If you still need evidence of the mainstreaming of the formerly underground worlds of comics and video games, go see 300. The genesis of the movie, just released on Friday, is explained well in this Time article. As Time states:
It was made by a young director, stars nobody in particular, and it looks like nothing you’ve ever seen. Very little in 300 is real except the actors. Sets, locations, armies, blood–they’re all computer generated. It’s beautiful, and it might well be the future of filmmaking.
The article spends some time worrying about whether nearly all movies will be made like this in the future. Seems like a silly thing to worry about. Movies will become what their audiences want them to become, although it’s as hard to imagine that most future films will become digital as it is to imagine that few future films will have digital elements.
The film looks like a comic book which, as an adaptation of a graphic novel, it is. It is highly stylized and atmospheric, just as the comic is and just as video games are. “For [director Zach] Snyder it was simply the only way to get the look of [the graphic novel] off the page and onto the big screen.”
Other movies have been made using this “digital backlot” method combined with a comic book feel. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow comes to mind, although that movie was not a box office success as 300 certainly seems destined to be. I liked both films and while it’s difficult to say why one fails and the other doesn’t, 300 has much more of a video game feel. Anyone familiar with atmospheric first person shooters will immediately feel at home with 300. The violence is much more prominent in 300 as well, just as it is an integral part of FPS games.
The well-known classicist, Victor Davis Hanson, compares (page down) the digital backlot technique to ancient Greek tragedy:
…Snyder, Johnstad, and [300 writer] Miller have created a strange convention of digital backlot and computer animation, reminiscent of the comic book mix of Sin City. That too is sort of like the conventions of Attic tragedy in which myths were presented only through elaborate protocols that came at the expense of realism (three male actors on the stage, masks, dialogue in iambs, with elaborate choral meters, violence off stage, 1000-1600 lines long, etc.).
Comparing 300 with Oliver Stone’s film on Alexander the Great, Hanson says,
If characters sometimes sound black-and-white as cut-out superheroes, it is not because they are badly-scripted Greeks, as was true in Stoneâ€™s film, but because they reflect the parameters of the convention of graphic novels, comic books, and surrealistic cinematography.
During Leonidas’s final moments, he is shown in profile, a profile that looks exactly like the profile of Greek warriors found on ancient pottery. Most of the best lines in the film are taken directly from Herodotus and Plutarch. The whole thing is a wonderful mashup of comics, video games, and ancient history. What a fantastic combination!