Posted on Tuesday, May 6th, 2008 by Peter Sciretta
Tired of the same old action movie? Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was shot and edited to feel like an old school action film. Star Harrison Ford recently told The Australian that “we didn’t shoot it like a Matrix style where if you hit somebody they end up in this big space and you didn’t feel the hurt, you don’t feel the fear. I feel you very quickly lose emotional connection with the character if it’s like that. We are more old school.”
Director Steven Spielberg also told N.Y. Times that he tries to cut as little as possible in the action sequences because “every time the camera changes dynamic angles, you feel there’s something wrong, that there’s some cheating going on.”
“The idea is, there’s no illusion; what you see is what you get. My movies have never been frenetically cut, the way a lot of action is done today. That’s not a put-down; some of that quick cutting, like in ‘The Bourne Ultimatum,’ is fantastic, just takes my breath away. But to get the comedy I want in the Indy films, you have to be old-fashioned. I’ve studied a lot of the old movies that made me laugh, and you’ve got to stage things in full shots and let the audience be the editor. It’s like every shot is a circus act.”
Spielberg’s goal is “to do the shots the way Chaplin or Keaton would, everything happening before the eyes of the audience, without a cut.”
When my colleagues and I had the chance to sit down with Spielberg during the filming of Indiana Jones 4 he explained the importance of the audience knowing where they are in the context of a big action scene. He used words like “geography” and expressed his dislike for the “MTV style” fast-cut editing that have plagued modern day action films It should be noted that Spielberg also exec-produced Michael Bay’s Transformers, so figure that out. In January, Spielberg reaffirmed the same feelings in an interview with Vanity Fair:
“I go for geography. I want the audience to know not only which side the good guy’s on and the bad guy’s on, but which side of the screen they’re in, and I want the audience to be able to edit as quickly as they want in a shot that I am loath to cut away from. And that’s been my style with all four of these Indiana Jones pictures. Quick-cutting is very effective in some movies, like the Bourne pictures, but you sacrifice geography when you go for quick-cutting. Which is fine, because audiences get a huge adrenaline rush from a cut every second and a half on The Bourne Ultimatum, and there’s just enough geography for the audience never to be lost, especially in the last Bourne film, which I thought was the best of the three. But, by the same token, Indy is a little more old-fashioned than the modern-day action adventure.”
I think Spielberg has a great point. Some recent action films have been so intense that you can’t even keep up with what’s going on. Not that those type of action sequences don’t have a place in cinema (for example The Bourne series). Everytime I watch Raiders of the Lost Ark I’m amazed at the construction of every single frame, and every single cut. It’s almost like directing action has become a lost art, something delegated to less competent filmmakers. Remember when Spielberg was nominated for Best Director for a popcorn action movie?
Paramount has also released four new television spots for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Each of them contains a little more new footage. Check them out below.
[flv:http://media2.slashfilm.com/slashfilm/trailers/indy4tv5.flv 460 194]
[flv:http://media2.slashfilm.com/slashfilm/trailers/indy4tv6.flv 460 194]
[flv:http://media2.slashfilm.com/slashfilm/trailers/indy4tv7.flv 460 194]
[flv:http://media2.slashfilm.com/slashfilm/trailers/indy4tv8.flv 460 194]
Discuss: Does the action in a movie need to be fast cut and always moving to compete in today’s world of action films?