Star Wars-Practical Effects Vs. CGI

I know I talked about Star Wars last week, but I’ve just got to say something about the war that seems to be going on with the effect preferences for the films. When the original trilogy came out, CGI didn’t really exist, so naturally, everything was made by the extremely talented crew, and it looked astonishing, every costume, creature, set piece, etc. This is one of the reasons the films became so popular. The special effects for the time were practically unheard of.

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The prequels were made sometime later and used basically all CGI. This caused a great outcry by many people, no doubt because it insulted the awe the fans experienced the first time they saw the originals, thus irritating their nostalgia. Never mind the fact that 99% of the movie looked far better, it wasn’t the same as the beloved originals.

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The difference in effects I happen to like very much however. Each trilogy has a unique feel to it, largely in part by their special effects. The original trilogy had a much darker feel, and all the man made things fit that theme perfectly. You got the vibe that the world was a lousy place to live in due to the emperor’s rule and the dark magic around Darth Vader, who himself was completely black. Everything meshed together and made the movies very enjoyable.

The prequels were the opposite. Here we had the Republic in control, everyone seemed happy and less danger was scattered throughout the worlds. The galaxy seemed to be thriving and all the beautiful CGI effects added to this just as the physical effects played to the originals. The colors are all so vibrant, the world’s gorgeous, the lightsabers looked a whole lot better. Again, the effects worked so well for the theme of the movie that it came as a shock to me that so many people were complaining. CGI made everything look so much more alive as well.

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Look at Yoda in the original version of Episode 1. He was a horrendous looking puppet that had to go around in a flying chair. But when it was redone, he was CGI and looks amazing. Thanks to CGI, one can now believe Yoda to be a powerful Jedi warrior.

But not every can come to terms with change and technological advancements.. Though personally, I feel if you are going to judge a movie by it’s effects, then I feel you aren’t really enjoying the movies at all, good effects or bad, it means if so much of your attention is focused on such things, the story itself, the chunk of the movie to say, has failed to grip you.

But anyway. Disney buys Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise and then answers the cries of the fans and the solution we get is a horrible mish mash of CGI and practical effects. And it is just awful. The CGI looks great. I would say 90% of the movie is CGI, because sorry practical lovers, the world has moved beyond slow, costly practical effects and film makers are restricted badly due to the limits of human construction and all that. With CGI, literally anything is possible. So obviously, in the evermore competitive world we live in, movies have, particularly in the genre that is Star Wars, filled with intense battles, diverse worlds and creatures, and all sorts of flashy things going on, have advanced to a stage not possible with practical effects. It is not hard to see that CGI is a must to make these movies the most they can be. That is why George Lucas made 4-6 first afterall. The lack of CGI made his visions for 1-3 impossible.

So as I said, we have a mish mash in 7 and 8. For the most part, it is fine, but there are so many puppets I noticed when I just watched episode 8 for the second time that just look so terrible and out of place. You can’t place puppets in a CGI world with more than half the surrounding creatures CGI as well. They stand out like a very, very sore thumb. Plus, they don’t even look good. At least in the original trilogy, mostly everything looked believable and amazing. In the casino scene in episode 8, there’s just puppets sitting at tables that look like they were just pulled from a ventriloquist’s arm and plopped at a table. They look SO BAD and it pulls you out of the fantasy that is Star Wars.

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Another horrid example that comes to the front of my mind is some stupid bird on Jakku in episode 7. It looks good when standing still but when it moves, dear God does it look bad.  It moves like a stupid puppet and not a bird, leaving you with a disgusted feeling because you are pulled out of the world thanks to such horrid “effects.” If you want to makes practical effects, great, but they have to act, move and feel real. They failed here and several other places.

This brings me to my next point. CGI really does make everything look more alive. Animators can make things move more realistically, this doesn’t go just for creatures but for the X-Wings and other ships. A model of a ship is limited vastly on how it can move, but with CGI you can do whatever you want, and the ships look better too.

Sure older CGI doesn’t age well usually, but it still looks better than the crap practical ones they are making now. And that’s not to say practical effects don’t age well either, because many don’t as well.

So I ask what is the point of holding on to nostalgic feelings and all that if it means hindering the potential that a film could truly be? These companies are going out of their way to please fans like this, but these fans are never going to be happy anyway because obviously they are so absorbed by the originals that nothing anyone can ever do will ever please them! This all wraps around back to my nostalgia prevents progression post.

But don’t get me wrong, some stuff still looks great, but it still for the most part seems so out of place in today’s world.

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