Friday, April 18, 2008

5 Thoughts inspired by the movie "I Am Legend"

I should put this on my movie blog but this isn't really a review of the movie. The movie is eh.

Thought 1: Yay, someone used 'Scope for a movie again.

Anamorphic photography--aka Panavision, 'Scope, or Anamorphic 2.35. Anamorphic lenses squeeze the picture horizontally so you can still use the full frame of film. You know how on VHS everyone used to get skinny during the credits? That was usually an anamorphic film transferred directly to TV. Of course, we don't have that "skinny people" problem any more because of DVD's letterbox acceptance.

The benefit of 'Scope is that it squeezes that picture into the whole frame of film. This means less grain and a vastly better picture. As someone who has looked at this stuff pixel by pixel, I assure you, it's a meaningful improvement.

On the flip side, the format du jour is Super 35, which wastes a TON of the film frame (about 30%) and then has to be re-squeezed into anamorphic for distribution anyway. It ends up with a very grainy image, one that's hard to manipulate and looks crappier. However, cinematographers love Super 35 because they can use spherical lenses, rather than anamorphic ones that give artifacts like weird rack focuses.

As long as we use film -- which won't be very much longer, I guess -- it would be nice to see people shoot in Panavision some more. Having grown up in the heyday of Panavision, the artifacts it has are something I like, not something I hate. I assume this director felt the same way, although he did shoot some of this movie in Super 35. In fact, some back-to-back shots were done in Panavision then in Super 35. It was a little weird.

Thought 2: We like movies about viruses because the audience has a complex that makes them believe they'll be the one who's immune.

Not much more to say than that. When I watch movies like this, I always start thinking "wow, this could happen, and I could be the only one alive, that would be freaky." The next thought is, "No it won't. There would be a 95% chance I'd be one who dies."

Thought 3: Why does every virus movie mutate into a fucking zombie monster movie?

Here's a riddle for you.... how many killer viruses do you know of that also make people into super strong, nearly invincible night-stalkers? Even among viruses that don't kill, how many have you heard of that do that?

Right. Every virus I know of, including the common cold, turns people into a blubbering mess. Yet in every virus movie made lately, the virus inevitably mutates so that it creates super strong zombies vampire/monster people. WTF.

Thought 4: Production value sells.

A co-worker of mine thinks the future of video gaming is casual gaming. I say it's not. The reason is the same reason the future of movies isn't all small budget indy films: production value sells.

High production value movies sell, just like high production value video games sell, because they're easy to sell. When something has a very high level of appearance which you've spent tens or hundreds of millions developing, it's easier to do what I like to call "engineer a hit." Marketing can take very cool looking imagery and get people to buy it. They can't do that for something that looks like Tetris.

Bottom line, people won't line up overnight to shell out $150 million on launch day of Puzzle Quest, but they will for Halo 3. Now why is that? Production value sells. If you don't have it, you require luck to be successful and luck sucks.

Thought 5: Stop making movies where man's "meddling with nature" is the entire problem.

If Hollywood ran science, we wouldn't have polio or smallpox vaccines, computers, trains, cars, airplanes, nuclear power, a moon landing or any technology with potential downside. After all, wouldn't the polio vaccine seem unreasonably dangerous in the mind of one of these screenwriters, since it uses actual dead polio virus to immunize people? OMG, it could mutate and make zombies!

So chalk up this movie as yet another "god has to fix the mistakes of man" empty vessel. I really had high hopes for this movie, but it was especially weak in trying to make a message that god does the right thing or something like that. In contrast, Terminator is one of my favorite movie series of all time, and it too is a Luddite theme, fearing computers and AI. However, at least it's not trying to point to god while saying "man + technology... bad...bad!!!"

BTW, in "I am Legend", why'd the blow up the Brooklyn Bridge, to keep people from going from Manhattan to Long Island? Yeah, that makes sense. I wouldn't want to go to Syosset anyway.

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