10 Reasons Movies That Prefer Practical Effects Will Always Be Better Than CGI Movies

Lord Of the Rings. Jaws. Terminator. It was all old school back then. And boy were they good. The CGI culture is slowly killing the art of Practical effects. And here’s why all movie aficionados should be worried.

Not Everything Goes According To Plan (& That’s a Good Thing)

Practical effects have a tendency to never follow a plan. Since not all variables are under the control of the effects’ artists, many things are forced to be left to chance. During the iconic hospital explosion scene in The Dark Knight, as Heath Ledger’s Joker walks away from the explosions, the final detonation does not happen. Instead of breaking out of character, Ledger sticks to the role and looks back, giving out a visual sigh that is brilliantly captured on camera. The explosion does happen but is a bit delayed. It even stuns Ledger, who frantically runs back to escape the falling debris. Things did not go according to plan. And that’s the reason why it is considered the greatest explosions sequences of all time.

Audience Knows When Special Effects Come Into Play

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You might be head over heels over movies like The Avengers or Fast & Furious. Many movies of the modern era are CGI heavy. And that is the problem. There has to be a fine balance between CGI and practical effects in movies. That is something Directors of the 2000’s era blockbusters like Sam Raimi and Steven Spielberg knew. Your brain is hardwired to know differentiate between CGI and real scenes in a movie. That is not up to debate. When you see a CGI scene, no matter how convincing, your brain realizes it is fantasy. And then you snap back to reality.

Practical Effects Artists Use Creative Thinking For Solutions

We will take the example of Jaws here. The Steven Spielberg movie was probably the first true blockbuster that heavily relied on practical effects. Jaws was about a bloodthirsty shark that menaces a group of people near the sea. But did you know that the shark, the titular monster of the movie, was notoriously hard to manage and operate? The animatronic monster was a combination of novelty pneumatic motor systems, steel tubing and polyurethane shell casings. It was a first of its kind. As a result of the effort put into the monster, it grossed more than 470 Million Dollars, starting a revolution in Hollywood that continues to this date.

Too Much CGI Ultimately Hurts The Movie

There are reasons why movies like Green Lantern and The Hobbit trilogy are not as beloved. Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy was supposed to be the successor to The Lord Of The Rings movies. It was anything but. His LOTR movies are considered to be brilliant and far superior. But the Hobbit trilogy, despite having the same person behind the camera, was not as successful. Green Lantern had a stellar cast, an okay-ish story arc, and tons of iconic characters. Both the movies flopped because of intensive use of CGI. Too much CGI creates a storyline that lacks texture and cannot be deemed relatable. They end up being flat and undistinctive.

The Element of Realism Enhances The Movie Experience

Obviously practical effects seem more real because they actually are. They were not created by a bunch of geeks sitting behind a computer sipping coffee. They were created after much trial and error. So when the final result is captured on screen, the audiences believe it to be real. But did you know it has a more important, secondary influence in a shot? Practical effects movies bring out the best of acting skills in the actors who play the characters too. The legitimacy of a shot is dependent on how much the actor can feel himself or herself in the role. If you put a green screen behind the person and make him wear a dotted CGI suit, there’s not much room for growth left.

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Scenes Are More Iconic

Let us ask you a question – how many epic CGI moments from your favorite movies do you remember? How many scenes that employed good practical effects can you recall? Now ask yourself this – which of the two questions made you recall movies that are older than your age? Practical effects immortalize a movie. Whether it be the T-Rex from Jurassic Park or E.T’s shining index finger, the scenes have always been iconic and legendary.

Even The Smallest of Stunts Have Huge Impact

When the audience knows what is happening on screen was made after much effort, the scene becomes much more interesting to watch. It does not matter how small or unimportant to the plot that scene is. The Dark Knight (sorry for bringing it up so much but well…what can we say) had a scene where Batman flips a truck on itself. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man’s Tray catch scene is another example. The stunt took a staggering 156 takes to be properly executed. And hence, the audience became much more invested in the overall movie. That’s because they knew movies that pay this much attention to even the most minute of details are destined for greatness.

Prosthetic Make Up Is ALWAYS Better Than Computer Generated Make Up

Make up is yet another form of practical effect seldom explored in detail in Hollywood nowadays. Back then, a good make up artist could shoulder the success of an entire franchise. Now, it is all CGI driven. Justice League’s Steppenwolf is a good example of how bad CGI ruins a character. You can employ the world’s most powerful super computer to render a computer generated make up on an actor for a movie. people would still prefer the works of artists like Rick Baker (An American Werewolf In London) and Tom Savini (Night of The Living Dead) any time.

It Really Amps Up The Fear Factor In Horror Movies

To be honest, even a film maker that loves CGI would prefer an artist specializing in practical effects with first rate equipment. They are rare, hard to come by, and their work is impeccable. Just like all good things in this world. Horror movies of the Eighties and Nineties benefitted a lot for these artists when they were in better supply and demand. The Thing’s monstrous creature for example, still gives us nightmares. When Nathan Fillion came across the tick woman in Slither, that image was etched onto our retinas for all eternity.

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The Golden Age Of Practical Effects Led To various Innovations In Show Business

The hatred for CGI is even higher among people who grew up watching classic 80’s and 90’s movies like Jaws and The Thing. True movie aficionados know when a movie needs to be respected for its effort and when it has gone overboard. During the Eighties, when the audience was getting used to high value action and science fiction blockbusters, there came the Golden Age of Practical effects. Computer processing power and memory storage were low back then. Hence Practical Effects led to several innovations in film making like anthropomorphic robots and brilliant make up techniques never before seen in Hollywood. CGI movies have just pushed these innovations to the sidelines.

Written by Bibhu Prasad Panda

With a Bachelor's in Engineering and a Master's in Marketing and Operations, Bibhu found a love for writing, working for many different websites. He joined FandomWire in July 2020 and worked his way to his current position of Content Strategist. Bibhu has been involved in operating and managing FandomWire's team of writers, diversifying into varied, exotic fields of pop culture.