I recently watched the 1984 adaptation of DUNE, directed by David Lynch. I was a big fan of the 2000 Sci-Fi channel miniseries and of the story itself already. I was wary of the Lynch creation because, well...it was directed by Lynch. He's known for being extremely odd and confusing. However the film was easy enough to follow. Aside from all the plot differences of the two films, there was one stark contrast between them, the use of CGI versus the "organic" effects (models, animatronics, etc).
This is the film Lynch considers his one total failure.
Lynch used very little digital effects in this film. Akin to his style, there were models and creatures formed from hand. He did use green screen from time to time, but the only digital effects that really stood out were the very polygon-looking shield used between characters when sparring and the Weirding Way lasers used by the Fremen characters. The rest of the film's effects were man-made.
However, if Lynch had created this film in '04 instead of '84, would it have been the same? Probably not, there is a limit of what you can do by your own hand. Would the liquid metal T-1000 ever been created if James Cameron decided that TERMINATOR 2 was to be without CGI? Also, when not using CGI, the director creates a lot more work for the film crew. The creator must find a way to make things that not only might be enormous, but from someone's imagination.
John Carpenter (HALLOWEEN, THE THING) has done amazing things with organic effects. He's known to be able to make the unreal and imaginary become more real than our surroundings. However, would he choose to create, let's say, an entire world using only materials that were tangible? To create an
alien planet by hand seems like a most grueling task. Even the best directors have their limits. Not only does this amount to a great deal more labor, but films almost always have a deadline, and sometimes what is real can take a great deal of time to create.
"The sleeper has awakened."
However, does this mean that CGI is the obvious choice when creating the unknown in movies? Not necessarily. The Sci-Fi version of Dune, I believe, overused computer generated imagery. Not only were most of the buildings computer-generated, but the ships, the alien life forms (i.e. the worms) and much else were too. It reduces the emotional impact a film can have. Why cry for people inside a burning building when it looks it has come out of a video game?
Special effects are something that affects all genres, but specifically Sci-Fi and Horror. We have monsters and aliens to create! They can't look lame, if they do, the audience is gonna be saying, "Aw man, look at these monsters and aliens, they look so LAME.". And that is the worst thing that can happen to a horror/sci-fi movie. That or hiring Uwe Boll. The point of these two genres is to show the audience something it isn't expecting, something weird and maybe shocking. So which do you use, CGI or non-CGI?
To tell you the truth, there isn't a winner. There can't be. Certain films will do better with computer generated imagery; others will be hindered by it. BRAZIL would have been very bad, in my opinion, with major use of CGI, but I'm very happy that JURASSIC PARK used it as much as it could. So there you go, once again there is no clear answer to a question. Well good, that's the way life should be! "Long live the fighters!"
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