Spotlight : April 1997

The Summer of Action
by Todd Vaziri

All you fans of visual effects, listen up. This summer will be the biggest visual effects season ever. After the enormous success of such effects laden films as TWISTER and INDEPENDENCE DAY in 1996, the studios have each spent tens of millions of dollars trying to create even more startling imagery.

The month of May will mark the beginning of this summer with such huge flicks as SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL and CON-AIR. Jan DeBont is up to his old tricks with the making of SPEED 2, putting his actors in as much danger as possible, for the sake of the shot. Like his previous efforts TWISTER and SPEED, he will surely provide some exciting sequences, and with such effects houses as Rhythm & Hues and ILM providing the effects, one can count on quality images. Hopefully, DeBont will be able to craft an engaging story, as well.

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer continues his hot action-streak with CON-AIR, his new action flick starring Nicolas Cage, John Malkovich and John Cusack. Bruckheimer once again enlisted the visual effects expertise of Dream Quest, who produced fantastic images for Bruckheimer's CRIMSON TIDE and THE ROCK.

Also in May, the highly anticipated film, Luc Besson's THE FIFTH ELEMENT, will be released. Bruce Willis and Gary Oldman star in this futuristic tale, produced under an enormous veil of secrecy. Digital Domain provides the visual effects for the film, which should feature some incredible CG sequences.

The Memorial Day weekend will bring audiences the first of the mega-mega-huge movies of the summer, THE LOST WORLD, the long-awaited sequel to JURASSIC PARK. Steven Spielberg returns to the director's chair, with ILM, Stan Winston Studio and Michael Lantieri providing the dino effects. According to advance buzz, Spielberg has made a darker, scarier picture than the original, which is a good thing. I will be very pleased if Spielberg can once again create the kind of terror he caused with his 1975 classic, JAWS. Look for an incredible ending to this film.

The visual effects highlight of June will probably be BATMAN & ROBIN, with director Joel Schumacher and visual effects supervisor John Dykstra enlisting the help of numerous effects houses.

The first week in July will see two of the biggest summer pictures released on the same day. On July 3, both MEN IN BLACK and James Cameron's TITANIC will hit theatres. MEN IN BLACK's visual effects were supplied by ILM (enjoying an extremely busy summer movie season), under the supervision of Eric Brevig. Check out the MEN IN BLACK preview here in the VFX HQ.

The film I'm most looking forward to this year is TITANIC, James Cameron's return to serious filmmaking. I liked TRUE LIES, but it lacked the passion and drama of his earlier work. Cameron's own company, Digital Domain, handled the lion's share of the film's effects, which are supposed to be absolutely stunning. Rob Legato supervised the effects for the film.

The rest of the summer will see plenty of other visual effects releases, including the long-awaited SPAWN, directed by ILM animator, Mark Dippe, and the long-awaited continuation of the ALIEN series with ALIEN RESURRECTION, with CG creations provided by Blue Sky Studios.

This certainly will be the summer to remember for visual effects fans. Never before has such a lineup been assembled--hopefully, the season will also be filled with quality, engaging characters and plots. These effects houses don't often disappoint with their special effects, but filmmakers routinely fall flat on their faces when trying to deliver a powerful, well-rounded film. Let's cross our fingers.

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