Thursday, 3 November 2011

Are traditional methods in film the new thing?

While reading the magazine 'Wired,' I came across an article on the new 'The Thing' prequel. Well, really the article was more paying homage to John Carpenter's vision. The writer talked about how originally the twisted and gruesome movie was not well received by both sci-fi and horror fans in the 1980's, which was hurtful for Carpenter. Today however, the film is admired for it's amazing use of animatronics (today films tend to use computer generated images).

The new prequel (2011) is said to revert to Carpenters very traditional methods of using animatronics, however there will also be the combination of both 'CG' and mechanical techniques. This raises the question, are some film makers moving away from the heavy use of 'CG' in modern film, and seeking inspiration from tradition methods.

This whole idea of stripping down modern films and reverting back to the basics got me thinking. I recently watched 'Paranormal activity 2,' which is a very extreme example of this. Not only are the special effects kept very limited, but the movie is also filmed on home video and home surveillance cameras. This approach to directing is know as the 'found footage' genre, and began with such films as 'Cannibal Holocaust' and 'The Blair Witch Project.' The style suggests that the film is compiled from real footage that has been discovered. 'Blair Witch' was actually produced as a hoax, and lead people to believe that the footage was real. 'Found footage' films now however, are known to be fictional.

There is something very engaging and real about this shaky chaotic style of directing, similarly to how the animatronics in 'The Thing' are much more believable and frightening than computer generated images. It seems that in the aftermath of a very technological age in film with movies such as 'Terminator' and 'Jurassic Park,' directors are beginning to re-visit traditional approaches in certain areas. Some film makers such as Tarantino are searching for more plot driven character based movies (Pulp Fiction), (Reservoir Dogs). As well as this, we can notice an influx of lower budget movies being created by independent film makers, proving that viewers are satisfied despite the absence of over inflated Hollywood budgets. The movie 'Open water' was filmed with a low budget of $500,000, yet was highly sucessful. The film also used real sharks as appose to computer generated ones.

In conclusion, it seems there may be a renaissance emerging in film. Some seem to be looking more for plot and character content rather than flashy computer generated images. The reason I believe John Carpenter's 'The Thing' has gained such a strong following over the years, is not only because of the special effects, but also the sense of paranoia we see grow within the characters. This character development is often lacking in films that exhaust too much focus on cutting edge special effects. As technology advances in the area of computer generated images, will there still be a high demand for 3D designers? Is there an appeal with re-visiting traditional methods? Perhaps viewers are seeking authenticity, and until computer generated images become hyper realistic, audiences will be left unimpressed.

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