The slow motion walking shot is undoubtedly one of the most conventional techniques in the business. This is especially true when depicting groups of neatly arranged cohorts in a camera-friendly horizontal formation, which just oozes swagger. Celebrating this week’s slow-mo-friendly cinematic debut of Entourage, this montage of movies from Fandango demonstrates the art effectively.
What is it about movie scenes depicting the simple act of bipedal locomotion in excessive frames that look so cool? Is it the idea of time and space being manipulated that makes emotions come across stronger? Or could it simply be that the intent of characters are effectively magnified when the viewer has a longer opportunity to get a look at their gnarled grimaces? Clearly, as this montage demonstrates, it’s practiced across all genres. Whether a character’s aim is to save the world from terrorists or to win a pie-eating contest, the conveyed emotions in these shots are oddly analogous.
Often utilized as "hero shots," these scenes are typically designed to encapsulate the tone of the overall of film by showing the protagonists at the height of some state of motivation and empowerment. In essence, they serve as the film’s momentary signature stamp by which the filmmaker makes his or her emotional intentions glaringly transparent. It’s certainly manipulative, but there are very few aspects of the filmmaking process that aren't enormously opaque in presentation.
However, they do manage to say more about the characters than any lines of dialogue ever could manage. The video demonstrates shots signifying unity with the famous group scene in Reservoir Dogs as they walk in formation, unified by their meticulously planned caper. It’s nicely paralleled with the scene in Guardians of the Galaxy in which the embattled, friction-filled team is finally on the same page in their plan to stop the evil Ronan the Accuser.
Yet, contrasting with scenes meant to express legitimate badassery, the empowerment of slow-mo walking unity can also be conveyed with a quixotic tinge, as demonstrated by what we see in Anchorman 2 and the clueless "Wolf Pack" crew from The Hangover films. In those cases, we are meant to be laughing at them for their ill-advised intent, which, often by necessity of the plot, fails to yield their desired result.
Overall, the montage, while certainly telling no tales out of school, does serve as interesting food for thought as we continue to move through an age of film where big-budget blockbuster aesthetics exponentially shoot for the sublime. Plus, they remind us of the lessons that slow-mo taught us about the world of pseudo-physics, namely that walking away from explosions at close range is perfectly safe, as long as you do it slowly and with a good game face.