Why Jean-Claude Van Damme is an endangered species?
As I was reading a psychoanalitic paper about “presence” my wife wanted me to check, I thought about … Jean-Claude Vandamme. I guess my brain was sending me a message; the message that I should not try to read intellectual material at midnight.
“Come on Antony! It’s midnight! Think about something dumb. Think about Jean-Claude!”
And so I thought about my teenage years, when I was watching an action movie and immediately tried to re-do the scene at home.
Hop! Spinning back kick! (Real life result: a kick that goes as high as a coffee table)
Hop! Split jump kick on two opponents! (Real life result: a ballerina jump).
Hop! I dip my hands in a resin pot, and then dip them into broken glass (real life result: dipping my hands into nothing but air. Like air-guitar, but air-dip).
Jean-Claude was my super hero. He was doing everything I wished I could have done when someone bothered me.
He was the spiritual son of other great masters.
Before him, there was karate kid.
Before him, there was Bruce Lee.
Before him, there was … Well I dunno. But there was a tradition of the martial arts action movie.
But now it’s over. The few good old action movies that are now shot are directly released for the home video market; no one wants to bring that to the big screen. Forget about promoting it. The best example in 2016 is the remake (?) of Kickboxer. Anyone heard about it? Nope. That’s really sad; at least for me.
So why no one is interested in this type of movie anymore?
Actually, I don’t think people lost their interest into these movies. It’s just that they got upgraded; like when people loved Street Fighter 2 on SNES, and then switched to 3D fighting games when the PlayStation came out.
A Vandamme movie, it’s a 2D fighting game.
And the movie counterpart of the 3D fighting game is… A Marvel/DC movie.
Check Nolan’s version of Batman and you will see it’s almost the same story than good old Kickboxer, with more special effects and more gadgets.
Iron Man is A flying Vandamme with blasters.
Captain America is the Yankee version of Captain Belgium Vandamme.
They kick, they punch and they move faster than anyone. But they are humans. Just like my favorite action movie star of the 80's.
Sidenote: the fact they are humans before being superheroes is, I think, critical. And this is why I Superman can’t work as good as model than the other heroes. The guy is not from our planet, and he could destroy the entire humanity with a snooze: that does not fit within the requirements to be a Vandamme.
Well… I digress.
So, to get back to the question, superheroes movies killed Vandamme movies.
But it’s not the only thing that contributed to the fall of JC. I think the rise of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) did not help either.
Every 2 weeks or so, you get the best fighters of the world, in a cage, using any martial art they want, to beat (down) their opponent, on TV.
And if you remember correctly, this was exactly the kind of “plot” you could find in a Vandamme movie (“Kickboxer”, “Blood Sports”, “The Quest” etc…). The hero is a martial artist, and he always ends up on a kind of crappy ring, facing the best figthers from all around the world.
Except that, these guys in the UFC, they fight for real! And you can even train like them! (Well it’s true in North America, cause the law in Europe does not agree yet with it).
The link is so obvious that MMA champions are actually becoming the new Vandammes: George St Pierre was featured in Captain America 2, Ronda Rousey in Fast and Furious, Gina Carano in Deadpool…
So is there any room for a return for your classic Vandamme action movie? Unfortunately I don’t think so; at least until someone decides to make a “tribute” to this classic genre in 50 years (think of something like what Tarantino is doing with cowboy movies).
“So what did you think about this psychonalytic article on presence?” said my wife. Maybe I should have replied that I wasn’t actually very present when I read it…
This is a repost from my blog “1 Up my Life”. If you can leave a comment or even just like the post, that would mean the world to me :) Thanks!