We mean no disrespect to the digital effects artists working in Hollywood, but sometimes it feels like computer-generated (CG) effects haven't improved in 10 years. Every blockbuster seems to have at least one big effects scene that looks like it was lifted from a PS3.
So maybe we need to stop and appreciate the mind-blowing scenes that were done the old-fashioned way -- with stunts, models and borderline insanity.
Note: The mark of a good movie is that you get so caught up in what's going on, that you never even remember to think, "How did they do that?" The mark of a well-made movie is that when you finally get around to asking that question, you find that the answer is even more badass than the movie itself. And that's what this Cracked Classic is all about: reminding you that no matter where you come from, no matter what you do, and no matter who you are, people who work on movies are better than freaking all of us. -Cracked
8The Dark Knight -- The Big Chase Scene
It was a chase that destroyed the Batmobile, a Joker-themed semi, a dump truck, a paddy wagon, multiple cop cars and God knows how many bystander vehicles. And that shit was worth it.
Batman on a motorcycle. This should win Best Picture every year.
Two specific points during the insane car chase at the halfway point of The Dark Knight are so over-the-top they seem like they would have had to be computer-generated, if for no other reason than they would have killed the stunt drivers.
The first is when the Batmobile first shows up to take out the Joker's convoy. It speeds in ...
... and offers what equates to a vehicular uppercut to a garbage truck.
The scene ended up in the trailer and inadvertently encouraged a bloat of fanboys to flock to their keyboards and pound out protests against the fake-looking CGI in the movie. But as Christopher Nolan has proved time and again, he doesn't mess with that shit if he doesn't have to.
No, what you are actually seeing there is a complete one-third-scale model of the Batmobile, the garbage truck and a large section of lower Wacker Drive in Chicago.
They stuck the two vehicles on a guide and smashed those mothers together. What you see in the film is the result.
Even the damn 180-degree move that the Batmobile pulls off at the end was done by a radio-controlled model.
So what about the climactic moment in that scene when they flip the Joker's 18-wheeler after Batman clotheslines it with a grappling hook? If that was a model, it was pretty goddamned convincing.
The flipping of the semi was accomplished with a technique known in Hollywood as flipping a real goddamned semi. To get the mind-boggling amount of upward force needed to lift the big bastard head over heels, the FX crew built a huge steam-piston mechanism in the trailer.
Wait, why can't that shit come standard in cars now?
Of course, then the challenge was to make it look like this insane stunt was occurring right in the middle of the banking district in Gotham. So how the hell do you pull that off? Build a miniature city and edit in the truck somehow? Film the truck out on an open course and use CGI to fill in the background? Shit, no! They just went to downtown Chicago, closed off a street and flipped their goddamned semi.
Why? Because that's how Batman would do it.
CGI is for squares.
7Independence Day -- The Wall of Flames
You can mock its many plot holes if you want, but we're pretty sure the reason Independence Day dominated the box office in 1996 was because millions of people thought that seeing New York slowly enveloped by a gargantuan ball of fire was worth every cent of the ticket price. The ad campaign sold the film on that image -- the fire rolling down between New York skyscrapers. And by God, we lined up on opening night.
Seriously, you can leave after this scene.
And even if you watch it today, there's something oddly realistic about it, especially when compared with more recent Roland Emmerich stuff like 2012, which made the destruction of L.A. look like a very expensive video game cut-scene:
The difference, of course, is that the fire in the streets in ID4 is not CGI. It's real fire.
That sort of thing isn't easy to do in real life -- after all, how do you make the fire go sideways? Fire doesn't normally plume horizontally, which is a good thing most of the time, but the whole point of the aliens' city-destroying weapon was the unearthly way the blaze would slowly spill outward and engulf the city.
For the effects team, the solution to this shot was relatively simple.
Can you tell what you're looking at? That's a model city on its side. You'd probably recognize it better like this:
They called it the death chimney. Just turn the city model sideways, put the pyrotechnics at the bottom and put the camera at the top. Then they shot the explosion at a high shutter speed so that when the film was slowed down, they got their horrific, creeping wall of unstoppable fire.
See, this is how destruction used to be filmed back in the day. Someone spent weeks making a detailed model of New York, then you set it on fire and hoped to hell you didn't screw it up so they'd have to build it all over again (because then the model builder would find you in the parking lot and beat your ass).
"Roland Emmerich is a dick."