Saturday, August 29, 2015

You Don't Need to Wash the Whole Film Grey to be "Grim and Gritty"

Is there something there? I can't tell.
With the coming of Batman Vs. Superman I feel the need to address something that has been bothering me for some time. That is the use of “color code” for a film genre, or to be more precise the use of digital color correction to wash an entire film a specific tint. You may have noticed: Horror films are blue; Sci-fi is green; Films in the desert are yellow; And if it is supposed to be an apocalyptic film it will be grey. 
      The first to use this all the way through was O Brother Where Art Thou, who washed the film to give it that old time sepia color. Which was nice and different then. It worked for the style of film, but now the trend has got out of hand.
      The film which bothered me the most in its use of the color code was Man of Steel. The grey wash was so thorough that it nearly blotted out every other color and, even though there was a lot of action, the use of grey made everything very dull to watch. I saw it in Imax and 3-D and still I was so bored that I fell asleep. Later on, as I analyzed why I was so bored, the one thing that I hit on more than anything else was the color scheme. As much as this might make me sound like an idiot, the use of bright colors or a contrasting scheme helps to capture the viewer’s eye and hold their interest. When everything is monotone and gloomy, then a person’s attention lapses. If we look at babies, they are naturally attracted to bright shiny objects and colors. And we never really lose that interest, even as adults, we’ve just learned not to shove everything in our mouths.
       Man of Steel came out a while ago, but what really prompted me to write on this topic was a conversation I had with a drone not too long ago (How come so many of my blogs are spurred on this way?). And by drone, I mean some who laps up everything that is tossed at him and regurgitates it back without thought. It was as if I was speaking to a larynx rather than a brain. But I didn’t realize this when I first spoke to him, otherwise I wouldn’t have wasted my time.
       During our conversation it came out that he was a fan of Man of Steel. I described my problems with it and he shook his head. He stated that the film was supposed to be “grim and gritty” and that the color had to match. That everything being grey was necessary to set the tone of the film.
       “Otherwise people might not realize.” He added.
        The conversation soon became pointless and I gave up.  I will get into the whether the character of Superman needs to be “grim and gritty” on a future blog, but the idea that the entire film has to be a dull color to set the tone is ridiculous.
       To prove my point. I will contrast various scenes from that wonderful classic A Clockwork Orange against Man of Steel. No one in their right minds will ever say that the subject matter of A Clockwork Orange is anything but grim and gritty. It is a savage tale told with an unblinking eye, but damn is it colorful.

If your haven't read it.
It's real horrorshow.

Lets start with a scene of characters sitting down:
No wonder this planet committed suicide. It is the most depressing place in the Universe.
There is black here, but it is offset by many other colors and draws your eye in.

       Jungian psychologists have studied the effects of colors on people. They discovered that grey tends to make one feel of: dampness, depression, lack of confidence, lack of energy. Not a great mood for an action movie.
       How about another example? Here we have characters who are verbally opposing the scene's protagonist. Which has more energy?  
 I'm about to go into hibernation.
The color primarily used here is white. Even the graffiti on the wall is white.
Which stands out? Which is more vivid?
Now let’s take a look at the protagonists.
Alex Delarge
     Note that the Clockwork Orange is awash in brightness and light, and yet still is able to denote a sinister tone. That’s because before digital color correcting they used a device called acting to set the mood.
     But this is all people sitting around. Let’s look at some action! 
Flying around in dark clothes against a dark background.

Granted the giant penis helps to grab your attention as much as anything else.
     Had enough? Let’s just try one final image. This is reaction shot of the protagonist in peril. Which grabs your interest more?
Man of Steel...
or A Clockwork Orange?

      Unfortunately it does not seem like overuse of digital color correction is going away anytime soon. Like the shaky cam technique, a lot of film directors and producers seem convinced that it adds to a film’s quality- or at least is what people want.

       Why? Because at the end of the day a lot of people are going to want to see Batman and Superman fight, no matter what the film looks like.