Some movie trends arrive without much public support.
Was anyone clamoring to see children’s fairy tales brought to the big screen?
Here’s guessing that’s the ugly truth for the Shaky Cam, the endlessly moving camera meant to convey an added urgency to the action on screen. Or, so it would seem giving the director a very large benefit of the doubt.
The latest Shaky Cam opus is “Battle: Los Angeles,” and it’s clear, after surfing a few film web sites, it’s not winning many converts.
Here’s a typical comment at RottenTomatoes.com on the movie:
What killed it for me was the shaky-cam. The freaking screen wouldn’t stop moving for a second, and I almost left it – Sputnik99
So why use it?
Director Paul Greengrass may not be the first one to haul the Shaky Cam out, but his work on the second two “Bourne” movies proved how effective camera displacement could be. “Bourne” star Matt Damon isn’t a large man, but by shooting him in such a fashion it made the fight sequences feel like nothing we’ve seen before. That’s priceless when you’re trying to elevate an action picture beyond its competition.
But the Shaky Cam in “Battle: LA” threatens to ruin the entire film. Director Jonathan Liebesman uses it early and often, even in situations as calm as two men talking to each other around a desk.
Shaky Cam is like slow motion. Use it sparingly, and it can make an ordinary scene crackle. Embrace it for every other scene and you risk a mass exodus. And some very angry movie site commentary.
Update: The Furious D Show adds some more quality points to this discussion.
Update, Take Two: In “Director’s Close Up,” Steven Spielberg shares this anecdote about a camera test which led to the dramatic opening sequence in “Saving Private Ryan” – “I took one of those huge drills, those big industrial Black and Decker drills, took the bit off and instead just used the drill as a large vibrator. And basically had the on/off switch and I would hold the drill up to the camera, and when I pressed on, the camera would vibrate … the vibration was subtle enough to create a subconscious neurotic feeling to it.”
If only other directors approach shaking the camera with such artistry.
(Photo: The new action film “Battle: Los Angeles” relies heavily on a shaky cam technique to amplify the excitement on screen.)