When discussing recent accomplishments in cinema, the one constant seems to be the best visual effects available. Movies like “Transformers” and “The Avengers” dominate the box office not only because they are accessible to a wide audience, but due to the idea that people watch films to escape the mundane existence of their own. Why go to a movie with a plot that can occur on your very own street, when you can witness superheroes destroying entire cities whilst saving humanity from otherworldly dangers.
Although these effects are created in a way that has never before been available to film makers (with unprecedented computer speed, programs, and whole companies focusing on animating one frame of a film), one can argue that the computer generated imagery becomes boring in a way. Yes it is fun to see a 20 foot robot fight a massive dragon, both of which cannot be seen by just sticking your head out of your window, but after a while the brain begins to understand that these things are not real and they lose their lustre.
Look back at the films of decades prior, where computers were not available and instead directors had to use make-up or other practical effects to achieve their vision. We see films like “Them” where mutated ants start to destroy our cities, or “The Blob” in which a meteor brings down some alien type creature that grows and begins to envelop entire cities. Instead of just using 1’s and 0’s to create these things, art directors had to instead use models of cities to see the destruction by the ants, or some gelatinous creation being poured over the movie theatre.
While these films were made in the 50’s and do show some wear in that they look from the time and not given the “timeless” quality of other films, the attacks of these monsters look more endearing that a robot destroying a modern city. Movie characters themselves look better as well: who is more terrifying, the Wicked Witch of the West and Frankenstein’s Monster or the new age Godzilla? Yes Godzilla has size and scale on his side, but when we get up and close the mind begins to notice the digital discrepancies in him, as compared to the realism of make-up.