Friday, March 09, 2007

Camera Obscura - Miller's '300'; 'Heroes'; 'The Host'

Technical prowess may be the real star in the movie version of Frank Miller and Lynn Varley's "300" opening today in theatres (which I told you in December would be the hot ticket when released). Varley, once wife of Miller, added to Miller's art and design of "300", with great colors and moods.

Imaginative, rough, beautiful - the duo of Miller and Varley jammed together all types of comic art and design in their works and bringing all that to screen takes another type of technical inventiveness, which director Zack Snyder achieved by combining the latest CGI/blue screen effects and good old fashioned 35mm film tech.

In a dazzling battle sequence, heavily influenced by Snyder and (cinematographer Larry) Fong's work in commercials, the two used a camera technique known as a "lens morph" or a "nested zoom." Basically, three Arriflex cameras were mounted with a wide, a medium and a macro lens that ran at 150 frames per second. When cut together, the action shot moves blazingly fast, in an extreme change of perspective that isn't created purely by either cutting or zooming. "Using two techniques at once is all part of the weirdness," Fong said.

High adrenaline visuals were then underscored by a bold soundtrack.

When you watch this movie, it should be loud. It should hurt your ears, Snyder said."

More on the audio-visual assault is here from the L.A. Times. Fanboys have been awaiting this movie with much glee and anticipation, and the film is getting very high praise from comic afficianados in this spoiler-loaded review:

The stylized combat of "300" is, as far as I've seen, unparalleled in American filmmaking, and that includes "The Matrix," "The Lord of the Rings," and everything else. In fact, "Rings" devotees may wish to avoid "300," because after seeing Frank Miller's widescreen illustrations come to life and start moving, leaping, hacking, gouging, tearing and bleeding all over their neighborhood IMAX, the Tolkien trilogy will be reduced to little more than the very long story of a schizophrenic Muppet and his curiously affectionate companions. And I love those movies!"

Some fine behind-the-scenes producton blogs about the making of this blood-soaked hyper-epic can be found here.

In the midst of the sculpted abs and ballet of male violence an actress appears as a near-goddess, playing the role of Leonidas' wife Queen Gorgo. Her career has often been lost amid the myths and fantasies of the films she appears in: Lena Headey.

Headey can be seen in another male fantasy, "Twice Upon a Yesterday" (the USA title of the also clumsy title of "The Man With Rain In His Shoes"), which is worth seeking out. A time travel story without gigantic effects or dinosaurs, but relying instead on the ever-changeable human nature for its dramatic core. Other movies with Headey include "The Brothers Grimm," "The Cave", "Ripley's Game," and "Imagine Me & You".

One more thought on "300" -- pre-production plans are underway to bring another of Miller and Varley's cult comics to life, this time "Ronin," which is set in a bizarre nano-bio-tech future which is invaded by a centuries old samaurai battle.

In limited release today (and headed to DVD later this month) is the Korean creature-feature "The Host." The movie has been compared to "Jaws" and my advice is, if you get a chance to see it on the big screen - do so. Often comic and absurd, the movie still manages to scare the bejesus out of audiences.


The hit NBC show "Heroes", which exists both on-screen and in comic books, has had a nice batch of episodes helmed by director Allan Arkush, who also has earned executive producer status on the show.

Arkush, who took Martin Scorsese's film classes in college went on to work for the Roger Corman machine and gave us cult classics like "Rock and Roll High School" and "Get Crazy!".

Arkush has a great touch for comedy, action and drama mixed with comic book/rock and roll madness and his style melds very well with "Heroes". And the show has been very carefully building great stories and characters into a very tense and exciting adventure. Good to see Arkush working again - I may even forgive him for "Caddyshack 2".


While I'm talking comic books, why on earth was there not more of a publicity push for the first-ever onscreen confrontation between Wolverine and Batman?? Huh? Tell me!

Oh sure, they appeared as other people rather than Logan and Bruce Wayne, but it's a terrific match-up between actors Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale in the vastly underrated "The Prestige". Set in the world of magicians at the end of the 19th century, the movie even boasts David Bowie as Nikola Tesla. It's another great film from director Chris Nolan and should be on your list of movies to watch.


  1. "The Prestige" is easily my favorite movie of the last few years, although that may change with "300." I'm a sucker for Frank Miller, but really who isn't?

  2. only the weak among us, Wednesday :)