad it wasn't ON an episode of Mad About You...any larege drooling emotionless critter that will eat that whiner has my vote for Best Dance Direction...if they'd bring hat category back.

mikee said...

BAck when Alien came out, I owned one of those shipboard high-tech looking camping flashlights. Made the movie for me.

And even if the actors stay out of fatal funnels, they will still RACK THE SLIDES again and again and again as the tension mounts.

bluesun said...

If you hand any modern teenager an airsoft and tell him to do that, it wouldn't matter what movies he grew up on; he'd have first-person experience with the latest Battle of Honor shoot-em-up video game that standing in a doorway is how you get shot. Weird when you think about it.

Steve said...

For the most part the marines were depicted as fools, blowhards and incompetents. Not a very respectful treatment of our men in uniform, if you ask me. But Aliens was a good movie, one that you can enjoy over and over…an incredibly rare item these days, so I'll forgive its flaws.
Have you noticed that westerns lately have done a better job of featuring period correct guns than they ever did during the golden age of Hollywood? And that there hasn’t been a good western made since The Shootist? I’ll take John Wayne carrying a Winchester 1892 and Colt SAA in 1866 any day.

Tam said...

bluesun,

I lost time doing the runs through the shoot house at Blackwater because I stopped and reloaded my gun before going through every door because, duh, Rainbow Six.

Anonymous said...

Westerns. Clint, Unforgiven.How non-traditional a gun-flic was _THAT_, with the primary hardware being a Spencer carbine and a Scolfield revolver? "You shot an unarmed man!" "Well, he shoulda armed himself!" Love it... JohninMd(help)

wolfwalker said...

True,Aliens has a high memorable-lines-per-minute ratio. The only movie I can think of offhand with more is The Princess Bride.

One reason I almost always get "special editions" of movies on DVD is that watching the extras is often as interesting and entertaining as the movie is. For example, somewhere on the Aliens Collector's Edition one learns that Cameron realized after the fact that his "colonial marines" were more like his stereotyped image of Vietnam-era regular army soldiers, and if he did it today he'd do it very differently. Elsewhere one learns that for all their 'Hollywood tactics,' there's one thing the 'colonial marines' actors learned VERY fast. The guy who played Sergeant Apone was an actual veteran: sergeant in the Marine Corps, Vietnam combat veteran, wounded in action twice. Anyone who pointed a gun, even a prop gun, at anyone else on the set got A Slight Correction.

Anonymous said...

I would agree the level of gun handling as depicted on film has improved over the last 10-15 years. Regarding Aliens, though, that came out in '86? My theory is, the level of actual, real world gun handling has improved since then. Didn't some smart lady blog about an article in an early 80's Gun Digest book about SWAT team tactics? Something about the improvement in gun handling and facial hair in the intervening 30 years?

Rob

Anonymous said...

*And even if the actors stay out of fatal funnels, they will still RACK THE SLIDES again and again and again as the tension mounts.*

Then there is the wheel gun toter who just before the big moment, opens the cylinder to check ammo load, then spins the cylinder, which causes a clickity clickity clickity sound.

My wheelies must be broken.

Caleb said...

Speaking of A-Team, the recent remake had some pretty spectacular weapon handling.

Seerak said...

If you like the Hollywood style gun handling, here's one of my former colleagues getting his spaghetti western on.

Commander_Zero said...

Well, if you thought the tactics were lacking, howabout the firepower? Here's a fella that made his own pulse rifle...complete with electronic round counter, pump-action underbarrel launcher, and full-auto capabilities. In 9mm and 12 ga. Check the video for him actually shooting it: http://www.max-11.com/TopSecret.html

Ken O said...

Give your same kid waiting tables a Glock, turn him loose and I pretty well guarantee it will be turned 90 degrees before firing.

Able said...

"there has been a general dramatic improvement in the base level of not looking like dorks with guns on-screen"

So true, but in comparison look at the even more dramatic change in how martial arts are portrayed.

I grew up in the days where all it took to be a Third Dan Kyokushinkai practitioner was to wear pajamas and slippers, hold your hands out flat and chop everybody over the shoulder whilst shouting 'Hyah'.

Now you have to be a rubber man with legs like a kangaroo. That and the witty one liners when you beat up 27 gun-toting bodybuilders armed with nothing but your Boss jacket and a stick of celery.

Sheesh, life was so much easier in my day!

Rob Reed said...

I'll grant you that movie gun handling has improved over the last 20 years, in general.

One thing that still bothers me though is when "modern" techniques are used in period movies. I don't know if it comes from the firearms consultants, the director, or the actors themselves, but they way they handled guns in the 1930's, 40's, and 50's is different than how we do now.

For gun related period pieces we should see things like the old "FBI crouch" or more one-handed pistol shooting, and more "fingers always on trigger" because that's how it was generally done in "the day."

I'd love to do firearms consulting work on some period movie and say, "Here, hold the gun like this, beccause that's how a FBI agent/Marine/State Trooper would have done it back then, even though we do it differently now."

DaveFla said...

NOt that I knew anything about it, then or now - but I've always wondered how that plot would've worked out if there'd been some professionals on the team besides Hicks, Apone and whoever was flying the dropship. All the same, I bought the Special Edition DVD as soon as I could; I'd had too many conversations explaining why someone was wrong in thinking the original movie was 'scarier' ("cross between a Pepsis Wasp and ants - of course, the rate of growth as shown is just bullshit - hey, why are your eyes glazing over?")

Anonymous said...

I had to stop a youngster at our local IDPA match who decided to do some Hollywood gun handling. Could have DQ'd him but gave him the movie/tv school was not approved for our range.

Then pointed out two guys from 5th Group and said watch how they shot stages. Nothing flashy, just good sound gun handling.

The kid caught on after that.

Gerry

Vaarok said...

Really kinda weird, but DOOM of all movies probably ranks as the best scifi-weapons-handling flick ever. Yes, the one with Dwayne Johnson.