Peter Suderman on Hardcore Henry and the Shrinking Divide Between Movies and Video Games


Hardcore Henry, via STX Entertainment

This week's Vox column is on Hardcore Henry and the ways that video games and movies are borrowing from each other.

I argue that it's a better sign for games than for film. Here's how it starts: 

Hardcore Henry is less a movie you watch and more of a big-screen simulation you experience. The film, shot entirely in fish-eyed first person, with arms and legs flailing below, forces moviegoers into its perspective and then batters them through a mess of frantic action sequences. On a big screen, the effect is literally dizzying: It's like watching a feature-length, large-format video game controlled by someone else.

That's not an accident. The story and visuals borrow unapologetically from the tropes of gaming, and director Ilya Naishuller sometimes seems more concerned with making the movie feel like a game than a movie. It's the latest and most obvious sign of the shrinking divide between movies and video games — one that bodes better for video games than for movies.

Just about every element of Hardcore Henry somehow links back to the world of video games, right down to the story structure.

In the opening scene, the protagonist, Henry, wakes up in a science fiction lab and is introduced to his body, complete with various enhancements that give him unusual strength and durability. As is often the case in video games, he's essentially a blank: He has no memories and no voice, no self except his name. The sequence acts as a tutorial, explaining the basics of the character's movement and capabilities to the audience.

From there, Hardcore Henry proceeds through a series of action scenes that function like video game levels. 

Read the whole thing at Vox

For those interested in how some of the crazier first-person shots in Hardcore Henry were achieved, a behind the scenes music video provides some insight. Watch it after the jump:

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  1. Hardcore Harry doesn’t interest me in the least. It seems like it would be like watching someone else play a video game. I’ll wait to watch PewDiePie watch it.

    1. my co-worker’s sister makes $64 /hour on the computer . She has been without a job for ten months but last month her pay was $21908 just working on the computer for a few hours. go????????????? Click this link

      1. The shrinking divide between comments and spam?

    2. I know some kids who will watch a Youtube video of a guy watching PewDiePie watching Hardcore Harry. It’s alarming and scary because I really and truly do not understand what species this even is that will do such a thing. If you like new wave deathmetal punk music while I like Blue Oyster Cult, I can at least relate to the fact that we like different sorts of music but watching a video of somebody else play bits and pieces of a video game as a form of entertainment? That’s like me saying I like Blue Oyster Cult and you saying you like looking at new wave deathmetal punk album covers – how is that even musical appreciation?

      1. My kids are both like that and it baffles me. I can see watching someone playing a game that you’re considering buying, then it’s a nice review that can inform your decision. But to just sit and watch someone else play a game… I don’t get it.

        1. I used to watch videos put out by a group of Brits who’d play Minecraft. They injected a lot of impromptu comedy into the game. Plus it’s interesting watching whatever project they’re working on come to fruition, like the hundred-some episode jaffa cake factory. In fairness, at the time I was working in a position involving a lot of hands-on work and very little concentration. I listened to the entirety of Game of Thrones during that time.

          1. Yeah, you tell those two old farts they’ll never get our generation!

            1. Get off my lawn youtube channel!

        2. I watch someone playing a game when I’m stuck in it.

        3. “But to just sit and watch someone else play a game… I don’t get it.

          Funny, that’s exactly how I feel about televised sports. Despite being fundamentally un-athletic, I can understand the attraction in PLAYING football. I don’t ‘get’ watching it.

          S’ok. we don’t have to all like the same things, or even understand each-thee’s likes and dislikes. No matter how much the Buttinskies, both Left and Right, want to make us.

      2. What the hell is PewDiePie?

        1. A cheap Markiplier knock-off.

        2. Some millenial doing millenial things. We wouldn’t understand.

        3. Cancer.

      3. Exactly. I mean, I understand why people would want to challenge themselves in athletic competitions, but these bizarre people who just watch other people engage in athletics on television, and the stranger ones who watch people on television offering commentary about people engaging athletics on television are like aliens.

  2. Biting Elbows also did a 2-part video in a similar style for “The Stampede” and =”Bad Motherfucker” (just a quick Youtube search away).

    1. It was the same original director – Naishuller doing music videos for his band – inspired the kickstarter for HH. The first one is “Office Stampede” and “Bad Motherfucker” is the sequel that came out a year later. (2011/2012 or something like that).

  3. That’s nice.

  4. I argue that it’s a better sign for games than for film.

    There was a time when films were taking over games it proceeded apace until it produced a few stinkers and other interfaces became popular. The cutscene still exists and is popular, but hardly as dominant as it once was. IMO, Hardcore Henry represents the high water mark of the reciprocal movement.

    This is hardly the first FPS-film. Maybe the first FPS-only, but the more FPS-game the films become, the more easily they’re demolished at the Box Office by first-person/cinema verite films with even modest writing and less game-y feel.

