Monday, 29 August 2011

Super 8 & CGI - Opinion Piece

I have wanted to write a blog for a while now. Since this is my fancy new blog that I rarely use, I figured I should start trying to put more stuff on here. So let’s forget about reviews on films, games and whatever I try and talk about on here and let’s have a good old bitch about stuff.

I recently went to see a couple of films at the cinema with my girlfriend. The first film we saw was Super 8 after many adverts told me it was something special. I was sceptical. First of all, it was J.J. Abrams, one of the creators of Lost and I probably don’t need to tell you what a dire show that was. And then there was Cloverfield, the monster film to end all monster films but turned out to be a bit pants when you realized you never saw the monster and these people have an incredibly fancy camera because everything is perfect so how come I can’t see anything – you get the idea. Anyway, I watched Super 8 and I left feeling quite hollow. Was I expecting great things? Not really but I was expecting something fun and enjoyable. Perhaps that is asking too much. You see, it felt like the film didn’t quite know what it wanted to be. Clearly we had a group of kids all trying to make a low budget (and hilarious – easily the best bit of the film) super 8 zombie film. One of them is dealing with the loss of their mother, this strains things with his Dad who won’t hug him, there’s a love interest and now there’s a monster running around after a train wreck. Abrams tries to implement the old Cloverfield trick in that you don’t get the see the monster that much and tries to create some kind of atmosphere to the film. But this being a 12A it can’t really be that scary or gruesome so you’re left with some mildly exciting scenes with a monster you can hardly see and when you do it is just a CGI created thing anyway.

It feels like it’s in the same vein as old monster films in that a restricted budget and easily breakable animatronics meant the film makers had to be creative. They had to build the tension and have some interesting characters to boot. Watch Jaws. Spielberg has said the music was their shark. Even after reading that line I reckon you’ll be thinking, perhaps even humming the theme right now. It’s memorable and when watching Jaws and that music builds up, you know the shark is there. If you have seen Super 8, can you even think of the music from that film? Or do you simply remember the special effects? This I think detracts from the whole movie going experience. Everything is CGI these days. I’m not an old bastard reflecting on the days of yore when films seemed more real; I’m only 24 but I still feel films don’t need a bloated budget filled with explosions and special effects to be good. This is why when the monster finally reveals itself in its entirety towards the end of Super 8, I just sighed, checked my watched to see how much longer I had to watch this tripe. It seems from the older films I do watch, budget was a problem but the directors strived to make an enjoyable film with what they had and got more creative with it. Art through adversity. Even if you watch a film with shoddy special effects, they seem to have some charm to them; you can almost applaud the film makers for at least attempting it. But when everything is handed to film makers on a silver platter, you end up with soulless films, almost cartoons, which just feel fake and hollow.

And yet, I went to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes and absolutely loved it. It had a great story and was well-acted, well written characters and a nice dose of action towards the end. Even being full of the dreaded special effects it at least had some power and reason behind it, rather than mindless explosions and giant monsters to keep your eyes locked on the screen at all the flashy things happening.

I don’t want to be a hater of CGI; it can be used to great effect. Hell, even Jurassic Park looks fantastic to me. But unless you make something special with it, all your work will be remembered for is ‘that bit with explosion in it with the thing’. And surely as a creator, you want a bit more recognition than that, right?

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