Dennis Muren has been doing effects work for a long time, and the veteran guru is not a fan of green screen and CGI. In fact, he thinks these modern conveniences are actually making films worse.
Muren has worked at George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic for decades, and helped define the look of everything from Star Wars to Jurassic Park to Super 8. With more than 40 years in the business, he’s seen a lot of changes in the industry. From the era of scale models to modern CGI, it's getting harder for classicists to even recognize the good old days.
While discussing the evolution of effects work, Muren opened up to Movies.com about how all these FX extravaganzas are actually a bad thing:
“This toolkit has been around for 20, 25 years. Unless we come up with something really new, it's up to the artists to make best use of the tools they've got. If you're going to make a motion picture, don't just throw computer graphics in to make everything bigger or more. Don't have an army of 20,000 centaurs or whatever it is, if the story is better with seven centaurs. They've lost sight, making things bigger and bigger. Less personal.
A lot of directors like combining them [a variety of different FX techniques]. I would say not a lot of younger directors have had experience with that. Probably is that they won't be as comfortable with it and it's easier, production wise, to say just shoot a plate and we'll get it later. Get it and move on. The time it takes to make a robotic character or a Muppet perform right… there's a lot of value to that. Seems to have been forgotten."
He makes some good points, and it’s hard to argue that filmmakers don’t hide a weak story behind a $100 million budget and insane FX. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for directors to seek out the classic balance and get the story lined up before they start pouring money into the visuals.
Moviegoers are smarter than that (well, most of the time) and can usually see through the flash.
Do you think Muren has a point? Has the advent of modern FX technology had a negative impact on film quality in the modern age?