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The Practical Side of Star Wars

Can a more retro approach to special effects bring a return to wonder at the movies?

by
Stephen Green

Bio

August 21, 2014 - 10:00 am

PRACTICAL

Most encouraging Star Wars news I’ve read since George Lucas sold his franchise:

As if videos from the set of J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars movie featuring live-action alien costumes and full-scale X-Wing Fighters haven’t been enough of a clue, Rian Johnson, who will pick up the franchise after Abrams, says Star Wars: Episode VII will feature more practical, traditional effects.

“They’re doing so much practical building for this one. It’s awesome,” Johnson said on the latest Girls in Hoodies podcast. “I think people are coming back around to [practical effects]. It feels like there is sort of that gravity pulling us back toward it. I think that more and more people are hitting kind of a critical mass in terms of the CG-driven action scene lending itself to a very specific type of action scene, where physics go out the window and it becomes so big so quick.”

This goes right back to a conversation we had in this space just last May:

Up until, and I guess including Jurassic Park, Hollywood could drop our jaws with only the special effects. Something really new might come along every once in a great while like the wire work from The Matrix, but once the computers took over we became jaded pretty quickly. We used to marvel at practical special effects, because some smart and talented people had to figure out a means to make something jaw-dropping happen, really happen, in front of a camera. Now the computer artists just draw it, if you’ll allow me to oversimplify the amazing work that they can do. But we’ll never again wonder, “How did they do that?”

Maybe Star Wars will bring back some of the wonder.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

thumbnail image via showatcher.com

Stephen Green began blogging at VodkaPundit.com in early 2002, and has served as PJMedia's Denver editor since 2008. He's one of the hosts on PJTV, and one-third of PJTV's Trifecta team with Scott Ott and Bill Whittle. Steve lives with his wife and sons in the hills and woods of Monument, Colorado, where he enjoys the occasional lovely adult beverage.
All Comments   (9)
All Comments   (9)
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Good. The sets, or lack of them, seem to have an effect on how well the actors act too, the most wooden performances I have seen have been in those movies where they have mostly been forced to use their imagination for the sets while performing. Like the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Seems you either need a director who is very good with directing actors to overcome that, or very good actors, or preferably both, and even then it doesn't necessarily work as well as sets with, well, actual sets, something that looks like the place where they are pretending to be even when they are filming does.
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
this storyline is becoming a soap. watch tomorrow as we find out:

1. does luke get a new, better bionic hand?
2. how does chubaka keep his fur clan in space?
3. what did princess leah actually have to do as a slave girl?
4. are THESE the droids you seek?

tune in tomorrow for ....

boor ing. I've seen bad porn w/ a better plot.

5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
We get to find out who else is related. Like, Chewbacca is actually Luke's 2nd cousin, twice removed, and Han Solo is Leia's grandson (time warp), and The Emperor is Darth Vader's Uncle.
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
Glad to hear. One of the reasons I've stopped going to action movies has been the CGI. It's just off putting.
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
Does the budget allow for a good story? A good script?

Still waiting for shooting on location...

5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
That's good news. The original had some great design work and a unique look to it. It's notable that when Lucas added some CG in the re-edits it added nothing whatsoever. Limiting oneself forces one to really focus on the fundamentals instead of throwing money at it. I don't think we've become jaded by CG so much as it is often used poorly and excessively.
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
Agreed. There is such a thing as CGI Bloat. Directors have become far to self-indulgent because CGI makes it relatively easy and cheap to show "awesome" stuff on screen. Awesome nowadays is usually big, noisy, and chaotic. I find that the most awesome scenes in, for example, the Marvel superhero movies, are my least favorite. They seem to go on forever. Like I said, self-indulgent. Director is in love with every second of CGI awesomeness.

On the other hand, some movies could use MORE CGI. Like Star Trek. Why does the engineering section of the Enterprise look like a brewery? I assume that's because it was filmed in one. Why? They could have made the place look awesome...or at least not like a 19th century waterworks.

But that's the adventure genre for you. There are still plenty of people out there using basic cinematic techniques. Maybe the adventure boys will get bored with their new toy and tone it down a bit.
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
I noticed that as well. Even the old TV series which had a perspective painting seen through a window looked more modern than a steampunk brewery. I'm surprised the men in the new film didn't dress like The Rocketeer and with goggles while they had clipboards looking at gauges.
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Why does the engineering section of the Enterprise look like a brewery?"

Well, Scotty gets thirsty...

The actual reactors and engines are the size of a sofa. The rest is to keep the crew well lubricated.
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
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