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Why Special Effects No Longer Impress 532

brumgrunt writes "When an advert for toilet roll now has a CG dog in it, have we come to the point where special effects have no lasting impact whatsoever? As Den of Geek argues, 'Where we once sat through Terminator 2 and gasped when Robert Patrick turned into a slippery blob of mercury, we now watch, say, Inception and simply acknowledge that, yes, the folding city looks quite realistic.'"
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Why Special Effects No Longer Impress

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  • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @04:37PM (#34551582)

    I don't just find CGI effects unimpressive, but fundamentally boring. They're good if they actually add to the story, but who cares if Keanu Reeves is fighting a raptor on top of a truck that's racing around the deck off a cruise liner that's going to explode if it goes below the speed of sound when it's all just created inside a computer? I could be impressed with effects in the pre-CG days when someone actually had to stand on top of a moving truck fighting a guy in a rubber dinoaur suit to achieve the same thing, but now, so what?

  • Realistic vs pretty (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @05:45PM (#34552818) Journal

    There are two levels to visual effects. One is what you see. The detail, the quality, the lighting, texturing, etc. In other words, how realistic it merely looks, which is more art than anything. The second is the physics and mechanics of whatever is being portrayed. That is where most movies screw it all up.

    Everyone keeps mentioning Avatar, but it's not just how pretty it looks, but the physics and mechanics are all at least superficially realistic. Machines are bulky and slow moving, animals are organic and subtle, etc.

    I'll name a few movies that totally screw up the special effects. Oh, they look nice, but the physics are so over the top that it destroys the movie.
    One is Van Helsing. Tons of potential in that movie, but they screwed up the mechanics of the effects horribly. One scene shows the heroine being carried up in the air by a winged vampire and dropped. She flops around like a rag doll in such a ridiculous way that it literally insulted the parts of my brain hardwired to process physics.
    Another is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Again, wonderful visuals and attention to detail, but the part where buildings in Venice fell like dominoes, and the method they used to stop it was to fire a guided missile (in the year 1899) to knock down even more buildings? Jumped the shark right then and there.
    Transformers was yet another. Somehow the robot's mass and bulk would quadruple when converting from a vehicle into a robot. Just didn't feel right, although it was intricate and detailed.

    So I think that's why special effects typically don't impress, because they lack the engineering (in a literal sense!) required to underpin effects to at least a token level of realism.

  • Re: Mod parent up (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @06:50PM (#34553790) Homepage

    I wish people would stop saying that the VFX are ruining moves. We're a tool used by the director (or, more often, by the studio) if that Director (or again, the studio) fail to utilize us within the story properly, how is it the VFX that are ruining movies?

    In the same way vodka ruins Bob's personality. Of course it's actually Bob's problem, and vodka is just a neutral tool that can be used for bad or for awesome, but it would still miss part of the point to ignore the vodka's role in enabling Bob to start sucking. Before vodka came along, Bob was okay most of the time. Well, some of the time.

    Just to be clear, when we (or I) say "VFX are ruining movies", we are blaming it on the lack of creativity of Hollywood. It's just unfortunate yet true that the existence of affordable and good VFX allows that lack of creativity to flourish.

    There's a lot to be said for limitations and how it can make movies better.

    Look at Jaws, Spielberg's breakout movie. Think of how horrifying the opening scene is, when you never even see the shark as the woman is (you presume, under the water) being torn apart. How often that movie is positively compared to Hitchcock, the master of suspense. Yet that's not the movie Spielberg set out to make! Originally, it was going to be a crappy monster movie in the ocean with Jaws front and center the whole time literally chewing up the scenery. But because they couldn't get their giant hydraulic-powered animatronic shark to work in salt water (the ocean's just a big wavy lake, right?), he had to make adjustments and go for a much subtler, and ultimately more effective, style.

    Or the biggest example of something "ruined by VFX": Star Wars. Lucas luurved his effects even back then and Star Wars had the best around. But nevertheless, they couldn't afford to do endless lightsaber effects so we only had a few instances of them being used heavily in dramatically important moments, and so they were more awesome. He couldn't have a million jedi and robots and lasers to make them all stupid and boring. He had to have real locations and sets that looked real and that actors could interact with. He had to have character moments because he couldn't fill the entire movie with action sequences to make you forget that you didn't care about anyone on screen. Hell, maybe the only reason we didn't have a bouncing spinning light saber Yoda in Empire was because there was no way for him to do that on the end of Jim Henson's hand. Well, that and Lucas had little to do with that movie...


    I know it's not the VFX studio's fault that so much VFX is used in place of actual good ideas and story and character. It would be completely ridiculous to blame you for doing your work better, faster, cheaper. But uh, that's exactly what enabled a lot of this crap. It would be completely ridiculous to say VFX companies shouldn't accept checks from the producers of crappy movies, but uh, that's exactly what you'll have to start doing if you don't want to hear "VFX are ruining movies" anymore.

    Hey, actually, I never thought to ask that... Do effects companies ever turn down work? Good actors will turn down work, because they don't want their name associated with some piece of crap. Maybe if only the directors with talent or just good ideas got to work with the best VFX, maybe something positive would happen. *shrug* I don't know.

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351