There’s a magazine called ‘Cinefex’, which is devoted to movie special effects. Years ago I used to like to flip through it and look at the models, puppets, and various other things people were doing for movies. I was amazed that much of the Death Star trench sequence looked like it had actually been filmed in someone’s garage or something. These days you look at it and it’s just guys sitting at computers. Welcome to the age of the non-special special effects.
There’s something kind of sad about it, to me. There’s no longer any kind of “Wow, how did they do that! That’s cool!” it’s just “Oh look, more CGI.” Computers have allowed us to do all sorts of things on the screen, to the extent that none of it is very interesting. There was a special on the making of the Phantom Menace and to me the most interesting parts were the fact that they used salt for the waterfalls and Q-tips for the pod race crowd. I didn’t care about, “Oh look, here’s yet another computer animator.”
And to me, it doesn’t even look THAT great. We are constantly told how amazing CGI is, but is there anyone that can’t spot it a mile away? Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter had some impressive visuals but the trolls in those movies were not among them. (This is partly because computer animators have retained the phenomenon of ‘stop-motion epilepsy,’ where every part of an animated being must be in constant motion at all times.)
I really miss the days of “Man, how did they do that?” I feel like someone who went to go see a magician perform and instead gets someone who just describes magic tricks instead of performing them, and doesn’t even describe them that well.