Special Effects Past

Earlier this week, after I posted my review of Neill Blomkamp’s CHAPPiE, a fellow blogger commented on my earlier take of James Cameron’s The Terminator that he found it interesting that I wasn’t impressed by the special effects in the Arnold Schwarzenegger flick and that, budgetary restrictions aside, they were pretty good for their time. He then added that he would much rather watch the cyborg classic than the new robot allegory.

After I got over the initial wah-wah of getting a slightly negative comment (don’t worry, I am well aware that there will most likely be more!), I started to think more critically about his thoughts and wondered if he had a point: Is it fair to judge older movies based on what we’ve become accustomed to today, and was that what I was doing? 

In all honesty, I can say no, it is not fair to judge special effects past by special effects present, and I do try to take into account what was common/possible at the time. I am fully aware that computer-generated imagery wasn’t nearly as developed in the 1980s as it is now and that does factor into my reflections on all kinds of movies, like The Terminator, Robo-Cop, and whole slew of other science fiction tales.

But in my defense, I wasn’t comparing The Terminator to modern cinematic marvels. I was critiquing it with a very specific past ideal in mind: Star Wars.

To me, Star Wars is a paragon of special effects capabilities. Even now, whenever I watch the original trilogy – re-mastered or not – I am struck by what George Lucas and his team was able to pull off nearly fifty years ago. From the costuming of Chewbacca and C-3PO to the light sabers and battle stations, I think they are all incredibly well done and are even more impressive knowing how groundbreaking they were at the time. And if Lucas could do that in 1977, why couldn’t Cameron in 1984?

Granted, Star Wars did have a budget nearly twice that of The Terminator, according to IMDb, but that isn’t necessarily a crutch. And honestly, they were both pretty low budget compared to today’s CGI-heavy blockbusters. But those are just my thoughts, what are yours?!

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