Monday, September 15, 2003

How'd they do that?!? Oh yeah, computers.

Hi-De-Ho Rene,

We’ve been dipping into serious waters recently; today seems the right time to celebrate a little frivolity again.

One of our readers, the intrepid SnydeBoy, recently sent me the following article:

Frank Marshall, who is producing the upcoming fourth Indiana Jones movie, told Empire Online that the sequel will make use of real effects, and not computer-generated ones, whenever possible. "One of the things I enjoy about these movies is that they do recall the old cliffhanger serials of the '30s and '40s," Marshall told the site. "We didn't have computer effects in those days. We couldn't easily erase things, and I think one of the unfortunate by-products of the computer age is that it makes filmmakers lazy. You become more creative when you have to hide ramps with a tree rather than erase it later as you can today."

"In Raiders, that's a real ball rolling behind him, so [star] Harrison [Ford] really is in some danger running in front of that," Marshall added. "These are real situations, and that adds to the excitement and the creative energy on the set."

Marshall added that the Indy IV script remains unfinished, but he said that filmmakers would strive to do things for real. "When you start getting into computers, you get fantastical situations, like in The Matrix or movies like that," he said. "We don't want that. We want exciting heroism. We want seat-of-your-pants, skin-of-your-teeth action. We didn't have all the money in the world on the first films, and we want to keep that B-movie feel. We want to make Indy IV like we made the first three."


As you know, I loved the first two Lord of the Rings movies, and there’s no doubt that those films would be completely different without computer-generated special effects. But Frank Marshall might be on to something. Is there something more gripping or authentic about traditional special effects? The original King Kong has by today’s standards clunky and amateurish special effects, but are they any more jarring than a computer-generated Hulk? I’d argue that, perhaps, King Kong’s effects call less attention to themselves than CGI in many modern movies, including supposed visual masterworks like The Matrix: Reloaded. I also think that some of the “Wow!” factor is gone even when the special effects are intended to get attention. We can’t really ask ourselves “How’d they do that!?!” any more.

The subject is timely, as there's renewed discussion over the diminishing returns of the CGI arms race. This weekend, old-school special effects guru Ray Harryhausen was in town for a film festival that celebrated some of his mid-century fantasy film hits (including Jason and the Argonauts, and Mysterious Island).

Later,
Kari

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