Films: Glorified Technology Demos?


(PolygoneUK) #1

Having hit an empass with my 3D/visual arts studies, I have found myself looking quite carefully at how films are progressing or regressing in terms of visual effects.

With Hollywood snatching and grabbing at anything comic-book related, it seems that more than a few films nowadays, are being made to blow a viewer’s visual senses into the next world.

Sadly, more-often-than-not, these Comic-based films lack real substance and some aren’t even worthy of being called ‘good’.

Fantastic Four was over-hyped and whilst I did sit thinking “wow, the flame effect is amazing”, I then sat thinking, “wow, crap film.”

Are we focussing too much on developing physics-accurate effects and ignoring good characters & storylines?

It’s all well creating physically accurate water or fire along with rigid and soft-body dynamics. And it’s all well creating virtual actors to fling at brick walls, but it’s all just a big Tech Demo if the film as a whole is garbage.

I’d like to hear other views on this trend in Hollywood to create visual effects films to make big bucks. :smiley:


(Friday13) #2

I think the increase in the amount of special effects (and also the increase of “2 hour tech demo” movies) is due to the fact that they’re becoming easier (and more cost-effective) to make, so producers just say “Hey! We have US$30 million! Let’s find something to waste it on!” and they make movies such as Fantastic Four (I didn’t bother watching that, beause I knew it sucked).

Of course, not all recent films are like this. Some (like the LotR trilogy) have a good balance when it comes to effects and writing, so I guess the fault is not the abundance of special effects per se, but the lack of good writers/directors (there are only a few left that I like), who either seem to be running out of ideas, or they’re trying to hard to amaze the audience, without much success. I see myself forced to see one of those “special effects galore” films, I’ll pretty much focus more on the watching and admiring the CG (if it’s good) rather than trying to concentrate on a story that will be based on a series of excuses for wasting render-farm time :stuck_out_tongue:


(osxrules) #3

I think a lot of movies are using effects too much to sell the movie. But personally, I’d be reluctant to watch a movie without some sort of visual style. I like a good story but books have good stories too. I want something that will hold my visual attention.

An example of a comic style movie I really enjoyed recently was Batman Begins. I absolutely loved that movie. Good story, good visual style and effects were not overly done.

I haven’t actually seen Fantastic Four yet but I don’t have high hopes because from what people have said, it sounds like they just used the effects to sell the movie and Jessica Alba in the catsuit. I still want to check it out obviously because of the latter but I doubt I’ll enjoy it that much.

Dreamworks studios have done this a few times. Concentrating on visuals or star casts instead of getting a good story. Then they milk it for all it’s worth. They are even doing Shrek 3 & 4. I think Shrek is probably the only good animated movie they’ve done. Shark Tale and Madagascar were pretty bad.

Pixar on the other hand focus on the story and also the technical bits that matter. Compare the lip-synching and facial expressions between Shrek and Toy Story.


(shbaz) #4

Case in point two: War of the Worlds.

They took a classic and used all of the imagery with none of the substance.


(PolygoneUK) #5

Yeah 13th, I agree that part of the problem rests with Directors & Scriptwriters.

But what’s interesting to note is that as visual effects tools develop to incredible heights, this in my opinion opens the doors all-too-easily for writers to just say “hmm, boring bit in the script, add some funky visual effects… HERE>>>”

Because the technology keeps expanding, there is nothing to hold studios, scriptwriters and directors back from just using it for the sake of things.

I believe this has a drastic effect on the development of content within plots and characters. Even Spielberg with War Of The Worlds made a right mess of things with his interpretation of the material. Sure, it was partly character focussed (If you drool over Tom Cruise that is), but it was still special and visual effects through and through.

I also reckon that big-name studios are largely to blame as well. They equate box-office takings with visual-effects content, I’m sure of it.

