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Not so Special Effects

Saw Star Wars yesterday.

There was much to criticize, but on the whole I put that part of brain away before I walked into the theatre and did my best to enjoy the story for the sake of the story. I mostly succeeded.

The thing I missed most were the organic sets. In the first three movies, the set design team had to work to develop sets that looked like they were normal for a galaxy far, far away. Now, with everything digital, it took a lot of the fun out of it for me.

IMHO, the best use of special effects is as an enhancement to set, not as a replacement. Peter Jackson had it right with LOTR. Lucas just comes off like an eight year old playing with toys that have a suggested age range of twelve to adult.


In my not so humble experience, less is so much more. Special effects--particularly digital effects--should only be used when the director understands that they should be invisible. The best use of digital special effects I've ever witnessed was the movie, "Forrest Gump." Remember all the special effects shots in that movie? You don't? Gee, the director did it right then. But there were a ton of special effects in that movie:

1) The feather floating down at the beginning of the movie, introducing setting in a beautiful, subtle way.

2) Every other shot with Gary Sinese. His leg was digitally removed from the film after the scenes were shot. It's damned near perfect.

3) Half of the war footage.

4) The juxtaposition of stock news footage with live actors.

And on and on.

I'm tired of the herky-jerky taffy-like stretching quality of CGI Spider-men violating the laws of physics between buildings. I'm tired of watching a thousand Mr. Smith's bend and twist beyond the limits of physiology while attacking our good friend Neo.

And I'm sick of special effects that call attention to themselves in general, as if someone told them that they were actually a part of the story.

Make 'em invisible, or find another way to do it.


I now return you to your regularly scheduled broadcast, already in progress.

Or is that retrograde?

Joseph Haines, signing off from The Edge of The Abyss.

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