A lot of scripts try to impress with the scale of their story, and litter the plot with action, explosions and all manner of special effects. Most of the time, the scripts fail to make an impression because of their superficial and often vacuous presentation. In some instances, the writer will display a talent or penchant for good action-writing, and this is a difficult skill in itself, but on the whole won't make the cool set-pieces worth the while because of the underdeveloped characters and story that surround the jumps and chases.
This is where a love of genre can sometimes be a misguided attempt to emulate the writer's favourite action-moments or movies. A perfectly good genre idea might be ruined or underserved because of the writer's roadmap approach to familiar set-pieces and special effects. Audiences definitely want spectacle but they also want the story to support the spectacle rather be contrived around the plot. The ideal scenario is for characters to drive the narrative and action with their emotional and dramatic needs rather than conveniently reacting to the plot's desire to deliver thrills and spills.
You've got to "be small to be big". This means that if you can focus on the singular needs of a character, no matter how mundane or humdrum, you will tap into a broader emotional resonance than you would have given yourself credit for. That way, when the character eventually gets thrown out of a plane, or whatever, the audience is in the tune with the character's emotional stakes, not just the immediate peril he's facing.
Domesticity seems to be an area that helps give a movie its emotional and dramatic anchor. By focusing on the family network, and the key dynamics involved therein, the drama can become really compelling later on once the meteor hits Earth (Deep Impact). Three other examples come to mind as I write: A History of Violence, Signs and War of the Worlds.
A History of Violence was very much a domestic drama until the pesky Ed Harris showed up and blew Viggo's cover. The story focused on the emotional fall-out with Viggo's wife and family, which leads to the cracking violent showdown with William Hurt, and an Oscar nomination for screenplay. The result: an emotionally rewarding story of a man trying to forget his past alongside the vicarious thrill of some awesome fights.
Signs was an apocalyptic alien invasion movie told exclusively from a family's point-of-view on their isolated farm. No dazzling special effects, no big alien landing or blazing scenes of space, just a father struggling with his faith as he tries to protect his family from disaster.
The War of the Worlds perfectly balances the scale of a big budget movie with the emotional needs of the story. It's Signs out in the open, on the run and with amazing SFX. While some might carp and groan at the perfunctory domestic set-up of Tom and Dakota, the story manages to dramatise effective scenes regarding their dynamic to counterbalance the alien action.
So, for all you hungry genre-busting writers out there who want to pay homage to all your fave action films, think of the emotional needs of your characters, and ask yourself if you've really done them justice, or are you just using them as the necessary transitions for the next amazing set-spiece and special effects extravaganza?