LOTR was a truly brilliant trilogy, but then again, the source material in the books was pretty damn good writing to begin with. Same with the upcoming Narnia film(s)

Who knows where it’s heading, but I know this much: Comic-book films are starting to really get on my nerves and also this renewed interest in making video-game movies like Doom and Halo. %|


(Ongnissim) #6

That is exactly what I think, I was going to post this when I saw this thread, I didn’t know it was already stated… Also, about superhero films, and comic book films, I enjoyed the Spiderman and Batman ones, and I hated both the Hulk, and the Fantastic Four, which were poorly done in story development (up until the final battles, which were both amazingly short, but almost caught my interest for 10 seconds :wink: ) Overall, I think that there are some companies that are in it for the money (and that can go for all things… coughMicrosoft*/cough*) and others are still in it for the entertainment, like Pixar and Nintendo (I couln’t help fanboying for the two, though when mixed previouly have had disasterous results :-? )

Another good story that I think had brilliant visual effects was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that premiered over the summer. Then again, I am biased towards this seeing as I have always loved the book (and Tim Burton films %| ) … What were your opinions of this movie, I’d like to know.


(Rocketman) #7

This caught my eye because I have just watched the movie “Robots”, a film with absolutley the best artwork and animation I’ve ever seen. Ever. Storyline and dialogue, on the other hand, bleah.

So, here’s my hypothesis: The IQ of scriptwriters seems to be inversely proportional to the Integrity of the Graphic artists/animators. This used to be not the case, but I’m seeing a steadily growing gap in the quality of each department.

Hopefully Team Orange will be the exeption that proves the rule: In this case, the animators are the writers as well.

The way it should be. Maybe someday all artists will become completely independent from all these horrible writers. Blender and Team Orange are both steps in the right direction.


(PolygoneUK) #8

I have yet to see the updated and revised Charlie & The Chocolate Factory. I remember the old Gene Wilder one, which is still rather good, but then again, Tim Burton has his own visual style.

With Burton’s films it’s often about atmosphere rather than straight out effects which always wins me over. A lot of his visual style is practical and physical, through lighting and props/models.

I think the Spiderman films were rather good and I give them their just deserts. The new batman film however was a 50/50 affair. I still love the original two ‘Burton’ Batman films.

Hulk was also a so-so. It was a very long film but what I did admire was not the CG hulk or CG mutant dogs. I didn’t even admire the acting all that much. What was utterly brilliant about Hulk was the way it was edited.

Now Hulk is a prime example of what to do with comic-book material. Edit and shoot it like a comic you’re reading. Some of those transitions between shots were just genious and taken straight out of comic-book territory. :smiley:


(JellyWerker) #9

I think this is what is happening. FOr the most part dreamworks stays out of it, although it may seems as if they have bad storylines, they are intended for the 4-10 year old audience, although the effects and adult humor bring in just about everyone. That’s one thing I liek that pixar does, the adult humor, blows right over the heads of the little ones, but the slightly older crowd (14-16+) will find it funny.


(valarking) #10

You’ve like the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory then. I didn’t care for the movie overall too much but the atmosphere was wonderful from beginning to end.


(henrymop) #11

Here it is.

The people who make scripts are excellent, just as they have always been (maybe). The visual studios and everyone else are good. It’s the businessmen. Did you know that the head honchos make about 90% of the money in thier compony?

So, they want to make more money, obviously. With the help of the media and schools, they make this happen. How? With the media, it’s obvious. They pay for famous people and influencal people to say,“This product is great”, or ,“This movie is great.” And since people watch too much T.V. and worship iodls and such, they belive it, and intigrate that into their thinking.

With schools, you might be thinking, “How the heck would schools go about helping make money for the rich?” Well, what is the objective of the school? It is to help make a child a productive adult. What’s a productive adult? For me, it seems, is that a productive adult is one that make the rich richer. Now I sound like a proigandist! Resonably.

Then, now, the people are , let’s say, “vulnerable” to what the rich want. Now the rich take advantige. And they found out that people only like the graphics and visual, probibly the cheapest part in movie production, and only put money into that, in order to get more money. And the people are drones, watching movies and buying games and anything that are the same over and over again, and not trying to look outside their “own” reality, and realize that their reality is not the same as the “real” reality, and try to make it real. A rut is America’s pastime, atleast for in more recent years.

There’s the reason, at least in my opinion.


(PolygoneUK) #12

I’m not entirely sure that visual effects is always the cheapest part. Just look at Peter Jackson’s Kong. It was gonna be two and a half hours long but he wants 3 hours.

