One of the reasons Steven Spielberg is considered a sage in the art of filmmaking is because of how successful he is at keeping the audience emotionally connected to the movie. Even from simply seeing the helicopter approach Isla Nublar in Jurassic Park, we’ve got that rush of excitement; we didn’t see anything at all yet, but we knew it was coming. We knew because John Hammond’s eyes started gleaming with childlike joy as he pointed at the island and said, “There it is.”
Here’s a badly-mathed-out breakdown of a good movie: while one half of the work goes into making the magic a reality through set design, visual effects, and sound editing, another half goes into making the characters of the film believable and enjoyable. Though dinosaurs may only have been in the movie for about fifteen full minutes of its screen time, we enjoyed the movie that much more because of how believable the reactions of the characters were.
When Spielberg was in his prime on action films or adventurous blockbusters, he’d kept a consistent amount of detail to the reactions the characters would have to the environment around them. What’s ended up becoming arguably the most iconic shot of his career is what many now call the “Spielberg Face”. The best part is I probably don’t have to explain to you what it is. You know the look:
Though it may not have been invented by him, Spielberg was a pioneer in humanizing the characters that make his films so successful; it helped draw the line between what makes for a cheap popcorn thrill, and what really ends up hitting our nerves. I think you guys might like this video; it covers the iconic shot with some incredible detail, and it’s just a fun little trivia piece for any Spielberg fan. And let’s face it; we’ve all been Spielberg fans at some point in our lives.
It’s funny how at the end of the day, the way you capture the simple expression of a human being can end up being one of the most poignant parts of a completed film. For me, one of the most memorable shots I’ve seen is a vertigo zoom of Walter White, shown above in the Breaking Bad episode, “Ozymandias”. What about you guys?