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Special Effects Out Of Control

Flying_saucerIn one of those lists that seems designed to start fights, the British movie mag Empire presents its list of the ten worst special effects sequences in movies. Rater Simon Crook’s criteria take into account contemporary standards—no laughing at 1960s films because they don’t match up on a CGI scale (though he breaks his own rule with his choice for number one).

Not to argue that any of his choices are not, well, bad, but I think he misses an important point. A lot of these moments look tacky when you watch at them on DVD, where you can freeze frame and pick apart a sequence blow by blow. But at least for the listed films that were made in those dim and distant days before home video, the filmmakers were only looking for an effect that would pass quickly.

I’ll tell you my pet peeve with special effects: films that don’t know when enough is enough. There’s a difference between being dazzled by the creation of an “impossible” alternate reality and having one’s eyeballs bludgeoned. More is not sometimes less. The web-swinging that was so enchanting in Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man was so overdone in the first sequel that it took my imagination out of the story. And don’t get me started on the last three Star Wars films: by the end of Return of the Sith, I was sitting with my eyes closed wishing I had a bottle of Visine. (Of course, I still had to deal with John Williams assaulting my eardrums, but that’s a subject for another post.)

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