Since the halcyon days of the first Quake, fans have been making movies within the familiar, easy-to-use confines of gaming’s most popular 3D engines. As it takes decades of work and millions of dollars to make a real feature film, budding auteurs are turning to these simple yet surprisingly powerful tools to make their cinematic visions a reality. Or, in the case of today’s video, fans are employing these engines in an effort to recreate other people’s celluloid efforts.
Specifically, Zack Snyder’s 300. The heavily computer generated 2006 film tells the story of the 300 Spartan warriors who held off a massive Persian invasion force at Thermopylae. Well, to be more accurate, it tells the gently fictionalized version of that story created by comic book scribe Frank Miller for his 1998 graphic novel. Fans of the comic will tell you that what Miller’s tale lacks in historical authenticity, it more than makes up for in wildly over-the-top, theatrical violence and affectionate, totally macho homoeroticism, and Snyder’s film took these ideas and ran with them, resulting in a movie that’s quite an accurate account of its source material, as well as hyperkinetic, graphically violent and full of half-naked, muscular dudes.
To accomplish this, Snyder’s production team relied heavily on blue screen technology and computer generated graphics. This abundance of CGI gives the film an otherworldly appearance, like a video game painted entirely in shades of sandy brown. Thus, it should come as no surprise that someone would see Snyder’s film and decide that they could do just as well with readily available gaming technology.
The clip you see below was created by YouTube user “Tyrannicon.” Instead of attempting to recreate the entirety of Snyder’s film, Tyrannicon took the best bits (i.e., the battles), dropped them into the engine behind The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and published the results to the ‘net. Surprisingly, he managed to hit all the key notes featured in his source material. Blood splatters linger on the virtual camera lense, heads are hacked off with aplomb and every few moments the entire thing will either slow down or speed up, depending entirely on the Ritalin-fueled whims of its creator.
The end result is very watchable, even if it lacks a solid semblance of a plot. Though the Skyrim engine wasn’t initially built with massive pitched battles in mind, with a bit of tweaking and a powerful computer Tyrannicon is able to not just film scenes featuring dozens of characters on screen simultaneously, he is also able to zoom in, pan and twirl around the chaotic action without any noticeable framerate dips. The use of audio samples directly from the film is slightly distracting, given the quality difference between these clips and the engine they’re being mashed into, but once you realize that the video is primarily meant to depict over-the-top, historically questionable battles, your brain can comfortably power down and enjoy the pretty visuals.
Oh, and to whoever posts the first “This is Sparta!” joke in the comments: Good job. Don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t totally original and hilarious.