Of course, it also depends on the effects itself. Bad practical effects, though campy, can still attain a kind of cult status. There’s an entire genre of retro horror and sci-fi flicks that can attest to that. But if your movie has bad CGI, either because it’s too close to the uncanny valley or it’s just visually incongruent, it usually doesn’t get a second chance. For Muren (seen above), the choice between the two is self-evident:
“I actually, in some ways, prefer a practical thing that doesn’t look right. I can’t relate to a digital image [that looks fake]. I don’t feel like I can touch it. If it’s done right, it’s great. I totally love it. It’s just that there’s so much work that the industry has had to do lately and the budgets have been cut so much, there’s not enough time to refine it. I don’t think that’s very good. I still like seeing something and thinking, ‘Hey, they tried.’ I feel that if I reached out, I could touch that thing.”
There was a time when CGI was used to fill the seemingly impossible gaps that practical effects couldn’t. Today, it feels less like a refined tool and more like a catch-all for any production that can afford it. CGI can be used when it’s not really needed, and even in scenes where it’s required, budget cuts can lead to it still looking subpar.
If you’re going to put special effects in your film an essential question should be, “Will this outlast the next few decades?” A great example is “Jurassic Park,” a film Muren also worked on which combined the use of constructed models enhanced by CGI. The T-rex from the film has famously stood the test of time and even beats out modern attempts to recreate the magic that made the creature so realistic. But despite “Star Wars” ushering in the digital age of filmmaking, the franchise hasn’t totally forgotten its practical roots, especially in recent years.