Hardcore Henry: Old concept, new experience
May 4, 2016
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Have you ever sat through a movie and felt your adrenaline pumping? That’s what I felt after watching “Hardcore Henry,” an action movie shot entirely from a first person perspective. Directed by Ilya Naishuller, the movie premiered on April 8 in theaters. The premise is that Henry, who the viewer is made to identify as, goes on a journey to save his wife after she is kidnapped, accompanied by Jimmy, your guide throughout the film. Henry has super powers and robotic limbs that make him indestructible.
The first person perspective provides an intense experience. All you see of Henry are his hands, so that’s how you insert yourself into the movie. You don’t see a face which makes it a lot easier to view yourself as that character. It’s one thing to watch an action movie and watch somebody else accomplish extraordinary feats, like destroying an army of robots, but it’s another to watch an action movie and have characters come at you with knives and guns. It gives you a new kind of rush because you’re a part of the action. Plus, it’s pretty cool to imagine yourself doing all these impossible things, such as punching people miles away and wrapping barbed wire around your hand to do more damage.
The movie was shot almost entirely on a GoPro Hero 3 camera. The movie looks stunning visually, with explosions and fight sequences witnessed as if you were there in those moments. The only thing missing is the gust of air and smell of debris after the explosion.
You would think, based on the quality of action, that the filmmakers used CGI or special effects when it came to the intense sequences — such as chase scenes and explosions — but they didn’t. Throughout the movie, Henry was represented by different actors and stunt people with the GoPro strapped to their heads, rather than a computer generated avatar. That’s pretty impressive because some of those scenes, like the running scene where you’re chasing down a criminal, look exhausting.
While I did enjoy this movie, it had some faults. At times when the camera moves too quickly, I got a bit dizzy and my friend said he experienced some motion sickness.
At times, “Hardcore Henry” felt more like a videogame than a movie. Different scenes resembled missions in video games where you have to accomplish a task before moving on to the next one. The further you go, the closer you get to the final boss. In addition, Jimmy is the non-playable character who gives you instructions and weapons in order to help you progress further, something you see in video games.
“Hardcore Henry” follows a rendition of the classic “saving the princess” trope, and there wasn’t anything new in terms of storytelling to accompany this perspective. Before watching, I had assumed that there would be more complexity to the story, rather than just jumping from action scene to action scene.
There seems to be a lack of originality within the movie industry. Hollywood is taking more and more inspiration from comics, books and video games and modifying them for the big screen. It’s understandable, as superhero and comic book movies have proven popular, so the thought is that the success can be recreated in cinematic form. “Hardcore Henry” was originally a concept taken from a music video “Bad MotherF—–” that Naishuller was working on for his band, Biting Elbows. That concept was expanded into a feature film. I think if done justice, that the formula works. Just look at Marvel and what they’ve done with superhero movies. The same can be said for Disney and the successful way other stories have been adapted. It all depends on the interpretation of the director.
Although the video game comparisons in “Hardcore Henry” were noticeable and sometimes a distraction, it was still a new visual experience to have in a movie theater. Critics said the video game comparison was a detriment to the overall movie. People expected a new type of movie with more interaction, but got a video game on the big screen. However, a bit more of creativity could have taken it to the next level in terms of film quality. I expected more of a complete storyline and more interaction amongst other characters, rather than the characters constantly telling you what to do, like in video games.
I hadn’t experienced anything like this in a movie theater before. I enjoyed being a part of the movie as opposed to watching another generic action movie, which is what this would’ve been if shot traditionally. While the story wasn’t the most original, it was still a lot of fun to watch because it provided a new experience. Just be sure to carry a doggy bag if you get easily sick.