Thursday, August 1, 2013

Questionable Bond No. 10

James Bond isn’t really science fiction, but it is crawling with special effects. And where there are special effects, there are good ones and horrible, horrible ones.

Question: "Name the best and worst effect."

Scott's Answer: A lot of the miniature effects from the older films still hold up after all these years, but not all of them. For instance, the Little Nelly sequence in You Only Live Twice doesn't look too good and for every great model shot involving water, there's another one with scale issues (because water doesn't scale well). Then there's the ridiculous death of Kananga in Live and Let Die. (Just watch it!) It's also disconcerting at first seeing obvious rear projection in the late 80s Bond films. You think they would've managed to perfect the process by then. Of the modern day films, the most egregious offender is the CGI surfing scene in Die Another Day. But in the plus column, all the modern day films make great use of miniatures. There's some model work in Casino Royale which had me fooled till I read about it years later!

Andrew's Answer: The best effects are anything in Thunderball. The underwater fights, the Vulcan plane underwater... with one exception: the sped up boat chase. The worst effect is Bond and Wai Lin going down the outside of the CMG tower. That was the bluest of blue screens. Oh... wait... didn’t James Bond surf in some film? Nah... never happened.

36 comments:

Rustbelt said...

I'm going to start positive.

Best special effects: I have to agree with Andrew about 'Thunderball.' The effects make up for some glaring script problems.

Worst special effects: I really want to agree with Scott on the rear-screen projections. But I have to go with 'You Only Live Twice.' Not just for Little Nelly (though that scene is bad). For the rocket effects. A James Bond film showing effects wires? Launch flames that wouldn't be likely to light a cigar? And for the worst volcano effect I have ever seen in a major motion picture. (I can only imagine it must've made the late Ray Harryhausen cry.)
To quote Tom Servo: "This film has been thoroughly Cormanized."

shawn said...

Heretics! Little Nellie rocked. The enemy helicopters exploding did not.

Still the worst Bond effect ever- Connery's toupee in Never Say Never Again.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

There may have been one or two bluescreen shots in that sequence but most of it was actually shot for real on a 10-story facade constructed at the studio.

ScottDS said...

shawn -

Ha!

And I like the design of Little Nellie (based on a real craft, I think) but those miniature explosions... ugh.

ScottDS said...

Rustbelt -

Re: flames, fire is one of those things - like water - that doesn't scale well.

As for wires, it's been a while but is it something that's always been noticeable, or is it a byproduct of watching the movie in HD where the flaws are more obvious...?

Tennessee Jed said...

For some reason, the whole Thames river chase, Millenium Dome, hot-air balloon thing comes to mind as being really good when I first saw it. As much as I love From Russia, the boat chasr is about as lame as it gets. Still, my all time favorite is the Aston Martin, natch

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, The effects in Thunderball are just amazing. You never once doubt that all of this is real. That's pretty rare for films of that era and even for films of today.

Yeah, there are some definite problems in You Only Live Twice, though I do like the film much better than other people.

AndrewPrice said...

Shawn, LOL! He had the world's best toupee in Hunt For Red October though!

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I know. I've seen the making of, but those are effects as well. Interestingly, they had to invent all the machines they are using underwater. People actually think those were real machines at the time, so that's a real tribute to how great they did.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, HD has really brought out a lot of things that you never would have seen before. For example, you suddenly see a lot of walls that previously seemed like skies, etc.

Water and flame never have worked in older effects.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I like the boat chase from From Russia With Love actually. There are a couple moments that are bluescreens, but they most of it is real and feels real to me.

I agree about the Millennium Dome chance. It feels totally staged.

tryanmax said...

I'm going to be intentionally obtuse in my answer and say that my favorite effects in any Bond film are done in the title sequences. That's one aspect of the films that has always been done right. (That is, there is no "worst" title sequence--unless you wanna discuss the songs.)

As to the worst, it's hard to top the Dr. Kananga scene, so I'll just say that the effects in Die Another Day are the most uneven.

Seriously, how do you do a perfectly decent surfing scene at the start of a film only to follow up with an utter crap parasurfing scene later in the same movie!? That's just the most obvious comparison. How about that nifty disappearing Aston Martin vs. the obviously plastic ice palace? Or the cool (if not hokey) fist-fight in amongst industrial lasers vs. Graves' lousy Sith-lightning (and totally fakey sucked-into-a-jet-turbine-and- exploding death)? Or the unfolding satellite that features both good and bad CGI in the same shot!?

