Lens Flares

I don’t like lens flares.  I don’t like them in movies or in video games, and for some reason this irks my roommate.  DLH thinks they’re an excellent stylistic choice, and this is a big deal.

It’s really not, but I’m posting my two cents anyway.

The movie specifically in question in the 2009 reboot of Star Trek where practically every action shot features a lens flare.  I think lens flares are cheesy and distracting.  They’re a cheap and lazy way to make a scene more interesting.  Lens flares are to cinematography what sex scenes are to boring writing.  Sure they “spice things up” but they don’t actually add anything.  This seems to be the majority opinion with lots of people ripping on the lens flares — though most people want fewer rather than none.

Before I continue, I feel the need to point out (for DLH’s benefit) that none of the following are being discussed:

  • Abrams ability as a director
  • The cinematography of Star Trek
  • Nolan’s choice to film The Dark Knight Rises on film rather than digital
  • Jackson’s wildly unpopular choice to film The Hobbit in 48 fps.

Ok, continuing on, Abrams admits that the lens flares were overdone.  He goes as far as to call them “ridiculous” but he also says he loves how things turned out.  I agree with him on the first point.

This is where DLH becomes aggravated.  Abrams said, “The flares weren’t just happening from on-camera light sources, they were happening off camera, and that was really the key to it. I want [to create] the sense that, just off camera, something spectacular is happening.”  DLH claims that if he had said that about something I liked I would find it brilliant, but he’s wrong.  If it is that spectacular, just show it.

My real problem with that statement is that lens flares don’t imply action off-screen or a “bright” future.  (By the way, Abrams redid Star Trek in a much darker parallel timeline then claimed that his lens flares where a metaphor for a bright future.)  Here is what lens flares imply to me:

  1. I am looking through a camera.  They’re called “lens flares” not “eye flares” because you only see them when looking through the lens of a camera, not when looking out your own eyes.  There are no lens flares in the real world.
  2. A light is being shined at me.

That’s it.  That is all they’re implying to me.  If you noticed, both of those things are objectively true.  They rarely make sense in a film context and I think Abrams’ explanation is a bit on the flimsy side.

I, like a ton of other bloggers, am worried that his lens flares will also obstruct the Star Wars film he’s rumored to be directing.  I guess we’ll all find out the veracity of Abrams’ “bright future” metaphor when that comes out.  If the dark future of Star Wars is also littered with spotlights, I’ll know his explanation was retroactive.

DLH, my opinion of lens flares isn’t going to change.


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