Blowing Up The Movies is a collection of essays by game designer Robin Laws, examining various action movies from both east and west, and how to apply the tropes therein to tabletop gaming. It was written as part of the Feng Shui 2 Kickstarter and, while it contains some discussion specific to that game, the overall examinations of action movie tropes can often be applied to tabletop gaming in general, and in many cases even to the action genre outside of gaming. Each of the essays focuses primarily on one aspect of the movie, as opposed to a more general overview.
See also Hamlet's Hit Points.
Films Examined, and essay themes
- Big Trouble in Little China: Pastiching the unfamiliar
- A Chinese Ghost Story 1 & 2: Love amid the monster fights
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Endless sorrow
- Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame: Investigating your next fight
- Die Hard: Upping the Hero
- Equilibrium: Power of the One Cool Schtick
- Hard Boiled: The Running Battle
- Hero: Path of the Unreliable Narrator
- Hot Fuzz: Setup, Callback, Payoff
- Kamen Rider: The First and Kamen Rider: The Next: Cyborg Cycle Fu
- The Killer: Hyper-Romanticism
- Kung Fu Hustle: The Cycle of Escalation
- The Matrix: Take the Exposition Pill
- The Mission (1999): Gestures of Comradeship
- Mr. Vampire: Supernatural lore and slapstick fu
- Once Upon a Time in China: Fury of the Past
- The Raid: Going Brutal
- Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior: Chase Scene Masterclass
- Rumble in the Bronx: Prop Handling
- Saviour Of The Soul: Crazypants Mixmaster
- Seven Samurai: Power of the Throughline
- Sha Po Lang: Death is not the Worst Thing
- Star Wars: A New Hope: March of the Archetypes
- Young and Dangerous 2: Gangland Streets
Blowing Up The Movies contains examples of the following tropes:
- Chase Scene: Covered in the Mad Max essay
- The Chosen One: The Star Wars essay focuses on this.
- Cycle of Revenge: The Kung Fu Hustle essay talks about the common "feuding martial arts schools" trope.
- "Die Hard" on an X: Covered in... take a wild guess.
- Fridge Logic (invoked): In the Equilibrium essay, Laws points out that sending armed mooks against a Gun Kata expert is doing your enemy a favor, and it would have been interesting to show Preston going up against bare-handed opponents.
- Insistent Terminology: "If, in 1977, when I am 13, you show me a movie called Star Wars, it's still called Star Wars now."
- MST: Equilibrium was one of the movies that gained inclusion via a poll of Kickstarter backers (the other was The Raid), but Laws himself doesn't care for it, and the essay contains quite a bit of snark at its expense.
- Older Than They Think (invoked): Laws points out that Big Trouble in Little China actually predates many of the titles audiences might think it's referencing:Tsui Hark's Wuxia game-changer Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1982) exists as a reference at this point, along with such early kung fu ghost comedies as Close Encounters of the Spooky Kind (1980, Sammo Hung) and The Dead and the Deadly (1982, Wu Ma). But as the film is being written (...) most of the HK supernatural fu classics have yet to be made. No Mr. Vampire (q.v.), no A Chinese Ghost Story (q.v.), no Swordsman (1990, credited to King Hu). The western fandom for HK films extant in 1986 revolves around Bruce Lee, Shaw Brothers Chop Socky, and real-world martial arts practice. It sure isn't ready for lightning-throwing warriors or ghostly sorcerors. Accordingly, Big Trouble flops on its theatrical release, joining the roster of fan favourites that slowly grows its popularity on home video.
- Running Gag: One aspect of the "setup and callback" that forms the Hot Fuzz essay.
- True Companions: Covered in the The Mission (1999) essay
- Unreliable Narrator: Covered in the Hero essay