How quick-cutting obscures.

Quick-cutting used to be a tool used by clever low budget filmmakers to help disguise the absence of expensive production design and special effects. And it worked. But now, paradoxically, it’s used even more often by big budget filmmakers; and the result is that the viewer cannot fully experience, let alone appreciate, these movies’ expensive production design and effects.

This state of things is something I’ve thought a lot about before, but it was really illustrated for me by watching John Carter. (Not a great movie by the way, but I’ve also seen far, far worse.) As the imdb trivia page informs us: “About 1,800 costumes were designed–383 yards of cloth material were used to design the Thern costumes, while Dejah’s wedding dress, cuffs and crown had 120,000 Swarovski crystals attached by hand.” Impressive. And all but unseeable because of the movie’s unthoughtful (or, more likely, overthought) staging and ADD editing style. Compare that with, say, Cleopatra. Another expensive bomb; an awful lot of its budget also ended up on screen, but is actually showcased in a way that allows your eye to linger. Cleopatra’s entry into Rome is still unmatched for sheer ridiculously over-the-top, gaudy spectacle. Because you can just sit there and take it all in.

Disney could have saved itself a lot of money by using cheaper costumes and plastic beads. We wouldn’t have been able to see them anyway.

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