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Movie Special Effects

Posted: July 6th, 2020, 3:35 pm
by VideoGameCritic
So I've been watching a lot of old "blockbuster" movie series over the last few weeks, and it's become very clear to me that practical effects age MUCH better than computer effects.

Let's take Jaws, Indiana Jones, and the original Jurassic Park movies. They all relied heavily on practical effects, with Jaws having no computer effects at all. Jurassic Park had the most, but their use was very constrained - only a few minutes of the entire film. As a result, these movies have aged beautifully. I don't think all the modern technology in the world could improve them.

Recently however I started watching The Mummy series (1999-2008) which was a different story. I enjoy these movies with their light-hearted sense of adventure, but they rely heavily on computer animation, and it hasn't aged well. The Mummy himself looks extremely fake - almost cartoonish. I wonder if I even noticed that back in 1999 when I saw this at the movies. Maybe I was willing to give it a pass since the effects were fairly cutting-edge at the time.

It gets worse with The Mummy Returns. The mummy looks super fake, as do the zombie monkeys, and most of all the Scorpion King at the end. He's a monster scorpion with the face of the Rock, but it looks like a PS2 cutscene. I'm pretty sure I had the same impression back in the day.

The one sequence in Returns that remains fairly impressive is the foot-soldiers-chasing-the-bus scene. This was one of the few action sequences that employ heavy practical effects. Coincidence? I think not.

By the way, the movie made up for its bad effects with its two leading ladies: Patricia Velásquez and Rachel Weisz. Talk about hot!!


Re: Movie Special Effects

Posted: July 6th, 2020, 4:07 pm
by Zack Burner
I'm 100% with you Critic! Yes I agree that practical effects are more effective then CGI. Take for example in Return of the Jedi with Jabba the Hutt and the Rancor. All are larger than life puppets and still look convincing today since they move seamlessly instead of jerky. Forget the CGI version of Jabba, it looks awful today. Another example is the Neverending Story, Falkor still looks great (in fact, according some websites he resides in Germany and even better is you can actually ride him!) , but G'mork, oh good lord, he's still terrifying! And don't forget Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors, firgures since he was made and puppeteered by Jim Henson himself. Speaking of Henson, I still love the old Ninja Turtle costumes! They still look and move great today! They even eat pizza and wield weapons without any cutaway closeups like in Thunderbirds.

Re: Movie Special Effects

Posted: July 7th, 2020, 3:21 am
by TheEagleXIII
Yup. Definitely prefer physical effects.

I feel the same about green screens over physical sets too. A low key example, I've recently been watching the series Chuck on Amazon with my wife and as the series evolves and the budget goes up there's a lot more green screen work. The problem is it looks really really awfully fake. It's instantly breaks my suspension of disbelief - it's supposed to do the opposite.

An recent episode featured a shot inside a evil Russian HQ - big windows in the background, snowy silhouetted Tetris skyline. It was all CGI and looked terrible, especially the snow. If they still used the green screen but with a real photo of the Russian skyline and a snow machine it would have looked decent. But I guess CGI probably saves time/money and that's more important than immersion.

The first time I was really surprised on the over reliance of CGI was when I saw whatever Fast and Furious movie came out about 10 years ago (don't judge me I was dragged along ;) ). IMO, F&F movies are just T&A and whatever the car equivalent of T&A is. The plot was tedious, the characters were stupid, the T&A was shallow. But I thought, hey this is Fast and Furious, there's gonna be a big car chase surely. It may not be Bullit, but a car chase is a car chase surely?

The car chase was in CGI. :roll:

Re: Movie Special Effects

Posted: July 7th, 2020, 8:51 am
by VideoGameCritic
Eagle - I think I know the car chase you were referring to - the one through the caves. Fast and Furious was actually the #4 movie in the series.

Re: Movie Special Effects

Posted: July 7th, 2020, 4:33 pm
by TheEagleXIII
Yes, that's the one!

I get it would probably be difficult to film live action, but it just felt lazy. The tunnels were so narrow that the cars only barely fit, and they sped through sharp turns at full throttle without so much as clipping the side - like they were on rails. I didn't need complete realism, but nothing about a CGI car chase in a live action movie about cars excites me one bit. It was just so out of place.

Barring animated movies, CGI should be saved for things that are impossible to film physically, and even then only if looks better than the alternatives.

When it comes to those classic shots of enormous space ships passing slowly over the camera like Star Wars, scale models win every time for me. Red Dwarf switched to CGI for those establishing shots after it was revived and it looked so much worse. Obviously they don't have the budget Lucas/Disney had and it shows, it really takes you out of the moment.

Re: Movie Special Effects

Posted: July 8th, 2020, 7:32 am
by MSR1701
VideoGameCritic wrote:So I've been watching a lot of old "blockbuster" movie series over the last few weeks, and it's become very clear to me that practical effects age MUCH better than computer effects.


This is one of the reason that I was glad when it was announced that JJ Abrams was pushing for more practical effects in the newer Star Trek Movies, and that he carried the idea over to the Star Wars series.