Space Ramblings

Have Special Effects Killed our Sense of Wonder?

There are a lot of complaints about special effects in movies and the sense of unreality they produce. There are complaints about George Lucas’ demented overuse of special effects in his Star Wars prequels to the point that the entire movie was a special effect and essentially a CGI animated cartoon with live action actors lost in the mix. But what’s interesting isn’t just what special effects does to our sense of reality in movies but our sense of reality period.

Part of the problem is that we’ve lost the ability to really take in something incredible because our referent has become CGI special effects. As incredible as the launch in the above video is, I have to remind my brain that this is real, not special effects. That reality discontinuity kicks in more often than we realize, when people compare a Tsunami wall of water of the falling towers on 9/11 to movie special effects, writing that they were unable to believe that they were real.

We’re headed toward a world where we can visually duplicate just about anything. From photoshop to 3d graphics, reality is what we make of it. And that’s the problem. Special effects have eroded our sense of wonder. We’ve seen too many spaceships take off, planets destroyed and incredible things on the movie screen. Where past generations sat through movies that had special effects that diverged from real life. Today we see the impossible on the screen and when we see something incredible in real life, we have to keep reminding ourselves that the wonder of it all is that it is real.

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