When CGI Came Of Age

by Brendan James

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Alexander Huls considers the profound impact of the special effects developed for Spielberg’s Jurassic Park:

[M]oviegoers had yet to accept CGI as anything more than a novelty. As journalist David Morgan observed in 1993, “audiences were always aware that what they were watching was carefully crafted special effects.” Which is why for all of Terminator 2: Judgment Day’s success and technological innovation, its effects didn’t so much sweep audiences away as it did elicit “How did they do that?” reactions. For effects to truly break, their creators had to advance the technology to the point where the seam between illusion and reality completely disappeared.

Jurassic Park did that. Spielberg told Tom Shone (for Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Summer) that when he saw Industrial Light and Magic’s first test shots of the dinosaurs, he felt as though he was “watching our future unfolding on the TV screen.” George Lucas, who was also there, recalled “it was like one of those moments in history, like the invention of the light bulb or the first telephone call… A major gap had been crossed and things were never going to be the same.” He was right. In the words of Shone: “Jurassic Park heralded a revolution in movies as profound as the coming of sound in 1927.”