The most recent installment in the impossible mission series, Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation, is probably the most impossible yet. In this entry the series' immortal lead Ethan Hunt, played the by the equally immortal Tom Cruise, hangs off the side door of a cargo plane as it takes off and holds his breath for three minutes in some sort of underwater tank while trying to hack into a security system. In real life Cruise really did tape himself to the side of a plane and held his breath for six minutes in that water filled tank. As impressive as this is, both in and out of the movie, it's undeniably ridiculous at the same time. I do not claim to know anything about the CIA or any other secret intelligence organization for that matter, but it is overwhelmingly unlikely that there is an IMF and even the world's most skilled spies do not free dive into pressurized underwater security tanks or scale the world's tallest building using only magnetized gloves (this is what the government has told me to say). On the other hand that is the point of movies like Mission Impossible. We suspend our belief while watching them because they are extremely entertaining and cool, but how seriously should audiences take these films, and how series should these films take themselves?

Action films, in recent years, have become increasingly self aware regarding their plots and dialogue. Like all things that have been around for a while they begin to parody themselves, but the action movie genre has taken it to a new level. Every film genre has been spoofed (see Scary Movie 1-4) or has had a comedy version of it made, but some of the biggest and most popular films in the action genre are purposely comedic. This is beyond the witty banter that has been in action movies forever and enters into the "so bad that it's funny" realm. The Fast and Furious series and The Expendables series both heavily lean on this concept in their films. One of the best lines in the most recent Fast and Furious (because it was so funny) occurs during a fight between Vin Diesel and Jason Statham. They're fighting on the top level of a parking garage when a helicopter launches missiles at the base of it. The level that Diesel and Statham are on starts to crack and Statham falls into the rubble, but just before he does Vin Diesel has the time to say "The thing about a street fight is, the street always wins," What does that mean!!?? Despite the nonsense of both the situation and the dialogue that scene and the entire movie was incredibly enjoyable becasue viewers know what they're getting into when going to see it.

The direction that the action film genre seems to be going is due to both filmmakers and audiences. Filmmakers, especially when it comes to action films, like to one up themselves and each other and in a genre where sequels are more common than stand alone films the action sequences inevitably become more and more intense, thus audiences must suspend their belief more and more. Comparably moviegoers simply want more action in their action film. Most people don't need complex character development in a film called RoboCop thus dialogue and character growth both begin to diminish, and all that's left is two hours of incredibly choreographed action sequences with little bits of dialogue in between. Must action movies follow the Furious/Expendables route?

Cross genre films most certainly do not. Superhero movies, which are evidently action films, are also pretty much always origin stories. Whether its the origin of a hero, a villain, or how a group of people came together this aspect of superhero films often helps to incorporate good non-action related drama and non-parody comedy as well as characters you care about.  Science fiction/action films often contain interesting, if not overly confusing, plots which can add to a story, but they are also commonly thematically driven and much of the time try to impart an overarching lesson about humanity to its audience, which can likewise add depth to a film.

The issue seems to lie in the straight action film. One solution is simply to do what Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation does and have audiences suffer through the short scenes of bad dialogue and the villain whose character is so overused it goes beyond cliche and enters into the realm of eternal banality. To be fair there were some non-action scenes that were perfectly bearable without being at all self aware, but would a movie like that do better to just go full Expendables? Mission: Impossible II kind of did that, but when it came out in the year 2000 nobody really got that bad meant good. An action franchise that began serious and has, if not gotten more serious, stayed serious is of course James Bond. The Bond series has somehow remained impervious to parody within its own franchise. Bond has certainly been parodied in many other ways, most notably the Austin Powers series, but Bond itself has always managed to stay genuine and composed. Perhaps it is because Bond films don't require much character progress or too much insight at all because a major aspect of the films is their anonymous nature. Whatever it is Bond has somehow remained endlessly cool where other franchises have not.

So is it either Bond or Furious? Is there no middle ground. The previous installment in the Mission Impossible series, Ghost Protocol, was probably the funniest of the series but still kept its composure. Another good example of a current action film that has a good mix of drama and comedy is Kingsman: The Secret Service which ended with every world leader's head exploding like fireworks. If your not Bond it's tough to avoid parody, but seemingly doable.