Do you ever encounter younger people who have no respect for the way older, classic movies were made? Blame it on the CGI craze.
I was on YouTube the other night, watching the infamous "chestburster" scene from Alien, and while watching poor John Hurt writhe and scream in agony, this comment from the thread caught the corner of my eye:
"Isn't it fun to sit and laugh at how poor and crappy special effects were back then. I mean, you cannot take a killer alien seriously when it moves like THAT!"
And just like that, I heard the record player needle scratch, the sad trombone play its "wah wah" tone. Everything stopped for a moment, and after the stupidity of the statement I just read was done sinking in, I couldn't hold myself back from firing off a scathing reply. It went something like this:
"Listen to me, you ignorant PUNK. You obviously have no respect or appreciation for the movies I grew up with. This scene is still scary and disturbing and giving it a CGI makeover, since that is the only visual effect you are familiar with, would ruin it and be a kick in the crotch to the special effects team. Now go burn in hell like the other piece of crap loser kids who think that nothing good was ever made until after they were born! Otherwise, I'm hunting you down through the Internet and giving you something to cry about. You drinking my sake, kimosabe?"
OK, I didn't quite go that far, but you get my drift. I have a ton of respect for the special effects, makeup, and set design crews who work on movies. They are the unsung heroes who do a lot of the hard work behind the scenes to make something appear as believable as possible. I watched a documentary on the making of the movie Alien and as you can imagine, there was quite a lot of logistics involved in this particular iconic scene to get it to look as horrific and realistic as possible. I couldn't possibly fathom it getting a computer generated makeover. It's the fact that people with imagination physically built the baby alien and guts and figured out how to make it look like it was exploding out of John Hurt's chest that blows my mind away. Recreating it on a computer would look phony and stupid. What would be the point?
"Poor"? "Crappy"? Really, kid???
Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying we should unplug the 3D animation and revert to old school stop motion animation (although I think stop motion animation is really cool.) I think the technology is amazing and it definitely serves a purpose, especially when a fantastical landscape is created. There are definitely instances where building a physical set (or dinosaurs) would be impossible, and that's where CGI comes in. However, like other technological advancements, it's often overused today and used in everything. One cringe-worthy example that comes to mind is Tim Burton's remake of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (renamed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory after the book's title.) The 1971 original is my favorite childhood film, and the colorful psychedelic sets still dazzle. The chocolate room contained a REAL "river." The boat was real. The room full of flowers and mushrooms made out of chocolate were real, physical props. When Charlie and his grandfather tried soda pop that made them float in the air, they were suspended by wires, which you can actually see in some shots if you look closely enough (but so what?)
By contrast, the remake was mostly CGI, even the Oompa Loompas. Forget giving a bunch of little people a shot at Hollywood fame--in the updated film, they were created using just ONE actor dressed as an Oompa Loompa, multiplied by the magic of computer special effects. It looked lame.
In my opinion, what's needed is a happy medium. In the movie Pan's Labrinth, the fairies and other elements were computerized, but the creatures were still actors under makeup and prosthetics or robotic. It works well.
|Carlo Rimbaldi with E.T. Photo via galeon.com|
“The mystery’s gone. It’s as if a magician had revealed all of his tricks. Digital costs around eight times as much as mechatronics. E.T. cost a million dollars and we created it in three months. If we wanted to do the same thing with computers, it would take at least 200 people a minimum of five months."
Agreed. Special effects done the physical way have always left me wondering, "How DID they do that?" By the way, E.T. was made out of steel, polyurethane, rubber, and hydraulic and electronic controls. It's been said that the creature was to Rimbaldi what Pinocchio was to Gepeto.
Needless to say, it really gets my panties in a wad when someone from Generation Me, Myself and I thinks that CGI is the bomb and anything made before the year 1998 is lame.
So like Aretha Franklin, what I'm asking for is a little respect. Don't be lame and make fun of the tornado scene from The Wizard of Oz, not caring that the film was made in 1939 for Pete's sake (sadly, there are misinformed knuckleheads on YouTube guilty of this as well.) Don't make fun out of Georges Melies, who pioneered early visual artistry in movies such as 1902's A Trip to the Moon. And never, ever dis the folks who worked on Alien. Otherwise, I'm having them mail a facehugger to your home.