Kyle Is Sick Of Great Visuals

April 17th, 2011 by Kyle

There’s been a revolution in filmmaking in the past few years, as powerful computing technology has made effects and techniques that used to be complex and difficult easy, and made ones that were impossible possible. It has put in the hands of directors the ability to create visuals that could only be dreamed of only twenty years ago. What once could only be imagined is now ubiquitous.

And I for one am totally sick of it.

This thought started brewing inside me when I walked out of Sucker Punch, and it’s taken me a while to really formulate it, but here it is: All these amazing new filmmaking tools haven’t given us better movies. Hollywood directors and producers think they have, but they really haven’t. In fact, there are examples of filmmakers who have visibly, undeniably had better tools turn them into worse filmmakers.

Of course, George Lucas is probably the most obvious and prominent example of this. He should have spent less time during the creation of the prequels worrying about special effects, and more worrying about storytelling, character development, and dialog. Lots has been said about this, and there’s not much I can add to it.

But Lucas is not the only one to fall into this trap. Look at the movies James Cameron made in the 80s – classics like The Terminator and Aliens. Look at what he’s made lately with all the technology at his control – Titanic and Avatar. Neither of those were awful films, mind you – but both were weak and cliched stories that would have been nothing without their handsome stars or impressive visuals. In fact, the storyline of Avatar was nothing without those things – when it was called Delgo. Certainly, they’re nowhere near as smart and innovative as Cameron’s early films. Avatar’s budget was 36 times bigger than The Terminator’s budget – which is the better film?

Here’s another one – between 1985 and 1995, without modern effects technology, Robert Zemeckis directed the Back to The Future trilogy, Romancing The Stone, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Forrest Gump. In the last ten years, with it, he’s directed The Polar Express, Beowulf, and A Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey, and produced Mars Needs Moms. Need I say more?

Or how about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? I’m a Crystal Skull defender, by the way – I think it’s just as good as the original trilogy. Just as good – but not better. And certainly not any better because of any advances in visual effects.

Who isn’t sick of the likes of Skyline, Battle Los Angeles, or Sucker Punch? Yes, we’ve always had action, horror, and sci-fi films that have been big, loud, and dumb. But the technology hasn’t done a thing to make them any better.

So, Hollywood, step back from the computers and get back to writing strong stories with memorable characters and well-written dialog. You will, in the end, make better movies than you’re making now. Yes, in the hands of someone with a strong aesthetic vision, these tools can make great things possible. But even that’s hit and miss. The Wachowskis made The Matrix. But they also made Speed Racer. Better tools do not make better artists, nor do they necessarily create better art. If they become a crutch, or a substitute for the abovementioned characters, story, and dialog, then they become a hindrance rather than a help.

And so they have.

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