Did Ang Lee Direct A High Frame Rate $50 Million Bomb?

billy-lynns-long-halftime-walk-joe-alswyn-700x352By James DeRuvo

There are a bunch of filmmakers who just love high frame rate, but if you ask those who watch the films, well, they’re not really all that into it. Filming in high resolution at 120 frames per second makes the movie look way too realistic, almost ‘soap opera-esque.’ Not from a story telling perspective, but from a sets, props, costuming, make-up and VFX perspective, leaving many complain it takes them out of the story.

So when Ang Lee decided to make Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk in 120p, it would be a challenge for fans to like it. But from what we’re hearing, even an HFR war film can’t fix a long, boring story.

“I love Ang Lee’s movies. most of them, I really do … Who doesn’t love Ang Lee? But Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is way too long, too tedious, and at $50 million (after tax breaks) unnecessarily expensive.” – Showbiz411

Billy LynnLee’s goal was to shoot Billy Lynn not only in 4K at 120p with the Sony F65, but also show it in 3D so that viewers would have “ultimate clarity,” an immersive experience of war. Billy Lee is the story of a soldier with Bravo Squad from Iraq, struggling to adapt to life back in the world while on leave.

Knowing that nobody could relate to their combat experiences, or how it affected them, Billy (played by Joe Alwyn) struggles not only with the feeling of loneliness, but also the flat out danger of being a soldier at home from an unpopular war. Especially when a promoter decides to pay tribute to them at a football game.

“It’s so weird, being honored for the worst day in your life.” – Billy Lynn

That’s the basic story, and Lee shows combat from a first person perspective, but according to reviewers, the film takes itself way too seriously.

“This kind of movie begs for a Robert Altman touch,” says Roger Friedman of Showbiz411, “satire with humor.” And maybe a dark comedy to push the point would drive it home more. Often times you get a better punch from movies like M*A*S*H and Doctor Strangelove, than you would from films like Platoon. Both styles have their place, but when you’re dealing with a war weary populace, it’s a crap shoot, no matter how many frames you film at.

Friedman also says that the film suffers from miscasting. I mean, any time you add Kristin Stewart to the cast, you’re playing catch up emotionally (though he was pleased with her performance). Friedman says that not even Garrett Hedlund and Vin Diesel can save the tediousness of the story. But he seems to be not be impressed about the technical aspects of telling a story at 120fps. “I don’t care how many frames there are per second in a movie,” Friedman adds, “and no one else does. We just want a good movie, well acted, that looks great with an interesting story.”

You’d think that a war film, with all the chaos and non-stop action during a scene would be the ideal place to shoot in HFR to drive home the point of the brutality of war, but adding the element of 3D can only serve to make the audience sick. On top of that, Billy Lynn is about life after coming back to the world, not a war film where all the fighting is in another country. Had this been Saving Private Ryan, maybe shooting in 120 fps would have really struck home.

The bottom line is, shooting in high frame rate is like the siren’s song of filmmaking, sultry and alluring, but few have yet to master it, and I’m not sure the audience ever will accept it. For decades, 24p has been equated with film.

Billy Lynn opens November 11, and according to The Hollywood Reporter, only 6 theaters can show it in 4K, 3D and 120 fps, including one in New York (AMC Lincoln Square), and possibly the ArcLight Hollywood.

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Doddlenews is the news division of the Digital Production Buzz, a leading online resource for filmmakers, covering news, reviews and tutorials for the video and film industry, along with movie and TV news, and podcasting.

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