Filmmakers, from both outside Hollywood and in, have attempted a variety of ways to shoot action sequences. Some styles tend to draw more attention to themselves, like the visually tantalizing battlefields of “300,” while others try and help you feel completely immersed, like you’re not watching a film at all — “Black Hawk Down,” for example.
With action sequences in older films, the camera was generally very still. I don’t mean that in comparison to the shakey/handheld camera style you see every once in a while now, I mean even in comparison to some of the steadier camera work we saw in the 70s. The reason is twofold: the styles hadn’t developed to the levels they have now, and the physical camera systems were just significantly larger than they are now. They couldn’t realistically follow troops into the staged battle very easily with their enormous cameras, and they certainly couldn’t navigate quickly through tight spaces the way you see nowadays.
Consider this clip from the 1930s “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Lewis Milestone. Notice how most of the camera movements are still, scattered between dolly shots (moving slowly left, right, forward or back on a dolly/rail system) and pans.