Tribeca 2018: Michael Muller on Sharks, Fear, and Into the Now
By Randy Astle
If you don’t know Michael Muller‘s name, you do know his work. His posters for Deadpool 2 are the most creative bit of film advertising in the current market, and he’s also shot artwork for Marvel films like Captain America: Civil War, Dr. Strange, and Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 as well as dozens of other films, innumerable portraits, album covers and ad campaigns for brands like Nike and Sony. But in 2006 he began training his camera on a very different subject, wild sharks, and since then shark photography and marine environmental activism has become his primary cause. His still photos of great whites, hammerheads, and other species have garnered praise, and at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival he’s debuting the next step in his underwater documentary work, a short virtual reality film called Into the Now.
Underwater work can be some of the best VR out there; its use of the vertical axis taps into something VR can provide that a 2.39:1 aspect ratio film cannot, as wildlife can appear above and below you as well as anywhere to the side. In past iterations of Tribeca Immersive I’ve been impressed with films like The Click Effect and Under a Cracked Sky; with Into the Now Muller and his team have arguably improved upon these in the clarity and dimensionality of the photography using a new VR camera rig specially designed for this piece. Close ups of great whites are to be expected but are still striking, and there’s also an endearing moment when a hammerhead bumps the camera rig, two amazing shots of a whale shark passing so close it’s impossible to resist the urge to reach out and touch it, and a sardine bait ball attracting a feeding frenzy of sharks, dolphins and birds that invokes the original Blue Planet films but presents it — including its most famous moment — in an entirely new way.