Much like such iconic movies as "Jaws," "Star Wars," "Pulp Fiction" or "The Matrix," director Zack Snyder and comicbook creator Frank Miller's "300" looks to be a shapeshifter movie for the new millennium. Beyond turning Gerard Butler into an action star and revitalizing the R rating, "300" is going to have a big impact, because it has proved the effectiveness of a moviemaking technique that blends stylized graphic and live-action elements seamlessly -- and at $64 million, relatively inexpensively. It's the birth of a new hybrid cinema, says genre marketing consultant Jeff Conner ("The Animatrix"). "Call it live-action anime. It's like doing a high school play on a stage with digital backdrops. It's a new visual language with a different reality."I haven't see it yet but I must say that after talking to audiences about all of their responses have been tinged with a big hint of "guilty pleasure". Almost to person, I have heard, "it is big, dumb, graphic and violent... but I loved watching it." In other words, expect more, not less...
Mummy"), who is eager to give Conran another chance to prove himself with the technique. "'300,' which is the perfect combination of a story and a visual style, validates this approach. You'll see a lot more of these kinds of movies that combine heavy CGI with human characters. '300' feels huge. These movies are expanding what you can do. If you know what you're doing, you can make these movies for air."Yeah, that third Matrix film really stunk didn't it?
"Transformers" producer Don Murphy thinks the technique also would work in a more contemporary setting.
"'300' shows that you can create a completely stylized world for less money than you ever could before," he says. "As long as it's the right project, you'll see films taken to some dazzling places. I have several projects set in the '60s. If done right, I could make the '60s as relevant as ancient Greece."
Few of the imitators are likely to be commercial. "There's going to be some wacko knockoffs from subcontractors in India and South Korea," says one studio producer. "The race is on."
Miller quotes author Theodore Sturgeon's law: "He said, 'Ninety percent of everything is crud.' You'll find that applies to everything that comes down the pipeline."
The danger is in thinking that a film that is the perfect match of style, story and technology can be easily imitated.
"Things can feel fresh only a few times," says producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who supervised "The Matrix" at Warner Bros. as head of production. "Fresh is another word for originality. When you utilize the same method they used on '300,' you're already one generation less fresh. The technology is evolving and opening up in different ways. But it comes down to the same thing: Zack Snyder had an individual point of view as a director about what the audience would embrace. The time was right. Whether it's 'Matrix' or 'Pulp Fiction,' it's about the iconic nature of the movie. Knockoffs of 'The Matrix' weren't iconic. That level of talent is a rare commodity."
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