Time Morphs

Curator's Note

Today, time is a resource. We must use time effectively and flexibly, in order to fit into just-in-time production and neoliberal self-fashioning. Time is something we crave, something we admire; it fills us with awe. What better expression of the desire for time than the time morphs of superslow-motion images? In these sequences, we are in awe of the temporal unfolding. These sequences are not free from human consciousness but exist to intensify our experience.

Introduced in The Matrix (The Wachowskis 1999), these superslow/bullet-time sequences have proliferated across action cinema. Conventionally, superslow time morphs have been used to render sensible moments of power, showing how Neo is able to beat the Matrix. However, time morphs are changing. So far, they have culminated in Dredd (Pete Travis 2012), where the experience of time is slowed down by a drug called “Slo-Mo.” People under the influence of Slo-Mo provide the spectacular superslow-motion sequences. As the results of a drug, the slowing down of time no longer expresses power but instead becomes control. When Judge Dredd attacks criminals under the influence of Slo-Mo, he is able to act much faster than the criminals. We are placed in a position of awe as Dredd meets out justice.

Time also plays another role in the film. Judge Anderson is a psychic who can sense people’s thoughts and feelings. This allows her to accurately predict what people will do. Time in Dredd supersedes the logic of preemption that Brian Massumi outlines in Onto-Power, that the future acts on the present. However, whereas preemption is necessarily a potential act for Massumi, since the future has no yet arrived, Judge Anderson’s predictive abilities are flawless, making the future actual but changeable.

The superslowing down of time and the future as actual but changeable is an example of a new kind of time-image that presents preemption as an awe-inspiring resource. More than a resource time becomes a mode of control. Master villain Ma-Ma is punished by falling to her death under the influence of Slo-Mo, an act of justice in itself.

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