Sunday, September 16, 2012
It's Too Easy Being Green
Although I have to admit actor Henry Cavill looks hot pretty much anywhere, I am starting to have less and less patience for the green screen. As I wrote last week, I have been watching more older movies lately and the more I watch, the more I loath how cinematic magic is less about skill and more about green.
One of my favorite television shows of the last few years was Ugly Betty. The show had such great supporting players and such heart, much of it grounded in New York livingroom of the Suarez family. I remember how I loved the feel of The Big Apple in the pilot and how well the show captured the city as a character. Through much of the rest of the shows run, the heart was wounded just a little as New York, (except when the show returned to the city in the forth and final season) became scenes on a green screen in the back lots of Hollywood sound stages. Some of the green screen work was so poor, as a viewer I was often jolted out of the story
I never saw the original King Kong the 70's version had so much more heart than Peter Jackson’s overblown ode to the green screen. Remakes utilizing green screen rarely pack the punch of the movie they stem from. The Poseidon Adventure, and especially the horrid Planet of the Apes movies have visuals galore but little of the magic. I remember hiding in my fathers arms when reruns of the old Apes flicks would come on television. Roddy McDowall as Cornelius and The Hunt leader, yes an actor in an Ape suit, was far more terrifying to me than anything Marky Mark or James Franco could muster up in the remakes.
Now I know without the green screen we would not have had some of the last two decades biggest hits and most fantastic on screen visuals. Steven Spielberg has used to create some incredible moments. Jaws however, arguably his finest film work, was made on the actual ocean with a mechanical shark. Despite the legions of well documented issues with the shark, no movie menace or feature creature on green screen has elicited quite the same degree of terror.
I don’t want to banish the green screen, it has it’s purposes. Creating a Paris backdrop for a sit-com scene, helping film makers creating dinosaurs and worlds beyond what is realistically feasible is great now and then. But... if you look at some of our greatest films CGI and green screen were used minimally if at all. The time between Star Wars in 1977 and Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith in 2005 should tell the tale. Although the original Star Wars certainly used green (well blue screen), it relied heavily on costume, set and model set ups for most of it’s shots, with the making of each sequel and prequel, the advancement in technology (Empire Strikes Back Aside) did not parallel with an increase in quality, story and most of all enjoyment.