CG Special Effects - No Longer Special?
By Andrew Hawnt
There is a growing trend in big budget cinema for the special effects to be the star of the show instead of a strong story or a compelling script. Granted, many people are content to inhale this form of visual popcorn in massive quantities, but the films that are stuffed with pixellated chaos don't always measure up in terms of being a coherent piece of drama. Isn't it time movie makers took a look at the classics of their respective genres and took a few lessons? Yes, we are now capable of showing literally anything on screen, no matter how outlandish the imaginations of writers and directors, but there is the danger of it becoming the main attraction of the films instead of being moved, thrilled, entertained or otherwise stimulated by celluloid.
Look at the first ALIEN movie. There are some massive, grandiose set pieces in there that have become some of the most iconic moments in science fiction and horror movies, but then again, it is the stuff you don't see that gets the scares and makes the adrenalin pump. You rarely see the Alien creature in that film, which makes it all the more terrifying as viewers are made to create the things they see in the darkness via their own imaginations. Now, we are served up the whole shebang in hurriedly rendered CG, leaving nothing to the imagination and replacing awe and shock with the tedious process of thinking 'Oh, nice composite'.
There is also the matter of physical effects Vs cheaper CG effects. While many incredible feats may be achieved with CG, it really starts to break down the artistry of cinema when we start getting CG blood and makeup effects. An example would be Land of the Dead, in which much of the flying gore is computer generated, and in the darkness of the action shots, makes the blood look as though it was based on the fatalities in the original Mortal Kombat video game.
I believe that CG should be used sparingly, and if it is used, it should be used to create things that would be impossible to do with physical effects or camera tricks. While the computer generated creatures may look incredible, they don't always seem to carry enough mass or weight, making them look loose and ethereal when what we want is stompy and chaotic. A happy medium needs to be found, but while studios continue to shoot entire films against green screens and pepper their casts with characters that have to be generated in post production, it actually takes the audience out of the story and makes them check out how the thing was made instead. A balance must be maintained, for the future of the industry as a whole and the future enjoyment of viewers and customers.
Andrew writes for the pop culture/memorabilia site starstore.com and its blogs, covering the latest and greatest in film, TV, music and comics merchandise and collectibles.