Special Effects: From Jurassic Park to Avatar
Special effects in movies have definitely changed since the early 90's. Whether they’ve changed for better or for worse may be up to personal opinion. Personally, I remember being blown away by most of the effects in Jurassic Park when it first came out. Later on, when James Cameron's movie AVATAR came out, I was once again blown away by the multitude of special effects that the movie had used. Of course, these two movies had a totally different approach when it came to special effects, but the end products were still immensely satisfying.
Back when Jurassic Park was released in theaters, movies were using both a mix of animatronics (which meant using robotics almost as puppets to mimic certain objects, ex. the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park) and computer generated special effects. Putting the animatronics in the same scene with the CG effects paid off quite well, as the visuals in the movie can still hold up to today's standards. I might even go so far as to say that I personally preferred the special effects in the early 90's because of the animatronics used. Having both the CG and the practical effects together ensured that your eye was never accustomed to the CG effects, which means that it was ultimately harder to spot the computer generated effects. This was great for Jurassic Park because everything had blended so well that it almost looked like there were no effects at all.
When AVATAR came out, the big selling point for the movie was that it was an almost fully computer generated world. There were very few instances in which actors or real objects were used, meaning that it was a lot less practical than a movie like Jurassic Park. AVATAR was beautiful from an artistic and technological standpoint, but there were many instances in the movie in which having a fully CG world did not quite pay off. For example, there were certain scenes in the movie where the physics would just be a little off, and that was enough to tell the brain that what you were seeing was just fantasy. AVATAR was close to replicating what a possible fantasy setting would look like in real life, but I have a feeling that using more practical effects would’ve made the movie look a lot more organic to the mind.
Practical special effects and CG special effects may be both a blessing and a curse to certain movies. Some movies can pull off the effects well, while others just look rushed and out of place. I personally believe that directors should take the approach of using both practical and computer generated effects because it looks a lot more fluid than just having one or the other like they did in the Matrix movies.
Still, it’s astounding seeing a movie with these wonderful effects. The special effects overall are a major attraction in movies, because with the effects, you’re able to witness certain scenarios in the movies that you wouldn’t be able to see without them.