Tuesday, April 07, 2009


First up, I've heard from some people wondering why I'm giving up this site. Let me say this again: I'M NOT GIVING UP THIS SITE! I specifically said so! I'm cutting back the frequency of posting--that's all! Geez!

Now, on to the business at hand. In a sense, a clip job...but with a purpose.

Consider this:

Now this:

And, of course, this:

Does all this seem a bit...underwhelming? Three different movies depicting cataclysmic events, yet there's almost no sense of horror, or spectacle, or anything. It's impossible to watch any of that and see anything other than pixels being manipulated. And worse, the quality of the effects work in the relatively low budget Dragonball is about on par with what we see in the mega-budget Transformers sequel--equally bad.

I could go off on a tangent lamenting Hollywood's tendency to turn out nothing but remakes and movies based on toys, but my point here is how awful and generic the physical production of these movies is. Here's the trailer for the 1970 Pearl Harbor epic Tora! Tora! Tora! You don't have to watch the whole thing; just check out the scene starting at about 3:18:

Obviously this movie was made in the pre-CGI era. And though it features some pretty unconvincing miniature effects, even they have a visceral impact--real objects are really exploding--that today's spectacles lack. But the scene I sighted above was staged for real, with life-size mock-ups of planes blown up as stuntmen ran in all directions. And the shot of the one plane knocked out of line, crashing into others as people flee? It was an accident, the type of random occurence that can't be planned ahead of time. The stuntmen fleeing were literally running for their lives.

This is the sort of thing CGI by its very nature can't capture. Today's effects work (and so many movies today are nothing but effects work) is so laboriously pre-planned it allows for nothing to happen by chance. But sometimes the greatest spectacle happens by accident, when things don't go according to plan. When the fall of every single bit of computerized rubble is predetermined, there's no spontaneity, no sense of reality, no life.

Admittedly, we're talking about big dumb movies here. But even when you're cranking out a movie about giant robots, it would be nice if the spectacle had some impact.