All said, the Madonna-puppet effects were really good.

djskit said...

Zorin on top of the Golden Gate.

Suggestion to build off this thread - "Best Stunts" thread. One word: Glaston!

ScottDS said...

djskit -

The model work in that scene is pretty good but the rear-projection already looked dated by then, hence my answer above. :-)

ScottDS said...

tryanmax -

I don't know about the circumstances regarding Die Another Day specifically, but Andrew and I have discussed this at length.

Sometimes the money runs out, other times the director or producers make the wrong decision, or the studio insists a certain FX methodology be applied, even when the FX company itself differs with them. Or one company isn't enough and the work is farmed out to several facilities. Etc. Etc.

This is why the effects industry is always on the verge of collapse.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Good point about the Madonna puppet. She almost looked human. LOL!

The effects in that film were just awful. Maybe some of them would have worked in a science fiction film, but wow did they not work in a Bond film.

Yeah, the Kananga stuff was so bad you would have thought the would have reshot it.

AndrewPrice said...

djskit, Yeah, I don't like that one either. They have some good stunts there, but they totally ruin it with fakey effects mixed in.

I think we have best stunt coming up, but I'm not sure.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, True, but sometimes bad effects are just bad effects.

ScottDS said...

Speaking of effects...

Really?!?!

(And I ask this as someone who enjoyed the first film for what it was... though it was fleeting at best.)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I'm looking forward to it... like a colonoscopy.

Tennessee Jed said...

well with Bond comments kind of wound down, I'll venture within the realm of film, albeit outside Bond special effects.it was interesting to see the trailer for Lone Survivor. Peter Berg did a great job with the film and t.v. version of Friday Night Lights. He also directed the film "The Kingdom." He originally cast Taylor Kitsch (Tim Riggins in Friday Night Lights), but switched to Mark Wahlberg. Possibly some nervous studio suits after John Carter? Wahlberg is clearly the safer choice. I expect Berg to be fair to the book (if he has that control.) The story is extremely compelling, and involves an extremely difficult moral choice.

Backthrow said...

Worst Bond film effect? I would've cast my vote for some of the shoddy bits already mentioned in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, particularly that bad process shot of the volcano erupting (funny how Hollywood often thinks you can reactivate an extinct volcano with conventional explosives) that Rustbelt pointed out in the first thread post, but then I remembered DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER...

Not only do you have another puny exhaust from the rocket carrying the laser satellite... not only are the mock-up of the satellite and rocket, while not badly designed, are filmed at regular speed and are all wobbly --making them look slapdash and much cheaper than they probably really were-- but the film has the absolute worst mushroom clouds ever fabricated for a major motion picture.

The North Dakota and Chinese missile bases are targeted by the satellite (which, to be fair, looks dated but pretty darn good in process shots when actually firing the laser), and when they detonate, it looks like some crewmember puffed on a cigar and blew some paltry smoke rings, at normal film speed, to depict the mushroom clouds-- *Poof*. Boooooo!

Worst major practical effect in the series is probably Kanaga exploding in LIVE AND LET DIE... that was just stupidly awful.

I can't say that it's the best effect in the whole series, but the avalanche scene in ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE still impresses me. A variety of effects and filming techniques are used, and while some shots don't individually hold up to scrutiny, the way they are all edited together makes the sequence work quite well, if not always adhering to total realism. You feel it as much as, or more than, being fooled into thinking it looks real.

ScottDS said...

Backthrow -

Quite appropriate, given that On Her Majesty's Secret Service was directed by Peter Hunt, who had worked on the previous films as an editor. :-)

ScottDS said...

Jed -

Yeah, that trailer looks good. I also saw the trailer for Ben Stiller's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Not having seen the original, I have no idea what to expect, but I'm intrigued.

And even better, the trailer for David O. Russell's American Hustle, based on the ABSCAM operation. It looks like a trip!

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I haven't seen it and I'm not familiar with the book. I will say that I like Wahlberg, but not Kitsch. Kitsch comes across as an ass to me.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, That mushroom cloud was crap. It looked like someone a photo of a mushroom cloud and held it up as someone else filmed it. I swear that if you look hard enough, you'll see the guy's fingers. Shockingly bad.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I have no interest in that. I like Stiller, but he's hit or miss and this sounds like a really bad choice -- remaking a 1960s property that no living American has seen or cares about.

