"Jurassic Park" - How it changed Visual Effects Forever... And NOT for the Good!
I remember the first time I saw "Jurassic Park", and I was both excited and blown away.
The Visual Effects(VFX) were amazing and unparalleled at the time, but I also knew that visual effects changed forever. This was the first time that Computer Generated Images were used to produce organic and fluid movements of the dinosaurs. The gauntlet was thrown down, anything that could be imagined could now be put on screen. Gone were the days when effects were governed by movie budgets and the ability to actually produce the effects.
During the 1980's, this was a time of unequalled growth in the VFX industry, and it seemed that blockbusters were topping one other with new and improved visuals, and the results were outstanding. One of the main reasons that Star Wars was so successful was because of its cutting edge special effects. People waited in lines because they knew that they were going to see things that have NEVER been seen before on screen, It was part of the excitement. The "Star Wars" franchise is great but the story is simple: the characters were thinly drawn, one dimensional and the dialogue cheesy.... so why does it work?
The VFX is a big part. Don't believe me? Look at the prequels of the late 1990's and 2000's, when the art of the effects had improved to the point that the movies had to stand on the merits of storytelling and character development, because the visuals were the same as most big budget movies during the same time, In fact, "The Lord Of The Rings" trilogy had a better look.
Gone are the days where expert model makers would delight us and make us believe that a spaceship model measuring 24-48" across was, when filmed skillfully, appeared hundreds of feet wide. Today's CGI of ships, while quite beautiful, just seems artificial. In "Star Trek-The Motion Picture" from '79, the shuttle flyby of the most gorgeous model of the Enterprise still stands as one of the most beautiful VFX moments in my memory, made all the more beautiful with the fact someone laboured many hours over a model and not a keyboard.
Then there is Yoda, who in 1980 became a fully realized character through the use of an incredible puppet and the skill of Frank Oz as its master. The CGI Yoda of the prequel just looks plain creepy! Enough said.
Don't get me wrong, I love the CGI/VFX of today, and nothing is impossible to put on screen. And I think therein lies the problem, "Independence Day" and "2012" are both produced by the same team, and are both considered Disaster Porn, but "Independance Day" was more sucessful with less VFX, and they were all practical on top of that. The look of that film is better and more appealing, I think because of the work that went in making the models of the city and buildings.
I hope that the use of CGI does not take over the storytelling, because special effects are a tool to enhance the story telling process, not to make it. I wonder if Steven Spielberg knew he was changing the world when he made "Jurassic Park".
...Of course he did! He's Steven freakin' Spielberg!
- Brian Bourque