7 Shockingly Awful Examples Of '90s Visual Effects
The 1990s were that magical time full of slap bracelets, Beanie Babies, and the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen cinematic universe. The '90s were also when visual effects in movies took a giant leap forward, making us believe in the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park and the Looney Tunes characters who probably should have prompted Michael Jordan to book himself a CAT Scan in Space Jam.
But as great as some of those movies were, others were ... how should we put this? Bad. Real bad. This bad ...
Timecop -- The Villain Awkwardly Melts Into Gloop In The End
Timecop stars Jean-Claude Van Damme as a member of the Time Enforcement Commission -- the law enforcement agency that ensures people don't monkey around with time travel technology by stealing sports almanacs or streaking nude past Lincoln's Gettysburg address. It's not the best time travel movie, but it's definitely the best time travel movie in which a dude does the splits in boxer shorts to avoid being electrocuted in the balls (suck it, H.G. Wells).
In the end, Van Damme takes out the villainous Senator Aaron McComb by bringing McComb's past self along and shoving him into his future self because the "same matter cannot occupy the same space." (Kind of like how logic cannot occupy the film space.) Thankfully, this doesn't lead to the collapse of the space-time continuum, ending all life in the universe. Instead, it just causes McComb to awkwardly flail his arms before fusing with his doppelganger and turning into some kind of blob creature that ultimately melts into a puddle of CGI Pepto Bismol.
This whole damn movie was building to a special effects sequence that looks like a David Cronenberg-directed episode of Animorphs. At least Van Damme restrained himself from quipping, "Now that's what I call a McComb over."
Spawn -- The Bowels of Hell Are Surprisingly Laughable
Based on the popular comic, 1997's Spawn stars Michael Jai White, John Leguizamo, and Martin Sheen, who, judging from the performance, Freaky Friday-ed with his son Charlie shortly before filming began. Some of the film's visual effects are still pretty impressive, others look like they belong in a shitty ad for a local Chinese buffet. When Spawn journeys to Hell, for example, things take a left-turn into bowel movements of Hell, looking less like a peek into the depths of eternal damnation and more like an episode of Reboot on mescaline.
And the demonic Malebolgia, who should probably be at least somewhat imposing, was seemingly created using the same animation software utilized by bowling alley score boards. Roger Ebert, on the other hand, friggin' loved this movie, and called the "visions" of Hell "worthy of Hieronymous Bosch."
What makes this all the more infuriating is that the movie was directed by Mark Dippe, the visual effects whiz who worked on Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Jurassic Park. Which, last we checked, were two movies that never once made the audience feel like they were trapped inside a screensaver on Glenn Danzig's Macintosh.
Even The VFX Team Regrets Parts Of Escape From L.A.
John Carpenter's 1996 sequel to the iconic Escape From New York was a decidedly goofier affair. Like, Snake Plissken is almost taken out by a cartoonish plastic surgeon played by Bruce Campbell levels of goofy. When it's not lampooning Hollywood culture in full Billy Crystal Oscar monologue style, Escape From L.A. has a few action scenes, some of which are laughably rough around the edges. Most notoriously, Snake randomly goes surfing with Peter Fonda -- and the results look less realistic than the time Batman hit the waves with the Joker back in the '60s.
How's it look so much worse than the original movie, which was made in 1981, and literally used masking tape instead of CGI at times? Later, the film's big climax involves a shootout in the legally-dissimilar-from-Disneyland "Happy Kingdom" where Snake and his pals escape in a helicopter seemingly borrowed from an early Playstation game.
On the recent Blu-Ray release, CG Supervisor David Jones admits that the visual effects team may have "overreached madly," resulting in certain scenes looking "janky."
The Director Of Mortal Kombat Lied About Being A VFX Expert
To the delight of pre-teens with an insatiable craving for bloodlust, but whose thumbs were tired, came the big-screen adaptation of Mortal Kombat. While there were some pretty cool effects in the movie, like the animatronic Goro, the four-armed monster-man who looks like a Rob Liefeld sketch of Willem Dafoe ...
... less impressive is some of the CGI, like when Scorpion is battling Johnny Cage.
And the less said about Reptile, the better.
If you're wondering why the effects are so awful, part of the reason could be because director Paul W.S. Anderson (the W.S. stands for "way shittier") only landed the job after reading enough books about visual effects to learn the "jargon" and fake being an expert. Which we assume is how he also got the Resident Evil directing gig.
Air Force One Looks Like A Computer Game At The End
It's hard to imagine an America in which the President is a badass who can hold his own in a Die Hard scenario, not a septuagenarian whose blood is probably just KFC gravy at this point. Air Force One tells the story of President James Marshall, who goes full John McClane when the titular plane is hijacked by Russian mercenaries. Also, it's fun to imagine a world where Harrison Ford is the President; presumably, weed would be legal, and discussing Star Wars would be punishable by death.
Of course, being an aircraft with Harrison Ford inside of it, naturally, Air Force One crashes at the end. It looks good for a mid-'90s Microsoft Flight Simulator, but it looks really dogshit for an $85 million Hollywood movie.
Thanks to these lousy effects, the ending is harder to buy than the central premise that a sitting President actually accomplishes something during his term.
The Monsters Of Stephen King's The Langoliers Are Fanged CGI Testicles
Back in the '90s, miniseries based on Stephen King's books were a big ass deal. There was The Stand, It, and that version of The Shining starring the dude from Wings. Perhaps less fondly remembered is The Langoliers, King's story of a group of airline passengers who wake up on a half-empty airplane and are eventually chased by flying balls with fangs, dubbed "Langoliers" -- though "Testicula Dentata" seems more appropriate.
According to King, the creatures are "beach-ball shaped cannibals with monstrous alien faces and huge mouths lined with gnashing, blurring teeth." How did they visualize that using 1995 computer technology? Well, this is what we got:
Even compared to the crappy CGI on other 1995 TV shows, this is, frankly, an abomination. The interdimensional wormhole Jerry O'Connell and his pals traveled through looked more realistic than this crap. Worst of all, this scene is supposed to be scary and suspenseful, not resembling a Wakaliwood adaptation of Mario 64.
An American Werewolf In Paris Looks Like A Bad Cartoon
After the studio rejected director John Landis' wacky plans for a sequel to An American Werewolf in London, we got An American Werewolf in Paris. It features no connection to the original other than both being about horny dudes contracting a bad case of lycanthropy while visiting Europe. While the set-up is familiar, things get '90s aggressively fast; the plot involves a secret werewolf society who throw raves complete with designer drugs for Lycans. They must have cut the twist ending where this is all revealed to take place inside Urkel's Tamagotchi.
While the original movie won an Oscar in 1982 for its mind-blowing make-up effects, the follow-up went the CGI route, and the results are more embarrassing than waking up naked in the middle of a zoo. When the robed cultists inject themselves with the werewolf drug, they turn into dogs, so cartoonish you half-expect Garfield to show up and kick them off a kitchen counter.
Not only do the werewolves look astonishingly worse than in the original, but this movie also cost almost five times as much to make. That's like rebooting A Nightmare on Elm Street and replacing Freddy Krueger with a blow-up sex doll wearing a fedora.