The special effects spectaculars of my younger days were ‘event’ movies. Special summer must sees that provided experiences that mere mortals couldn’t emulate. It seemed that fantasical visions were the sole property of shadowy figures, working in the semi-darkness in the Industrial Light & Magic bunker.
CGI, with the increasing power and cheapness of home computers, is no longer the soul preserve of large entertainment corporations. When Pixar first introduced cinema audiences to computer animated angle poise lamps in 1986, it was a breakthrough moment and when Dinosaurs were finally brought to life in Jurassic Park without the need to superglue a horn on an Iguanas forehead, cinema audiences exhaled a collection gasp of astonishment but. like all technologies, as prices fell, it became more democratic.
Convincing CGI creations are now routinely found in TV shows and with the aid of an Apple Mac, filmmaker Gareth Edwards manages to create a realistic world in the midst of a potential apocalypse with technology available on the high street and software downloadable by all. I’m not saying that talent isn’t a massive factor because of course it is. When a similar revolution in music tech caused a flowering of dance and electronic music in the 90s, it resulted in a lot of innovative music and a lot of poor quality, functional party muzak. Likewise in film, having the tools doesn’t mean you can build a shed. What easy access to convincing CGI offers is an open canvas for ideas. Easy access to special effects software allows the imagination free reign to create which, at a time when mainstream film is suffering an acute bout of sequelitus and remake fever, can only be a good thing.
For me the most amazing thing is how far it’s all come. I know some people decry CGI, especially when it comes to the gorier end of horror FX, but at the end of the day, as the means to paint what the imagination sees becomes available to anyone with an interest, the power to tell stories is closer to really creative people instead of accountants. When Jurassic Park was realised, the giant lizards blew me away. Now they look a little Playstation 2. What will a filmmaker be able to create on a laptop next year, let alone in five?
Monsters (cert. 12) will be released on DVD (£17.99) and Blu-ray (£19.99) by Vertigo Films on 11th April 2011. Special Features include: audio commentary by Gareth Edwards, Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able; Behind the Scenes featurette; Editing Monsters featurette; Monsters VFX featurette; “Factory Farmed” – short film by Gareth Edwards.