That extra 30 mins of on-screen footage is gonna cost him $32 million.

That’s just over $1 million per minute.

Not exactly a bargain.

I agree that young folk developing talents in visual effects face a daunting life of technical criticism and servitude to those with bigger wallets. Sadly it’s always been that way. Politics is no different.

It’s the way our world has evolved.

For us poor consumers and that’s what we do. Hollywood serves us the grool, we lap it up and ask for more.

Moving the topic forwards a little, where do we see films in 10 years time?

Will they be pretty much as they are now? Will there be more photorealistic attempts such as Final Fantasy?

Will we see entire casts of virtual actors with their own synthetic voices and emotions AI-coded through tools like Endorphin?


(BigBlend) #13

He needs food on the table.


(PolygoneUK) #14

[quote=“bigbad”]

He needs food on the table.[/quote]

LOL. The article states that HE is paying the extra $32 million out his own pocket to make Kong 3 hours long :o

I feel SO sorry for his family %|


(dante) #15

DreamWorks’ Sure-Fire CG Film Recipe:

2-10 Well-Known Actors
10-30 Tired Jokes and Situations
1 Soundtrack populated by currently popular songs
1 Story using whatever concept pixer just used.

Stir until crappy. Serve to retarded children.


(munkey_mike) #16

Hollywood films are made for one reason: to make money. Quality is far down the list of priorities. The fact is that people keep going to see crappy movies. Anyone who paid to see Fantastic Four should be charged with cruelty to humanity as they are supporting the money hungry Hollywood producers. And the other thing is that this does not only apply to CG heavy films, this trend has been prevalent in Hollywood for decades. This is just their new angle to suck people in.


(osxrules) #17

Lol, that sums it up pretty well.

But the problem is not with the people, it’s the system that’s wrong. How can you judge if a movie is good before you get to see it? The very act of making the decision involves you supporting them in the first place.

I think that a better system would be if there was service where you got to see a free version of the movie that was a low quality version instead of a deceiving trailer. Oh wait, P2P does that :).

That’s why I use that all the time. I’ve seen Madagascar and no, I will not pay for it because it was a POS. I will however pay for Batman Begins.

I think the main beef that Hollywood has with P2P is that it’s the only system that would make them shape up. Right now, they know that they can produce crap and still make money as long as they can sell it well enough and it’s that attitude that needs to change.


(Al_Capone) #18

If only they made my version of Kong :smiley:


(erich) #19

I do not think this problem is anything new. Think about all of the terrible alien/monster movies from the 50’s and 60’s. The big studios were hesitant to support George Lucas when he wanted to make Star Wars because the public had seen so many crappy sci-fi movies in the previous decades.

The basic principles that make a good/great film are true with the computer as they are with the camera. I think it has a lot to do with the all mighty dollar. Stupid thrills and sex appeal pay in the end.

The good news is there will always be great films, just not as many as compared to the lowest common denominator that is constantly churned out. For example, Casablanca was one of 50 films produced by its’ studio in 1942. Over 60 years later people still consider it to be a great film. What about the other 49 films created by the studio that year? Does any one remember (if they are still alive) one of the other 49 films? Will you find another film on DVD by that studio from that year? Probably not.

If you ever get bored of the current film offerings, I recommend watching a classic for a change. There are some great films from the past that may offer some inspiration. Here is my short list:

Gone with the Wind
Citizen Kane
Casablanca
The Best Years of Our Lives
Out of the Past
Rear Window
Vertigo
North by Northwest
Ben Hur
Dr. Strange Love


(vaioguy) #20

I have to vote yes on this one and I dont think a lack of talented writers is to blame. They only write the scripts, they dont decide which ones get made. As has already been said it’s all about money, pure and simple. originality or story telling are an art that is there but it’s out of favour with the corporate money men and in the playstation age a lot of the audience too. You only have to look at the number of unnecessary sequels that are made that add nothing to a story or the remakes of old classics that just dont come close to the original. Look at some of the movies in erichs list while you can. They’ll be remade badly and their old version forgotten pretty soon