Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Regarding Henry

Hardcore Henry opened this weekend.  I saw the preview for it when I went to see Deadpool not too long ago.  And while I've not seen the movie (and probably won't), I have thoughts to share just based on the preview.

The concept itself is intriguing; the film is billed as a "first-person action film," and I think we often forget in film what "first person" really means.  Even in some novels-turned-films, the first person narrative ends up being one of limited third person in the film treatment (see The Hunger Games trilogy of books/films for a recent example).  So a film really and truly shot from the first person perspective is kind of new or, at the very least, unusual.

Her eyes are UP HERE, Handsy-Man.
The trivia for Hardcore Henry says it was "nearly" shot entirely on GoPro Hero3 Black Edition cameras, so it truly is first-person.  You, the audience, are seeing things from Henry's perspective -- and that's a very limited perspective.  Unless the character is looking into a mirror (which he sometimes does), we (the audience) do not even know what he looks like.  We see his hands, his feet, and the various objects and body parts that go flying by.  Hardcore Henry appears to be the film version of any first-person shooter video game out there  (Halo, Left 4 Dead, Fallout, even Skyrim, etc.).  So, in theory, we know how it should look and feel.  In theory.

But here's why it doesn't (or probably won't) work:  it's too much for we weak humans to handle.  Our eyes (and brains) cannot keep up at that speed.  We cannot register the movement; it all becomes a blur.  There is a reason fight and stunt choreography for film happens at a (slightly) slower pace than real movements:  because we cannot see it1.  In that same vein, film shot and edited from a more third person perspective allow the viewers to see all of the action and at a pace our tiny brains can register.

While all of Henry's action may be happening in real-time or at least from a perspective that looks and feels like real-time, I have my doubts that it will make for a satisfying audience experience (that doesn't end in nausea, or worse).  I find the concept intriguing since, as I said before, we rarely (if ever) get true "first person" in film, but just because something is "new" or "never done before" doesn't necessarily make it "good."  It makes it a gimmick.  And it's definitely "gimmicky" if the piece of art itself has nothing else in its favor (for a film, things like:  an interesting plot, characters who are not flat, well-written dialogue, etc.).

So far, my predictions for the film seem to have come true.  And being the feminist I am, I giggled at this unfavorable review:
"This movie doesn't just whiff on the Bechdel test; it bubbles in a picture of a penis on the Scantron and high-fives itself on the way out."

Now if the Henry producers could make something like this with a decent plot, characters, dialogue and maybe slightly less (nausea-inducing) action, that could really be something.  In the meantime, we'll have to satisfy those urges elsewhere.

I will PUNCH THIS DOOR if I have to!

1I would add that contemporary films are starting to move even "too fast" now.  Compare something like Tim Burton's Batman to Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins.  The action of Burton's film is almost laughable compared to Nolan's (granted, Burton was going for a more comic book feel than Nolan's dark and gritty take, but still).  And I use that as a specific comparison because I've worked the fight choreographer from Batman Begins; I've learned some of those sequences.  And even then, he taught us how to slow down a bit so both the film and human eye can follow; even at that speed, the film itself is sometimes "too fast" (for me at least) to keep up.

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