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Why Am I Down Here?

This shot is everywhere now

The trailer for the Borderlands movie came out yesterday. It looks fine, I guess; I’m not really a Borderlands guy, though I love to watch Randy Pitchford talk about it because usually he does an awkward magic trick. Anyway! There’s something in this trailer that we see a lot these days: a group of characters peering down at you.

In the opening moments of the trailer, a group of colorful misfits opens a hatch in the ground. The camera looks up from the bottom of the hole, while everyone leans in and looks into the camera. You can see the moment at the top of this post.

Where have I seen this shot before? I wondered, before realizing I’d recently subjected myself to it multiple times while writing about Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League.

A screenshot from "Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League;" four DC characters lean forward in a circle

The above is a press image, but the same kind of shot is the cover of the game's box, too.


My Aftermath colleagues were quickly able to call up more examples. Here’s it happening in the Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves trailer, right after a character has fallen in a hole.

A screenshot from the trailer for Dungeons and Dragons: five characters peering down into a red hole

And here, again, you’ve got all the characters looking down at you in the movie’s poster.


Here’s a bunch of weirdos peering down at you in a scene from the Loki episode “Journey Into Mystery:”

A screenshot from the TV show Loki: ten characters peer into a hole

Is this a thing now? It feels like a thing. The scenes in Borderlands, Dungeons and Dragons, and Loki all feature someone about to fall in a hole, or having just fallen in a hole, or climbing out of a hole, so I guess it’s a way to make you, the viewer, feel like you’re really there, also falling in a hole. (I didn’t play Suicide Squad so I don’t know how many holes feature in that game, but if you did, let me know.)

This shot strikes me as recently ubiquitous. It’s a quirky framing that makes the ensemble look tough, but also a little vulnerable–as we all know from taking selfies, no one looks great shot from below. Nathan speculated that the characters are looking down on you in the literal and metaphorical sense--they're ganging up on you, in contrast to the honor-bound heroes of yore and their excellent posture. Maybe it’s a natural extension of the Whedonesque nature of fantasy and superheroes these days. Characters who stare commandingly into the distance are out; now we’re all slouching, now we're all falling into holes. When you see this shot, you know quippy, personable hijinks are going to ensue. There’s going to be action movie superhero stuff, but also there’s still gravity. 

Have you seen this shot around? Show me your examples in the comments. I can’t unsee it now.

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