6 Great Movies That Will Overwhelm Your Senses

the lego movie 9 600x251 6 Great Movies That Will Overwhelm Your Senses

Movies are more than simply storytelling. It’s often tempting to focus exclusively on the story aspect of cinematic storytelling at the expense of the telling. It’s true that popular feature length movies are almost uniformly concerned with the unfolding of a narrative, but part of the pleasure of watching often comes from the familiarity or strangeness of a world we’re being immersed in. Sometimes this is done in beautiful, artful, and understated ways, and that’s great. What’s unfortunate is when equally beautiful and artful work is dismissed as spectacle or shallow entertainment, because the best of this kind of filmmaking exposes us to a way of seeing and experiencing cinema that’s different and interesting.

Minimalism can be powerful. So can, for lack of a better word, maximalism (I understand that this is an actual art term that I am using rather crudely here but my hope is that my meaning is understood somewhat clearly). The effect of focusing all our attention on something is no more artistically valuable than the effect of overwhelming our attention so we don’t know where to look or what to listen to. For some reason, fast editing and incomprehensible action is pejoratively referred to as “chaos cinema,” but I am unclear on how better to capture chaos on screen. I grant that it’s often a matter of taste, like the argument over whether something is music or merely noise (I find the chaos of Transformers to be mostly noisy but am open to persuasion).

Visually overwhelming movies, in conjunction with the use of sound, serve their purpose, be it artistic, entertaining, or both. So, on that note, here are 6 spectacular movies that will make your head spin.

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1) Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Scott Pilgrim vs the World 6 Great Movies That Will Overwhelm Your Senses

Edgar Wright established himself as a director of wonderfully manic style in his early collaborations with Simon Pegg, such as Spaced and Shaun of the Dead. In 2010, with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, he showed that if he was holding anything back previously, he wasn’t anymore, making a movie with some of the craziest energy and visual expression that audiences had ever seen.

Movies based on graphic novels are still a relatively recent chapter in film history, and the range of expression in the many adaptations is wide. There’s something like Sin City that looks almost entirely animated, or Watchmen which captures the punchiness and deliberation over specific images that you can only get with a comic book. Scott Pilgrim goes even further, capturing the frantic page-turning feeling combined with just a wild frenzy of thought and side notes.

It may take more than one viewing to make aesthetic sense out of, but its retro video game sensibility and employment of bizarre yet charming humor make it an immensely fun movie that doesn’t allow you a moment to be bored.

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2) Gravity

Gravity11 6 Great Movies That Will Overwhelm Your Senses

The sensory experience of Gravity is not as universally awe-inspiring as I had first assumed, it turns out. By that I mean to say not everyone seems to have been as taken by the revolutionary visuals and effects that were accompanied by a relatively simple but emotional narrative as I and many others were. And that’s completely fine. Despite the comparisons to Stanley Kubrick (which seem to only go as far as…they both did space movies), I would side with those comparing director Alfonso Cuarón to Alfred Hitchcock, particularly his more experimental suspense work like Rope. Gravity is a 90-minute experiment in suspense.

Anyone who was fortunate enough to see the film in proper 3D IMAX form will likely attest to the deeply immersive quality of the movie, which is further enhanced by the effective realization of contemporary common knowledge that sound does not travel in space. This lack of auditory warning makes the visual details more acutely notable—the slightest bit of debris signals to us that trouble of a massive scale is on its way and there’s little we can do to avoid it.

The use of continuous editing and perspective shots at opportune moments make it feel that much more real as we watch. At least for me, there were more flinch-inducing moments in Gravity than I can remember in any other film. Classifying it as almost more of a “ride” than a movie is appropriate, and shouldn’t take away from its perceived artistry.

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3) Speed Racer

Speed Racer 6 Great Movies That Will Overwhelm Your Senses

It’s gratifying to see the retroactive appreciation for the Wachowskis’ crazy 2008 adaptation of Speed Racer. At the time of its release it attracted largely negative reviews, but it did garner a cult following of sorts which has taken its case to the internet and the narrative seems to be turning.

With The Matrix, the Wachowskis treated us to some hugely influential visual effects that were completely novel. In Speed Racer, they made this pretty much the entire film, and it’s understandable why people were turned off by it; I admit that I was skeptical for the first half of its duration myself. After becoming slightly more accustomed with its style, and tuning into its rhythm and frequency a little bit, it becomes a completely immersive and uniquely envisioned cinematic experience. The intercutting of certain scenes, editing them together in the same space in a fresh way, was unlike anything I’d seen before, and the racing itself is drenched in enough color and speed to make you feel the adrenaline rush of the protagonist.

The film is still one whose strengths I have a hard time articulating, but the visuals and sound are probably best left to speak for themselves. You can check them out for yourself in the trailer below.


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4) Moulin Rouge

moulin rouge 6 Great Movies That Will Overwhelm Your Senses

Baz Luhrmann often gets characterized as a director interested solely making movies with spectacle rather than substance (as though spectacle does not, itself, contain substance). I find this unfair; the quality I appreciate most about his best films are their ability to combine his signature razzle-dazzle with subtler details and themes that are reinforced by his love of capturing excess. This made him the perfect person, in retrospect, to direct The Great Gatsby.

In terms of Luhrmann’s craziest cinematic combination of visuals and music, though, Moulin Rouge stands alone. There’s too much going on in this movie’s big scenes to even keep track of it all, although the frantic cutting gives us a chance to at least catch a glimpse of as much of the madness as possible. As someone who is easily overwhelmed by the sensory stimulation of wild party scenes in real life, the feeling of not knowing where to look is recreated nicely by the frenetic editing of these sequences. Not only is the frame always active, but the music is often accompanying it—even upstaging it—with bold moves like mashing Nirvana together with “Lady Marmalade.” The over-the-top direction of the entire story aligns with the over-the-top emotions of the romance, getting at the nature of romance itself.

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5) Detention

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Director Joseph Kahn is widely recognized for his work on music videos with the likes of Eminem, Katy Perry, Rihanna and many more. His first feature film, Torque, was a pleasantly strange movie released in the midst of The Fast and the Furious’ heyday, but audiences didn’t seem to respond to its creative departures from more conventional racing films. So he went and financed his next feature himself, an insane satire mixing comedy, horror, science fiction, and probably other genres I can’t even remember because there is simply too much going on to properly process it all consciously.

Detention may be an equally tough sell as Torque, but in its madness there is an earnest, deliberate artistic vision that thrives on manic energy and layer upon layer of cultural reference. It’s pleasantly self-conscious and generationally ambivalent, unafraid to take numerous absurd turns and, most importantly, absolutely one of a kind.

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6) Wreck-It Ralph

Wreck It Ralph1 6 Great Movies That Will Overwhelm Your Senses

Being an ode to video games from years past, Wreck-It Ralph seemed committed to including as many arcade characters as possible in its world, which understandably resulted in a busy and crowded cast of recognizable animated stars. Its depiction of these separate game worlds being united by this singular universe is reminiscent of the recent Lego Movie’s terrific journey between its various realms. While it’s not as frantically paced as Lego or the other movies on this list, Wreck-It Ralph has just so much beautiful visual information to take in that it can almost be distracting from the actual story. It’s so great looking and brilliantly conceived that it would be enough just to hang out in this world a little bit longer and explore every part of it.

Stories are told in movies when simply telling them to someone verbally doesn’t capture the totality of whatever it is they’re meant to express. Sometimes, there is a multitude of ideas or feelings that are best expressed through the combination of image and sound, and even best expressed by blasting these images and sounds so loudly that your face hurts. It’s another kind of experience unique to cinema.

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