The Weta Effect: Why Don't Special Effects Impress Us Like They Used To?

With the advancement of technology happening at an exponential rate, it seems like almost anything is possible, especially on the big screen. Special effects are more advanced than they've ever been, allowing entire cities and civilizations to be destroyed with the click of a mouse (all right, it's a little more complicated than that). But is that a good thing?

A new video essay, called The Weta Effect, offers the hypothesis that the reason people seem to not be as impressed by blockbusters and their special effects over the past decade is that special effects look too polished now. Technology allows the creation of such unrealistic characters, creatures and locations in such a realistic way, that it's become harder to suspend out disbelief to accept them as they are. Does that make sense?

Find out more by watching the Weta Effect video below!

Here's the video put together by StoryBrain:

At the core of the video is the idea that special effects should be more believable than visually pleasing. The example of Ang Lee's Hulk from 2003 compared to the more recent version of The Incredible Hulk is a decent example of more recent, overwhelming digital effects contributing to an underwhelming final product. But what's on display here is hardly adequate enough evdience to make the case that the creator of the video is attempting, especially when using IMDb scores as evidence of the decline of blockbusters.

However, there's something to be said about reaching a point where entire sequences are created with visual effects with barely any real camera footage used to make it feel more grounded. There's actually a great article at Cracked that dives even deeper into why modern visual effects don't seem to look as good as they should. While I certainly wouldn't blame visual effects as a primary factor in the quality of blockbusters declining (which in itself could be argued endlessly, regardless of visual effects), the quality and abundance of visual effects is certainly worth discussing in a much different way.

The video seems to be hasty in blaming visual effects for the complaints people have about tentpole movies today, when it's really "Hollywood's obsession with overwrought, soulless spectacle," as Cartoon Brew smartly points out in similar discrepancies they have with the above video. In addition, it seems unfair to blame Weta for this rise in visual effects use when a company like Industrial Light & Magic could easily be the scapegoat. Most people can't name any other visual effects houses beyond that, so it seems like an easy witchhunt.

Even if you have gripes with modern visual effects, you can't say they are the only problem with lackluster blockbusters nowadays. Part of the daze audiences are feeling also seems to come from a lack of creativity in stories and screenwriting. Remakes, reboots, sequels, nostalgia and more can be fun, but they can also be tiresome. For me, I think the quality of blockbusters overall has decreased, and this problem with special effects is just one element of that.

What do you think? Were VFX more believable 10 years ago? Do we have too many VFX today?