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Discuss: Can Special Effects Still Impress? ILM Creative Director Dennis Muren Says They “Aren't Special Anymore”

The Playlist By Charlie Schmidlin | The Playlist April 11, 2013 at 11:02AM

The name may be unfamiliar, but ILM Creative Director Dennis Muren's contributions to film certainly aren't. Initially hired by George Lucas on “Star Wars,” the man has nabbed eight Oscars for his visual effects work to date, and more importantly, he shepherded ILM's transition from practical models to CG work with “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” All of which is to say: when the man comments on the current state of the industry, you perk up.
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The name may be unfamiliar, but ILM Creative Director Dennis Muren's contributions to film certainly aren't. Initially hired by George Lucas on “Star Wars,” the man has nabbed eight Oscars for his visual effects work to date, and more importantly, he shepherded ILM's transition from practical models to CG work with “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” All of which is to say: when the man comments on the current state of the industry, you perk up.

Unfortunately, Muren has found the need to speak not out of celebration, but in alarm and anxiety. Claiming that his craft has “reached a ceiling” and that "[in] some ways… special effects aren't special anymore,” he has also lamented the rise of narrative bloat, and inexperienced young directors lost in their attempts at practical and CGI effects.

“If you're going to make a motion picture, don't just throw computer graphics in to make everything bigger or more,” he said. “Don't have an army of 20,000 centaurs or whatever it is, if the story is better with seven centaurs. They've lost sight, making things bigger and bigger. Less personal." 

The issue grew more pertinent this week, as director Neill Blomkamp's sophomore sci-fi effort, “Elysium,” was smack in the center of it. After Sony screened 10 minutes of footage to press, the reaction was largely ecstatic, with many praising (including us) Blomkamp's continued fusion of VFX work (by Image Engine) and Weta Workshop's practical wizardry for the film's weapons and mech-suits.

So, are Muren's words made purely of melancholic nostalgia -- mere quibbles to give James Cameron pause before roaring back to the CG environments of the “Avatar” sequels? Or could our feedback to Blomkamp's latest simply be tinged with relief toward special effects with some actual visceral heft? Let us know your thoughts on special effects -- the good and the bad -- below. [Movies.com]

This article is related to: Features, Dennis Muren


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