An Open Letter to the Special Effects Driven Film

Dear [insert CGI driven movie title here],

I just watched Pacific Rim, and overall I enjoyed it. For all its flaws and illogic it was generally fun to watch and engaging enough to keep me interested the whole way through. However, despite my general enjoyment, Pacific Rim still fell into some of the same traps that so many of your contemporaries find themselves in. Because I like you, and because I want what’s best for you (and, yes, for me as well) I decided to write this letter.

I know that you are busy saving the world, exploring space, fighting evil, etc., so I’ll be as brief as possible to let you get back to that important work.

My first point has to do with light. We know that the alien invasions, monster attacks, epic battles, etc. wait for no man. However, for your audiences sake, please try to delay them by about 9 hours next time, giving the sun a chance to come up. We as humans do not share your ability to operate at peak efficiency night or day. As an unfortunate accident of evolution, our eyes are only made to function with 100% effectiveness in the light of day. For this reason, when your inevitable climax or mid-way battle takes place in the middle of the night or in a torrential downpour (or both, as we often see), we are often at a loss to appreciate the full magnificence of your victory over your opponents.

I understand, of course, that there are budgetary constraints with regards to the creation of special effects, and that nighttime and/or thunderstorm offers a protective fog that makes fooling the human eye easier without spending much more money on rendering. I also understand that your budget has to fill an hour and 45 minutes of a 2 hour movie with action in order to keep our goldfish attention spans engaged. But still, I propose a solution: instead of having 20 nighttime/rainstorm battles during your 2 hour run time, how about only having 15 battles overall?

Wait, just hear me out!

By having only 15 battles, the production funding which would have been spent on the other 5 is now available to augment your rendering of the remaining battles. In this way, we the audience can be spared the trouble of guessing what is happening during the majority of your action sequences. Yes, we understand that our hero or an enemy is now flying through the air. We assume he’s been struck or thrown. But we would love to actually KNOW.

My second point has to do with the stupid human brain. And I know this is not your problem; you have far greater concerns than what my simple ape brain can handle visually… defending the galaxy for instance. But I would still ask that you indulge me for a moment.

The simple fact is: my brain simply can’t handle all the visual debris that you throw at it.

When you start with a close up of a fist, then quickly switch to the face of a swiftly moving enemy darting past the camera, then zooming away (much faster than a human could ever move) before swiveling the point of view around, over, and under the two characters before the fist connects causing an explosion, my brain interprets one thing maybe: fist?

(get any of that?)

I need a few things from you, if you decide can help me out with this. 1) I’m gonna need you to slow it down. Not everything has to be in slow motion, but it absolutely cannot be in super-fast motion. Movies are a visual medium as I know you are well aware, and if I’m not able to actually see what is going on, it defeats the entire purpose. The IMPRESSION that something cool and epic may have just occurred is not enough. I need to know.

And 2) we get it, you are very good at realistically rendering debris. Thanks you. But now, we would like some more emphasis put on the characters themselves than on the destruction they create collaterally. Some of that is excellent, certainly. But when explosions, falling buildings, and shrapnel are actively obscuring our battling dynamos, whoever they may be, well then we have derailed.

I’d really like for us to be able to work together on this one. I think there is a lot of growth potential, and profit in it for both of us. I get a better viewing experience, and you get the satisfaction of a job well done.  I know you’re capable of doing this, because you’ve done it in the past with great success. Let’s learn from our triumphs, [special effects driven film], and save the world together.

 

5 Replies to “An Open Letter to the Special Effects Driven Film”

  1. Bravo! It’s funny that the master of the fight scene slo-mo (Zack Snyder) left most of that expertise at home when he made the superman action scenes. I mean, even in his animated Guardians of Gahool movie, the owl battles had at least 3 or 4 slo-mo claw swipes and feather wrestling.

  2. Couldn’t agree more. And on a side note, having not seen Man of Steel and watching the imbedded video above…… WTF was that?!?!? If I pay money to be simply visually an mentally stimulated for a couple hours and your delivery results in me perceiving my brain as having just been etcha-sketch reset, shame on you!

    1. Yeah, that scene was only slightly crisper in the theater.. I still couldn’t tell what was going on… super annoying.

  3. Exactly! Couldn’t agree with this more. It’s disheartening wanting to see every moment of the kaiju being flipped in the air by the yaegars and instead getting an eyeful of beautifully rendered drops of rain and ocean water. Also wondering if I ever need the perspective of viewing a fight from an antagonist’s kneecaps. I’m pretty sure the answer is no.

    1. I am inclined to agree. I think I MIGHT know what one of the Kaiju in that movie looked like.. the rest were hulking blue/black shapes that were really good at splashing around in the shallows.

      Also, apparently the oceans in the Pacific Rim world never get any deeper than knee high on a Jaeger no matter how far offshore you are.

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