The hero is an expert. The villain is an expert. You must watch all of the villainy over the shoulder of the villain.
The hero has a team of experts in various fields behind him.
Two or more on the team must fall in love.
Two or more on the team must die.
The villain must turn his attentions from his initial goal to the team.
The villain and the hero must live to do battle again in the sequel.
All deaths must proceed from the individual to the group: i.e., never say that the bomb exploded and 15,000 people were killed. Start with "Jamie and Suzy were walking in the park with their grandmother when the earth opened up."
If you get bogged down, just kill somebody.
Published in the New York Times Magazine on March 1, 1998.