ScottDS said...

But Andrew, isn't that the paradox? Why not remake something no one has ever heard about? It's all new to us!

As opposed to remaking a classic like RoboCop or something which is beloved by many.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, You miss the point to doing a remake. The idea of doing a remake is to capture two audience... people who loved the thing and will come to see how much you raped their memory, and people who come to see the actors doing the raping.

In this case, you have a property without a built in audience and a star with a tiny following. Not a good combo. I would bet this will be a bomb.

ScottDS said...

I was ineloquent in my previous post.

So the paradox that the system has inflicted on itself is this:

Remakes sell, so you're stuck remaking something that people like and remember.

BUT the people who like and remember it most likely DON'T want to see the thing remade in the first place.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, It's not a paradox at all, nor has the industry "inflicted it" on itself. It's intentional. Outrage sells. It's the same reason talk radio is so crazy... crazy sells.

The studio is counting on prior fans to be outraged. That way they rush to the theater to see what's been done to their beloved characters and then they run around ranting about the movie... spreading the word.

And since other people don't care about the way the characters have been twisted or warped, they go see it because their interest has been piqued by the strong reaction of the fans.

It's all intentional.

Backthrow said...

Actually, I think THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY might be a slightly different kettle of fish, being a (probably very loose) literary adaptation. It didn't just suddenly spring to life as a 1947 Danny Kaye comedy; it was a very popular James Thurber short story, published nearly a decade prior, which is basically considered his signature work as a major 20th century humorist, and which was then adapted as a movie vehicle for Danny Kaye, tossing out a lot of what was in the original tale, to suit Kaye's talents.

I remember having to read WALTER MITTY in the early 1980s, which was in our public high school English textbook, along with Richard Connell's THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME, O. Henry's THE GIFT OF THE MAGI and a few others deemed both important and accessible to students of that adolescent age. I think I read it, as part of our curriculum, before I even knew they'd made a film version of it.

I say all this not to claim that it's well-known to (or loved by) today's youthful audience, nor that this won't likely end up being lousy and a money-loser, but I doubt this is the sort of thing that will outrage any substantially vocal fan base, or is considered something that will try to capture two different audiences, in the way Andrew means it. These days, that type of thing falls more under properties in the 'fanboy' domain, or super-touchstone-classics like CASABLANCA, PSYCHO and CITIZEN KANE.

Rather, I would guess that WALTER MITTY is considered a potentially solid premise (a nebbish who daydreams several wild vignettes to contrast with his hum-drum daily reality as a loser) that they can plug any high-profile comedy star into. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if this hadn't been in turnaround for a few decades, as something to tailor to Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray, John Candy, Jim Carrey, Jack Black, Adam Sandler, Will Farrell, Steve Carell, etc. The premise has been copied in sitcoms, and most notably, in Chuck Jones' couple of 'Ralph Phillips' cartoons for Warner Bros (I would bet the new film emulates those cartoons more than the original Thurber story or the Kaye film). On top of that, the Thurber credit gives it a bit of added prestige, that can aid in marketing and for merchandising tie-ins. Also, it may be that there are more Danny Kaye fans in the upper reaches of the Hollywood power structure than there are in the current general public.

Me, I don't care one way or the other... I'll probably pass on it, just on general principle, in my ongoing effort to avoid comedy black holes as best I can.

Backthrow said...

Somewhat back on-topic: I notice that Netflix streaming has just added back, as of yesterday, all the pre-DIE ANOTHER DAY Bond films, so anyone signed up with them can keep up with future Questionable Bond entries (the pre-2002 films, anyway), if they don't already have the films in their private collections.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, Walter Mitty reminds me of a far less-know John Carter. I wouldn't invest a penny in that one... bad, bad risk.

Outlaw13 said...

I can't believe the lousy Space Shuttle and outer space effects of "Moonraker" haven't been mentioned. Just horrible.

Regrading "Lone Survivor", on Ain't It Cool I read in the comments some clown griping about spoilers in the preview. The title is LONE Survivor...idiot. It was a best selling book, the author Marcus Luttrell was there, you figure it out.

AndrewPrice said...

Outlaw, Those are some bad effects, that's for sure... silly plot too.


Yeah, the math is kind of hard to escape... LONE Survivor written by the guy who was there. Hmm. Sounds like a world of possibilities! LOL!

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