Speaking of the fight scenes in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Harrison Ford has told The Australian‘s Chrissy Iley that “we didn’t shoot it like a Matrix style where if you hit somebody they end up in this big space and you didn’t feel the hurt, you don’t feel the fear. I feel you very quickly lose emotional connection with the character if it’s like that. We are more old school.”
Exactly. The thing I’ve always disliked about martial-arts fight scenes is that nobody ever gets hurt. We all realize, of course, that martial arts fights are intentionally stylized and not operating under a realistic tent. But the patience ceiling for this sort of thing is low. (For me, at least.) It is the essence of boredom to watch guys slamming each other without end. All ballet and no wincing or groaning makes Jack a dull boy. Totally ignoring the fact that the human body is vulnerable and that duke-outs always bring pain and woundings is a short route to the grotesque.
The blame for this tedium, of course, lies entirely on the shoulders of Asian martial-arts films. I remember bitching about this when I saw my first Bruce Lee film in the early ’70s, and here it is 35 years later and the form is pretty much unchanged. The worst fight scene of all time in this vein? The battle between Neo and all the Smiths in The Matrix Reloaded. And I say that having loved some of the fight scenes in the original Matrix.
The shoe has just dropped. The page has just turned. Martial-arts combat scenes have taken a bullet in the chest. They may continue, but they’ll never have the same punch from this moment on. A voice is telling me this. And we have Harrison Ford to thank for leading the charge, or at least sounding the trumpet.