In terms of ‘star power’, The Limit is about as good as it gets for VR moviemaking right now. This 180 degree short stars Widows’ Michelle Rodriguez and The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus, and is directed by Sin City’s Robert Rodriguez. That’s quite a turn out for a 20-minute short, but The Limit is proof that a portfolio in traditional film doesn’t count for much when it comes to VR.
Whilst the director may be graduating to the highest tier of blockbuster with next year’s Alita: Battle Angel, The Limit sees Rodriguez stick closer to his B-movie roots. It’s a low-rent Terminator; two cyborg-like humans go in search of a mutual friend and they’ll kick and punch just about anything in their way until they find him.
In some ways, there’s a real novelty to what Rodriguez does here. The first time you look at M-13 (played by Michelle Rodriguez) there’s a spark of excitement at having the star of several Fast and Furious movies look you in the eye. And it’s tough not to laugh at the ham-fisted dialogue (‘I hope you drive better than you pick weapons’) and crusty special effects, which include Reedus in his best Winter Soldier cosplay. Though there are some surprisingly polished moments including an explosive skydive, you can’t help but feel that much of the action is closer to Comic-Con attendees imitating rather than the real thing.
But as an experiment in VR storytelling, The Limit is flawed. It’s largely told from a first-person perspective, but Rodriguez often commits the cardinal sin of forcing the camera to move to where he wants you to look, creating plenty of uncomfortable moments that pull you right out of the experience. You can understand the desire to make sure viewers didn’t miss important plot points, but there has to be a more elegant solution than this.
In fact, traditional cinema’s fingerprints can be found all over The Limit. At times the action makes so many cuts and transitions you wonder why it was shot in VR at all. There’s a lot of close shots that feel like they’re far too focused on one particular item, making it impossible to look away and enjoy the freedom and immersion that VR provides. Then there’s the first-person action, which is not only oddly disconnected from the viewer but also largely unexciting. If I can do these things myself in Superhot VR, what’s the point of watching a live action movie that isn’t anywhere as engaging? The problem with this experimental film is just that; it doesn’t feel all that experimental.
Final Say: Not Recommended
The Limit is available now on Oculus Go and Gear VR at a discounted price of $4.99. Its full price will be $9.99.