When Len Wiseman’s Total Recall becomes available on DVD and Director’s Cut Blu-rayTM December 18th, viewers can weigh the special effects against the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger film of the same name. The updated take on the future world Philip K. Dick envisioned. The film’s strengths lay in complex staged action scenes enhanced by sophisticated visual effects. Once the action starts, you don’t have time to catch your breath. The result is a vast improvement from the bug-eyed Arnold puppet head we all know and love. As awesome as Schwarzenegger’s rubberized face gasping for oxygen is, this version of Total Recall has the look that the story deserves. Much like these other science fiction updates that trumped their predecessors in the special effects department.
David Cronenberg topped the special effects of the 1958 classic by hiring the Academy Award-winning makeup designers Chris Walas, Inc. That and gore. Tons and tons of gore that still grosses us out today. There’s just something about acidic vomit, y’know?
John Carpenter‘s update on 1951’s The Thing From Another World took memories of that film and cracked its chest open, turned it inside out, and then made it talk through its butt. What I’m trying to say is that Rob Bottin’s practical effects were so shocking and unforgettable, that Carpenter’s film remains the gold standard for sci-fi horror to this day. Also a valuable upgrade from the original: that awesome hat that Kurt Russell wears.
When the Syfy Channel announced that it was remaking the beloved space-opera Battlestar Galactica, fans didn’t know what to expect. What they got was mind-blowing. Set aside the fact that the scripts and plotting for Ronald D. Moore’s reimagining were excellent, and focus solely on the special effects. The unique technique of adding pans, zooms, and focus pulls to the computer-rendered space battles brought to mind newsreel footage of World War II and Vietnam, allowing the viewer to sit amongst the action and connect emotionally to the scenes rather than just watching stuff blow up.
It’s by no stretch a better film but those apes looked great.
JJ Abrams breathed an entirely new life into the already established and worshiped franchise by redesigning and rebuilding everything we thought we knew. Also, he added lens flare. So. Much. Lens. Flare.
What Jerry Lewis was able to do with a silly face back in 1963, Eddie Murphy was able to top with foam latex fat suits and cutting edge visual effects. Rick Baker’s makeup is flawless — turning Eddie Murphy into not one but five distinct characters. Another draw for this film are the stunning transformation scenes by Rhythm & Hues Studios, as Murphy’s Sherman Klump wrestles to control Buddy Love, often ballooning and shrinking right before our eyes.
Steven Spielberg took what H.G. Wells scared the crap out of radio listeners with and made it visually terrifying. Industrial Light & Magic served as the main effects house working on the film — creating over 500 CGI effects. In order to prevent the film from looking like total crap, the use of blue screen and computer-generated landscapes was kept to a minimum. Instead the computer-animated Tripod creatures were integrated into shot footage and miniatures.