From the gravity-defying hallway scene in Inception, to the CGI Groot in Guardians Of The Galaxy, special effects are meant to influence our feelings about a movie. We are always conscious of a film's ability to pull us into its story, and depending on how they're executed, visual effects can leave us either underwhelmed or clamoring for more.
Recently, James Gunn posted on his Instagram feed a tongue-in-cheek photo of an adorable raccoon dressed as Rocket Raccoon from the upcoming Avengers 4 movie with the caption: "Using a lot more practical effects on the set of Avengers 4. But, really from the Facebook page of Natasha la mapacha. Amazing."
I was immediately reminded of the Predator movie back in the day. The crew had initially tried to show the Predator monster swinging from tree to tree by dressing a monkey in a red special effects suit. Just like any other diva upset with their costume choice, the monkey started tearing off the suit, so the crew opted to use a person and some visual camera effects to create the Predator's invisibility.
Imagine if they had stuck with the monkey. Would the movie still be considered a classic action movie that, to this day, still has everyone doing their best Arnold Schwarzenegger impression when they yell, "Get to the choppah!"? It begs the question: Do we only care about bad visual effects when a movie itself doesn't live up to our expectations? Yes, we do.
Movie producers have to up to their game to entice viewers to come and watch their big budget, blockbuster movies. Therefore, directors have to understand how to combine practical and special effects with their stories to keep viewers amused. However, if audiences feel the story did not meet their expectations, the first thing they gravitate towards are the visuals. Before people crack open their wallets to watch a movie in a theater, there are two underlying motives that drive audiences to complain about the visuals: marketing hype surrounding the movie and Hollywood raising the level of special effects. When audiences spend their hard-earned money on movie that they've been slammed with commercials or they expect to have some crazy effects, they tend to take to social media if they've been let down. Since movies are such a visual medium, it makes sense that the visual effects is at the forefront of their minds.
Let's take a look at some bad movies where audiences complained about the special effects.
Hulk Smash Hype
2008 was a great year for #Marvel because they kicked off the #MCU with Iron Man, and soon everyone was clamoring for Robert Downey, Jr as Tony Stark. That same year, Marvel released The Incredible Hulk as a loose sequel of Ang Lee's less-than-stellar Hulk back in 2003. Fans were psyched to finally rid themselves of that visual abomination that Lee created a few years prior. Marvel blasted the marketing of the movie everywhere you looked by working with 7-Eleven stores to introduce The Incredible Hulk slurpee cups, GNC was selling Hulk-themed workout protein, and there were even Facebook and MySpace accounts to help promote the movie.
After seeing the dazzling effects making Iron Man's suit come to life, everyone was pumped to see the new Hulk smash some tanks and smack some bad guys around. Sure, there was a huge fight between the Hulk and the Abomination that satisfied our collective craving for action, but what we got instead was pretty much a spectacle that looked like something would we play on our gaming consoles. What really happened is that the story was not on par with what we got in Iron Man. The Incredible Hulk suffered from a lagging story line, a one dimensional villain, and a Hulk that lacked any feelings or humor. (Luckily, this was fixed for The Avengers where the Hulk shined and had us laughing in our seats when he punched Thor.) Therefore, the criticism of the movie immediately focused on the effects because everyone expected to see their favorite Jade Giant in a story that was at least on par with all the buzz and excitement created by Iron Man.
Green Lanter's CGI Suit
Green Lantern hit the theaters in 2011, and when Ryan Reynolds showed off his new suit, it was as if the entire world was zapped by Sinestro's yellow ring. To this day, people still talk about the horrible decision to use CGI to create the famous green costume. Reynolds even made a quick joke about the suit during Deadpool. But there was a lot more going on before the release of #GreenLantern.
Audiences were already introduced to Marvel's huge success with their movies: we saw Wolverine's claws in X-Men, Peter Parker swing between skyscrapers in Spider-Man, and Tony Stark blast off in Iron Man. Everyone was ready to DC finally get a movie out on the big screen. People were excited that visuals effects made a enough of a leap to start bringing their favorite comic book characters to life. Not to mention, all the technical advancements in visual effects in previous non-comic book movies such as The Matrix trilogy. So making Green Lantern fly through outer space and creating all the constructs from his ring should have been a breeze. Well, we know the outcome of the movie.
But the movie suffered from more than just some lousy visual effects. The Hal Jordan character was written in a way that made him unlikable, people didn't find Parallax (a yellow gaseous cloud) all that great of a villain, and the movie had horrible dialogue. All these factors and the fact that visual effects were sub par compared to previous movies only outraged audiences. If Green Lantern was made later on and used the special effects that were in Batman V Superman, it may have been a better movie. Or at least looked better.
Before we start criticizing a movie for its visual effects, ask yourself if you were let down because of all the hype you heard from your friends or if you were expecting some higher caliber special effects. This is something we have to keep in since ticket prices keep going up at the theater. Sure, the creators of these movies are under budget and time constraints, but they still have to put out a decent product. They have to figure out to use special effects as a tool to enhance their stories.
What other movies can you think of that had lousy special effects? List them in the comments below!