The Fling – An Action Movie Cop Out

This is kind of an odd post that’s been bugging me. The urge to write this one came after watching Terminator Salvation, but it really applies to many other action films. It’s something I call “The Fling”. Let’s briefly talk about it and why it bugs me so much. 

“The Fling” is when a monster or villain that can easily defeat the hero at close range instead chooses to fling them across the room. The hero then flies into some boxes or cans or whatever, before getting back up relatively unharmed and continuing the fight. 

This was used a few times in Terminator: Salvation. Just when the Terminator towards the end of the film gets close to John, instead of strangling him or beating him to death or whatever, grabs him and flings him away. This makes very little sense in the context of Terminator, where the machines are supposed to be completely clinical. If you watch Terminator 1 and 2, they never rely on this trick once. The only time that even comes close is when one Terminator flings the other… and that is usually done to temporarily get them out of the way so they can catch up with the human.

Vampire movies tend to be really bad offenders on this one. I think this is because both vampires and vampire hunters need to be at close range in order to be effective, but a fight scene that remains close isn’t visually compelling to watch. Watch the end of Blade 3 (you know… next time you get a chance or something), after a prolonged sword fight, the big dracula baddie at the end flings Blade across the room several times, when he can easily kill him up close. In fact, at one point he actually has Blade pinned down… and he gets off him, stands him up, and then flings him. Buffy is also quite reliant on this, particularly in the early seasons.

Horror/action seems to be the worst genre for this particular move, maybe because it’s so easy to dream up villains and characters that have limitless amounts of vaguely defined powers. When it comes time to actually put that character to use in a fight scene, it would end the fight too quickly to use said powers.

So why is the fling awful? It takes me out of the movie because it NEVER feels right. It’s a way to artificially add distance between the hero and the villain so that the filmmakers can fit in more dialog or show that the hero is going through the requisite “losing stage” of the fight without taking any real damage.

This isn’t to say that all throws in movie fight scenes are bad or nonsensical. Like any action movie fan, I enjoy seeing things and people get thrown through large panes of glass and so on. I still enjoyed Terminator: Salvation (somewhat) and Blade 3 (somewhat less). I hope if we start naming “The Fling” and calling attention to it, filmmakers will realize it and become less reliant on it.

If you never really noticed or cared until now, perhaps it will irk you from now on. You can thank me for that.


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May 2009
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