Hyper Kinetic Editing

20 02 2008

A post at The Reel Addict complains about the frustration they feel about overly-hyper edited films and complains that:

It drives me nuts. I didn’t pay $12 dollars to wait an entire film for a culminating final battle, only to have my eyes be unable to process so many subsequent images at once, leaving me seeing nothing but blurs.

It’s a well reasoned piece, provoked in part by JUMPER (directed by BOURNE ULTIMATUM‘s director, Doug Liman). The complaint here is where editing overcomes story. Years ago, editing was about story, and the use of editing to fulfill stylistic needs was very low down on the priority list. Now editing is often more about emotion than story and that’s the issue that this post raises.

I remember hearing a story (perhaps apocryphal) about Michael Bay, after walking out of an early screening of THE ROCK. Rumor has it that he looked at his editors and said (I’m paraphrasing here) “Phew, it certainly seems cuttier on the big screen than it does on the TV.”

Clearly, we’re out of that phase and, now, filmmakers are consciously choosing frenetic editing styles to boost energy. Sometimes that’s done out of a legitimate story need, sometimes it’s done to cover up lousy story or faulty filmmaking, and sometimes its done out of nervousness and mistrust of the natural pace of the film. But we clearly know what’s going on with an audience when we make that choice.

There are definitely films that take it too far for many audiences. In this case, the writer takes issue with JUMPER’s use of it:

It’s meant to make you feel like you’re involved in the scene, and there through get you more pumped up about it. The quick editing makes it seem like more things are happening at a more frantic pace, and therefore the events become more exciting, right? Wrong. I appreciate the creative ambitions behind the editing, but I’d rather see what’s going on then have to settle for misplaced artistic ambitions in an action film.

For me, it all goes back to story. In TERMINATOR 2, the filmmakers took the time to cut in a shot of a gas tank leaking during the big chase scene in the L.A. River. Did they need to do that? If you think about whether the energy level would have been diminished without the shot, or whether the audience would have bought the explosion without it, the answer has to be — absolutely not. But they took the time to do it.

Storytelling is all in editing. That’s what it’s about — not flashy cuts.

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2 responses

22 02 2008
Elizabeth Shoemaker

Hi Norm,
I find the entry about Jumper interesting. I haven’t seen the film so I can’t agree or disagree. But I have a couple of questions.

First, how do you feel about the use of multiscreen images to propel stories in television (i.e. CSI MIAMI).

And, do you think that audiences will just adapt to the hyperkinetic editing? I had an experience years ago watching the classic “M.” Many in the group thought it was too slow. And I had to wonder if it’s because audiences are so much better at making leaps in story that it made them impatient for the movie to “move on.” (I loved the movie, which may mean trouble for my future)

23 02 2008
Hyper Kinetic Editing — Part Two « H o l l y n - w o o d (Norman, that is)

[…] Kinetic Editing — Part Two 23 02 2008  Elizabeth Shoemaker comments on my post on Hyper Kinetic Editing by asking: How do you feel about the use of multiscreen images to propel stories in television […]

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