View Full Version : The Spectacle of Film (Special Effects)

April 10th, 2011, 10:31 PM
We were discussing this in cinema studies at university last week and thought it'd be a good topic to post here.
There are obviously films, such as Avatar and Tron (to name two recent examples) that are used to carry and display the new technology arguably more than the story and characters itself. Avatar was created nearly entirely from CGI to get the surreal, beautiful settings and wildlife which made the film what it is.

Do you like seeing these types of movies for the effects they utilize? Do you think these films would flop was it not for the effects and technology used to create them? What your thoughts on CGI, green screen and other special effects in films?

Mr Cat Dog
April 11th, 2011, 6:55 AM
Do you like seeing these types of movies for the effects they utilize?
Not particularly, but not because of their special effects. The main reason I didn't like Avatar is not because of its effects, which were extraordinary, but because off its limp, lifeless and hackneyed story, as well as Cameron's desire to showcase how 'wrong' war is rather than attempt to make an entertaining and thought-provoking film. Filmmakers much worse than Cameron often fall into the trap of thinking story and effects are a zero-sum game: if you have more of one, you end up with less of the other, but it's not true. The two can co-exist side-by-side... they just don't for the most part.

Do you think these films would flop was it not for the effects and technology used to create them?
Depends on the film and how 'high concept' it is. If it is based upon an already established property, or is capable of being summed up in a short sentence, then it'll probably get seen with or without crappy effects. If Pirates 4 has the worst special effects budget, that's no bearing on how well it's going to do because of the already feverish fanbase. While not the best example, if Inception had crappy special effects, it may not have done as well as it did.*

What your thoughts on CGI, green screen and other special effects in films?
I have no problem with them as long as they're used organically and to either complement or enhance the script and direction. It's when they're overused, unnecessary or just awful - if you're going to use them, you need to commit! - that I don't like them.

*I say 'bad example' because Inception already had the cult of Nolan behind it; it wasn't going to fail. Something like Sucker Punch may be a better example... but still not perfect due to some people liking Zack Synder films for some reason.

April 12th, 2011, 3:27 AM
Do you like seeing these types of movies for the effects they utilize?: Yes I do.

Do you think these films would flop was it not for the effects and technology used to create them?: Yes, since those effects are made to make the movie more realistic.

What your thoughts on CGI, green screen and other special effects in films?: They're good ways to make the movie more realistic.

April 12th, 2011, 10:31 AM
For any given movie special effects shouldn't be noticed, just like the acting and music and lighting and everything. A badly placed or overly noticeable special effect can really take you out of the story and the whole experience of watching a movie. They're part of the whole and shouldn't dominate. I don't think any one thing should because then you don't get the benefits of the other parts.

I like movies for the experience. If the movie starts out with lots of special effects then that sets the tone and if the rest of the movie is CG-heavy (I'm assuming we're talking mostly about computer effects) it won't really clash with the rest of the film. Of course, that's assuming that you don't neglect the plot and everything else. When the plot is bad you just have a bad movie. When the plot is bad and there are millions of dollars in special effects used then you know that someone didn't have the right perspective when they made that movie.

Rogue planet
April 17th, 2011, 7:28 AM
The film industry evolves just like any other. I do enjoy special effects and I don't see why they would be a bad thing; unless, like other people have said, it overshadows every other aspect of the film and it ends up just being a CGI show off session. Those sort of things should be kept to the film festivals. But hey, it sells, right? Cameron's made millions on everyone's poor taste in film.

I didn't like Avatar at all simply because it bored me. I felt it was more of a children's film, which I enjoy sometimes, but not when it's something as cliché as Avatar was. On the other hand, I really enjoyed Tron; I didn't think the story was that bad and it kept me interested enough to enjoy the film's plot as well as the amazing special effects. I didn't think it was an exceptional film; but it certainly wasn't as dull as Avatar.

I don't think effects can make a bad film into a good one, but I think they can definitely make improvements to all kinds of films if they're used right.
Phantom Menace, for example, is disliked by many Star Wars fans (a view I don't agree with, but I won't go into that) yet the lightsaber fight with Darth Maul is regarded as one of the best, simply because the effects allowed it to be so much more exciting than the original trilogy's lightsaber fights. It shows how effects can create memorable moments even in a forgettable film (which is what it was for most people).

April 17th, 2011, 3:43 PM
That last point about the Phantom Menace I actually completely agree with. (your point, not that Star Wars didn't like it.)
I honestly forgot about that movie until you just mentioned it, but I don't think I'd ever forget that duel with Darth Maul. So yeah, I'm agreeing that special effects can make aspects of a film better or more memorable.

I have another question for you guys.

Do you think a let down with the constantly developing technology for special effects is making other films look less realistic?
The other night I watched the first Harry Potter again and during that scene where Neville loses control of the broomstick and falls from the sky, they have very obviously CGI or digitally created Neville (so they don't drop a real human from height). However, after the many years that passed between now and the production of that movie, that CGI job is really quite obvious and obnoxious about how it enables viewers to realize it is not a real person, and it honestly isn't the best CGI job.

However at the time, that would've been state of the art technology and definitely believable in the year it was made. That said, do you think special effects is quickly casting shadows over older films and allowing audiences to know the differences between early CGI/green screen and reality. Do you think these older films look more simple and less impressive after seeing the heavyweights like Avatar and Tron?

April 17th, 2011, 6:56 PM
I don't think that special effects are needed to make a good movie, and if they heavily use them I don't think that it will necessarily be a bad movie. I do think though, in the two examples that you used, the special effects in the movies helped create a believable world that brought the characters and story to life, much more than they would if the movies has been created 20 or 30 years ago (like the original Tron was).