    1. So much that linked pic.

  5. Read the whole thing at Vox.


    Vox exists merely to serve as a holding pen for people who are utterly clueless about reality.

    1. I wish they’d do a better job of it, then.

    2. Uncivil, you are our most cantankerous commentor. It’s impressive.

      1. How young is too young to be considered a curmudgeon?

          1. UnCivilServant got himself born two months prematurely just so he could tell some other kids to get off his lawn.

        1. The curmudgeon level starts whenever a person develops constant hankering for butterscotch pudding.

          1. The second step is referring to one’s pants as “slacks,” the waistband of which begins to creep ever-higher.

            1. Uncivil definitely enjoys watching an old, female novelist investigate the homicides of a small, Maine town.

              1. UnCivil has a dish of ribbon candy on his living room end table, and it’s been sitting there for so long that the candy is all stuck together and as hard as a rock.

            2. Slacks? Used to be dungarees.

          2. Butterscotch pudding is delicious.

            1. Do you peel off the skin and eat that first or do you try to stir it in?

              1. Stir it in. Pudding skin is gross.

  6. Video games emulating television is a little bit of a problem, unfortunately. Case in point: GTA5. The visuals and gameplay are stellar, but the story is a depressing slog through the lives of three unlikable deadbeat sociopaths, and of course has to punctuate every five minutes of play with dialogue-heavy cutscenes. Fine, you want to flesh out these characters, but it doesn’t have to have the stressful Breaking Bad vibe. We know these characters are thieves and murderers, there’s no need to show how they’re terrible family men with horrendous vices and destructive personalities. Around the middle of it the game features a gratuitous scene in which the psychopath character tortures someone for information, and the player has to choose each implement and play a minigame unique to each to act out the sadism. That’s when I checked out: this isn’t fun, it’s demoralizing and pointless.

    1. From what I’ve seen of the Saint’s Row franchise, it has all of the crazy violent action (and then some) of GTA without the bothersome story.

      1. Yeah, that’s on the list along with Just Cause. Violent mayhem is fun, sociopathic identity crises not so much.

        1. My son has SR IV. Last time I saw him playing it he was running around dressed as a superhero with Hulk hands shooting down helicopters with a rocket launcher before jumping in a tank and driving over 30 or 40 police cars. It looked fun in a bizarre way.

            1. Seeing the guy just sitting there in the street reminded me of this.

      2. God yes, Saint’s Row understands what you want and lets you do it. And it does it with absolute manic glee, reveling in its own absurdity.

        SR3 is my favorite of the ones available on the PC, but 4 is an excellent superhero/sci-fi game. Much nerdier than previous installments, too.

    2. Video games emulating television is a little bit of a problem, unfortunately.

      IMO, it has been a problem since video games became capable of rendering notable amounts of video. Video prologues and epilogues were nice but cut scenes every. single. time. a character performs an action became real tedious real quick.

      1. Especially because that cuts down on the amount of actual play in newer games.

      2. I never played Doom 3, but if Doom 4 is a return to form with a silent protagonist, no cutscenes, and bike-locks the camera to the first-person POV, I’ll give it a play for nostalgia.

        1. Doom 3 isn’t too bad. I only got about 3/4 of the way through but don’t recall any cutscenes of great length aside from the intro. They put PDAs around that you could collect and access for bits of story, but you weren’t forced to.

        2. The biggest problem with D3 was the lighting. Most of the station is so dark you can barely see with flickering lights scattered around. It’s very tough on the eyes to play for very long.

          1. The biggest problem with Doom 3 was that you couldn’t tape or tie a flashlight to your gun. There were numerous rooms that were very dark, you shine the light, oh shit monster, switch to gun, nope the other one, now shoot.

        3. no cutscenes

          All the previews I’ve seen contained a lot of ‘action vignettes’ and people were whooping about them. While I think they can be great in turn-based or non-FP formats, I loathe getting shot because my character takes 8 s to tear through an enemy lengthwise with a chainsaw when it takes 2 s to saw through their head/neck/limb.

          1. Those are the worst. Just let me inflict gaping gushing wounds or blow limbs off without having the controls taken away. FO4 doesn’t do a lot of it, but when it changes perspective to animate crafting or interacting with power armor or conversing, it breaks the immersion.

    3. Fat too much entertainment these days reminds me of the old “Lord Cobbold” sketch by BEYOND THE FRINGE;

      The Lord has been recently appointed to the British Board of Censors, and the BBC is interviewing him:

      “When I go the the theatre, I want to be taken out of myself. I don’t want to see lust and rape and incest and sodomy – I can get all that at home!”

      (You have to imagine this in a plummy upper-class British accent)

      I don’t want to see mess and angst and drama. That’s where I live.

    4. Video games emulating television is a little bit of a problem, unfortunately. Case in point: GTA5.

      Not every video game, fortunately. Sleeping Dogs follows this formula and succeeds at pretty much everywhere that the GTA franchise fails miserably.

      1. +1 John Woo

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