Josh has been mulling over the idea of movies being made using the first person perspective, with Hardcore Henry coming out this weekend. Is this the next big thing for movie-making or it simply a fad that will pass pretty quickly? Check out his thoughts on the subject, and let us know what you think!
This Friday we have what I would call a “first of its kind” type film coming out. Hardcore Henry is releasing, which is the first movie which tells its story completely from the first person perspective. For those unfamiliar or confused by what that means–we will be looking through the eyes of the main character, Henry, throughout the entire film. The film is directed by Ilya Naishuller and stars Sharlto Copley. Ironically, Sharlto is not Henry in the film, and Henry doesn’t even seem to have a film credit. Does this mean that Henry doesn’t have any lines in the film, and is completely played by stunt people?
With the release of this movie, it begs the question–will this become a thing? Telling stories completely from first person? It is an interesting thing to think about, and there are a number of reasons why it could be a possibility. Let’s go over a few of these.
- Video game appeal – Anyone who has picked up a video game controller in the past few years has probably played an FPS (first person shooter). Taking this to the movie screen might make sense. This also could open the door for seeing other video games coming to the movie screen, with games like Halo, Call of Duty, or Metroid being told from first person on the big screen. There could certainly be a market for that.
- Virtual Reality – We already have VR headsets coming to video games, with the big one being the Oculus Rift. Samsung has also a headset for their phones, and even theme parks are getting into the virtual reality space–Six Flags in California is adding VR headsets to their coasters so that you are seeing a scene play out as you ride a coaster. Why not try to expand this to movies?
Despite these benefits, I think there are numerous drawbacks to this “genre” if you can call it that, which can make it difficult for this movie-making method to become mainstream.
- Limited perspective – Since this movie is being told from first person, the only knowledge we have is what the main character is privy too. In fact, we have even less information than that because we don’t know what this character knows unless it is explained to the audience through interaction with whoever the main character is interacting with. For example, if we see someone walk up to the main character, we have no idea if “we” (us and the main character, whose “eyes” we are looking out) know this person, until they are acknowledged. We can’t even judge the look on the main character’s face, because we are the face. Additionally, we will not be seeing what is going on elsewhere in the movie, as the movie is unable to cut to different scenes since it has been established we are the main character in a sense.
- Limited Dialogue – While I have not seen Hardcore Henry yet, it seems like dialogue is not going to be very prominent in this film, given “Henry” has no movie credits. Much like in video games, I have a feeling, most characters will be talking to Henry, but Henry will not have much to say. This essentially means we will be seeing most action sequences in the film, so that there is no time for meaningful dialogue.
- The Biological Factor – For most people I have talked to that do not want to see this movie, their biggest complaint seems to be that they think they will get sick seeing this film. Violet and others have equated this to films like Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield where the movement of the camera causes motion sickness for viewers. Just the fact that this is a possibility is turning people off on the film.
- VR Might Not Work As Well As Expected – Combining virtual reality with this first person perspective storytelling seems like it could be an amazing experience when first thinking about it. How awesome would it be to be looking through Batman’s eyes, as you fight crime throughout Gotham? It does sound like a lot of fun. But think about this: In a movie, the storytellers (i.e. Director, Writer, and even actors) are telling you where the focus of the attention in the film is supposed to be. If you change to a more free form, virtual reality format, movie makers will have to come up with a way to keep attention in specific areas of the film, otherwise the story could get completely lost with viewers. This basically negates the benefit of virtual reality in the first place.
Having weighed the positives and negatives, I think movies like Hardcore Henry might remain sort of a niche storytelling device. It is a very limited method for storytelling given the inherit nature of it. There are a few movies I can think of that could have been interesting told this way though, with a big one being Christopher Nolan’s Memento. This one is told completely from Guy Pearce’s character’s perspective, and looking through his eyes rather than a third person view could have been an interesting thing to see. Duncan Jones’ film Moon is another film I could see told from the first person point of view. There are also a number of video games that would work very well told from this point of view, like the ones mentioned before–Halo, Metroid, Call of Duty, or any other first person shooter really.
So, what do you think? Is a first person perspective film genre like Hardcore Henry something you would like to see more of? Are there more advantages or disadvantages using this storytelling method than what I have thought of? Are there other movies you think that would work told from the first person perspective? Let me know in the comments below!