Many filmmakers, especially George Lucas, have hailed digital technology as the wave of the future, that will allow science fiction and fantasy film effects to be better and more realistic than ever before, and usher in a new age of better sci-fi/fantasy movies. Well, that future was first predicted back in the early 90s, but I have to question how much it's really accomplished, especially compared to traditional techniques. It's useful, I suppose, to distinguish two forms of computer generated special effects. The original Star Wars trilogy created its space battles using optical compositing, a photochemical process whereby separately photographed elements could be combined into a single film frame. The drawback was a black matte line separating the foreground from the background, meaning that the effect could often stand out like a sore thumb, unless you had outer space as your background to disguise the effect. Nowadays we have digital compositing, which does essentially the same job, but never results in a matte line. Then we have actual computer animation, in which the effect itself is created on the computer. Mainly, I'll be focusing on this. In Terminator 2 and The Abyss, CG was used to animate the water tentacle and the T-1000. The rest of the effects were largely accomplished practically. Battle damage on Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example, was still created using make-up. