By Shawn Tackett and Michelle Lynn Tackett
T2 and Jurassic Park set the bar for CGI. Then the Matrix and Avatar raised special effects for the 21st century. Special effects have gotten better with photo-realistic images and worlds that look real. People couldn’t wait to see what new effects Hollywood would do next.
Something happened along the way. CGI has gotten worse. Black Panther, IT chapter 2, and Avengers Endgame are examples of big-budget movies with B grade effects. How did we go from James Cameron breaking new ground with Avatar, to IT chapter 2 looking like it was made for a buck twenty-five? Let’s find out.
Movies are on a tight release schedule. It’s difficult to get all the effects done on time. The problem could be solved if the studios would delay the movie. They won’t do that. They know the investors will be upset if they don’t meet their deadlines. However, they will upset them if the movie flops because of the effects. It’s better to delay the movie so it can deliver.
Lack of understanding
A lot of effect artists don’t understand what makes CGI look great. You can have detailed models, but if the image doesn’t fit with the lighting, backgrounds, and textures, it will look off. Look at Endgame. Some of the effects looked phony because the images didn’t fit with the look of the movie. Paying attention to details can make a difference between good effects or bad.
Look at American Werewolf in Paris. The werewolf transformation looked phony. Whereas, the original American Werewolf in London transformation looked amazing. John Landis made the ware wolf transformation look painful. We were taken through the process of David turning into a werewolf. Sometimes less is more. The effect doesn’t have to be smooth to work.
How to fix the problem
Give artists more time. Teach them what makes effects work. James Cameron is taking four years to make the Avatar sequels. That’s dedication and a commitment to quality. He delayed them to get it right. With big-budget movies, there’s no excuse why effects can’t look professional. Black Panther and IT Chapter 2 are reaching parody levels. With all the resources and money Hollywood has, there’s no excuse. One bad effect? OK. Throughout the whole movie? That’s inexcusable.