Since the first movie was produced, movie makers have attempted to produce films that push the boundaries with regard to technology and special effects. Each year, there seems to be a movie that pushes technological innovation further than anyone imagined. Below is a list of movies that have helped to advance the technological scope of film making.
“The Matrix” Trilogy (1999 – 2003)
By taking fight sequences that were first introduced in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and combining CGI graphics, the Wachowski brothers created three movies that up until that time were thought to be technologically impossible. Gigantic explosions of buildings and automobiles, Neo’s flying scenes, the gargantuan human-controlled fighters in Zion, and the final battle between Neo and Smith combined to create some of the best special effect scenes in modern movie history.
The “Lord of the Rings” Trilogy (2001 – 2003)
J. R. R. Tolkien would have been pleased with Peter Jackson’s adaptation of his books into movie form. Moviegoers were treated to special effects such as animated tree-like creatures, an extremely intuitive horse, incredible fight scenes, and characters and worlds that brought the books to life. Creating the places portrayed in the book required a level of technical knowledge that will not be surpassed in the near future.
“Independence Day” (1996)
In comparison to modern movies, “Independence Day” is dated and even a bit campy. But when it was released in 1996, the movie was considered technologically advanced. It introduced aliens of a physique and intelligence not seen before, as well as spectacular explosions and the destruction of several well-known American structures, such as the White House. The ships the aliens fought with were not particularly spectacular, but the mother ship and the rest of the fleet were impressive.
The Original “Star Wars” Trilogy (1977 – 1983)
The movies that introduced us to Darth Vader, TIE Fighters, and the structure that prompted Obi-Wan to exclaim, “That’s no moon. It’s a space station!” were ahead of their time. The original “Star Wars” films rescued science fiction from the land of campy robots and made it cool. George Lucas’ work on these three films would become the basis for all the technical advances that were to follow.
Another pioneer of modern film technology, this movie was campy and cute, delivering special effects that had not been previously attempted. One of the most memorable moments was when Elliott and E.T. flew past the moon on Elliott’s bike. Again, campy now, but at the time, it prompted many to wonder, “How did they do that?”
“Star Wars” Episodes I – III (1999 – 2006)
As groundbreaking as the original movies had been, the prequels introduced their own elements of technology that had not been seen before. Unlike the first movies, the next trilogy delved into the worlds of each character, creating planets, creatures, and languages that had never existed on the big screen. They even managed to improve the light sabers.
The whole movie was one big special effect. The plot was rather typical for an end-of-the-world movie: scientists see something strange, they warn the government, and we watch several families deal with the consequences while the rest of the world literally crashes and burns around them. “2012” takes what “Independence Day” started and ratchets the special effects up several levels. No national monument goes untouched in this film, and the ways they are destroyed are amazing to watch.
“Harry Potter” Series (2001 – 2011)
You can see the progression of technological advances if you watch these movies in chronological order. The first movie, though not devoid of cool special effects, seems dated by the time you reach the final movie, which is about as technologically advanced as you can get. The magic scenes and battles were expertly crafted, bringing the books to life.
“Iron Man” (2008)
You cannot get much more technically advanced than a suit that turns its owner into a superhero. To film the scenes and stunts, CGI was used, and two suits-one made of rubber, the other metal-were created. However, the creators are getting their money’s worth: “Iron Man 2,” “The Incredible Hulk,” and “The Avengers” have all benefited from the suit invented by Tony Stark.
Often dubbed the alien version of “Dances With Wolves,” “Avatar” is a technological masterpiece. Not only are the characters and scenery breathtaking, but the movie also incorporates 3D in a way that has been emulated in later movies. From the characters to the flight and fight sequences, the level of technology and special effects in this movie is extremely impressive.
As long as movies are made, there will be directors, writers, and producers who will strive to create something better than their predecessors. It will be interesting to see what technology has in store for us in the future.