Stop the Slow Motion!

By Matthew J.R. Kohler


Slow Motion, or bullet time, has become so popular that every action movie has to have at least one scene with slow motion.  Because everyone does do this, it makes the use of slow motion less special.  As a kid I watched Bruce Lee films every day, and yes, they had slow motion.  But there was something different about how those movies and The Matrix, used slow motion, right?  I believe that these films used this device to enhance the drama, or to enhance the fantasy.  In The Matrix, Neo (Keanu Reeves) is a computer hacker who, in the virtual world, can break the system, and get it to do whatever he imagines.  It makes sense to have slow motion here because he is moving faster than a bullet. The Matrix uses slow motion to both enhance the drama, and the fantasy of the film.

Now this is where the problem starts.  After The Matrix, it seemed like every movie thought it needed a slow motion scene. Well, it’s cool, right?  Yes and no.  Most of the time when I watch a fight scene, I lose interest in it because they randomly throw in slow motion.  When a fight scene does this, it shows two things: 1) the actors are bad at fighting, and cannot perform the action at full speed, and 2) it’s fake.  I know that is not the case all the time because movies such as Ip Man use it. The difference is that in Ip Man the slow motion fulfills a purpose, enhancing the drama.  Most movies today use slow motion, and it has no meaning.  For example, in Michael Bay’s Transformers films he uses slow motion.  The scene that ticks me off the most is when Iron Hide jumps over this lady (a model) in the first film.  The slow motion scene is about twenty seconds long. There is no reason for including the slow motion, except for because it looks cool, and so you can get an up close look at a woman.

One show that bothered me for doing this is Daredevil, the show that everyone thought had excellent fight scenes.  The moment I would get into the fight scene, they would kill it by slowing it down.  Why go through all the trouble of choreographing a fight scene, and try to make it fast, just to slow it down?  I have never been to a movie theater where people were blown away because something was in slow motion.


But this just is not just happening on the big screen.  Everyone is doing it. It’s like smoking.  It’s an epidemic. Four years ago, when I started watching fan films and web series, I notice a huge trend.  Because a lot of amateur filmmakers just do what everyone else does, they use a lot of slow motion in their fight scenes. How can you ever break into the industry as a new artist if all you do is copy? In Mortal Kombat Legacy, Scorpion and Sub Zero have an intense fight.  The gymnastic ability on both of them was impressive, but it would have been engaging if they had stuck to real time.

I really don’t mind slow motion for the most part, but it’s so commonplace that it gets annoying.  In media, whenever something gets over saturated people will lose interest, and then something new comes along to take its place.  Westerns are the perfect example of this.  One day we have thirty million western films coming out, and the next day we get science fiction films.  Now, only quality western films come out such as Unforgiven, Tombstone, and True Grit.


So if you want slow motion to still be a thing, don’t overkill.  Try using it sparingly, but when you do use it, use it with style, and with purpose.  The movies that use slow motion wisely, or use any cinematic mechanic artistically will be remembered. The others… well, who really wants to remember this?

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