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War of the Wizards
There's no freeze on weapons in the escalating special effects race.
Donald Chase
The audiences for special effects, as Woody Allen once said about love affairs, are like sharks: They have to keep moving forward or else they die. If the effects whiz kids don't keep them in a feeding frenzy with bigger and bloodier morsels, they're likely to go after smaller fish, like Diner, Ordinary People, and Shoot the Moon. Effects that aren't novel don't dazzle, and for audiences used to oversize sharks, cute robots, and world-class explosions, familiarity breeds contempt. When you've seen one spaceship as big as Manhattan drift gracefully over your shoulder into deep screen space, you've seen them all, and probably only effects junkies can tell the difference between the Starship Enterprise, the Cygnus, and the Discovery. Special makeup effects artist Rob Bottin's man-into-werewolf trick in The Howling wowed audiences, because never before had they seen noses become snouts, nails become claws, short hair become dreadlocks, all in one take, without cutaways or dissolves. But when Rick Baker, who pioneered the system of cables, pneumatics, and bladders that made it all possible, did it himself a few months later in An American Werewolf in London, audiences yawned. It was old hat, although it subsequently won Baker an Oscar. Effects technology is changing so fast that before this year's blockbuster ends its first run, its spectacular effects will be destined for the dustbin of history, or the Museum of Modern Art, the fate that befell Peter Ellenshaw's Cygnus (from The Black Hole). But there's still a lot of money in effects films, and this summer at least five of them – Poltergeist, TRON, E.T., The Thing, and Blade Runner are off and running in the special effects derby, racing for the pot of gold that waits for the winner at the end of the summer box-office rainbow. […]


Source type Magazine
Volume 7.8
Language en
Document type Feature
Media type text
Page count 8
Pages pp. 52-59


Id 2526
Availability Free
Inserted 2016-06-07