An IMAX production that explores the ground-breaking special effects portrayed in Hollywood films from the very originals to the breathtaking special effects in movies today. Takes the ... See full summary »
An IMAX production that explores the ground-breaking special effects portrayed in Hollywood films from the very originals to the breathtaking special effects in movies today. Takes the audience on a "behind the scenes" look into what goes on during the production of a movie and how the special effects are created. Written by
When Ben Burtt is not creating sound effects or editing films at Skywalker Ranch, he makes Imax documentary's. After exploring the known universe in "Destiny in Space" and "Blue Planet", Burtt decided the history of movie special effects was to be his next subject. Because of his Lucasfilm connection, he asked uncle George if he could play around with some of the original Star Wars models. Since Lucas was dusting them off to update his famous trilogy to their 'Special Editions' anyway, the Imax format proved to be a golden opportunity to include a sneak preview.
Besides a whirlwind history of movie magic with some dazzling name-that-movie montages, the best bits are a couple of original recreations of classic scenes to fit the Imax screen. "Special Effects" opens with the end of the 1933 King Kong (once again filmed in stop motion). The shot of the big ape plummeting down old Empire State with the camera following him viewed on the over sized Imax screen is not easily forgotten. Reproductions of scenes from the original Star Wars are only slightly less impressive by comparison. The famous opening shot with the Star Destroyer and the Millennium Falcon jumping to lightspeed are recreated in the 70 millimeter/15-perforation format unique to Imax productions (and therefore much better looking than anything in the blown up, pan and scan Imax 'Attack of the Clones')
The biggest draw was obviously the first look at the Star Wars Special Edition'. We got to see Rick McCallum dress up as a Sandtrooper to shoot some new shots outside Yuma, Arizona which were then sacrilegiously spliced into a scene completed 20 years earlier. This is followed by more Lucasfilm employees walking along a big blue screen on their own back lot to be placed into a new buckets and paint cans' model of Mos Eisley (this time foolishly using ordinary Stormtrooper outfits instead of Sandtroopers). Finally we are treated to the complete collage of the model, the extras and several 'Ronto' creatures reused from 'Jurassic Park'. This shot is proudly repeated about six times in a row in order to take in all the various special additions. In hindsight the digital composers may have been a bit too pleased with themselves (in the finished film they crammed a record 7 Ronto's into a 1 min 30 second series of establishing shots).
The rest of the film was padded out with featurettes on some other effects heavy classics being worked on at ILM around that time. There are chapters about 'Independence day' (released at the same time as this documentary but on a slightly larger scale) and 'Jumanji', which had already come and gone. Both had been the subject of several making offs of their own, but it was still a thrill to see those enormous explosions and CGI animals at an even larger size. The best thing to say about the behind the scenes look at Paul Michael Glaser's epic 'Kazaam' is that it was good to see Starsky still working.
Yes, in many ways "Special Effects" is one of the last tributes to George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic. From its inception in 1974 up until 'The Phantom Menace' in 1999, no other effect studio could match their work (a good example being the decline in quality in 'Star Trek V' when Paramount had to hire another company). Only after the introduction of computer animation did other FX studio's start to catch up with them. Although the ILMers pioneered this technique in 'Willow' and 'Jurassic Park', eventually new companies surpassed them in popularity, if not in quality. Especially with the disappointing prequels under their belt, the Lucas boys are often criticized for shoddy animation, while it is really the annoying characters that people despise, not the animation itself.
7 out of 10
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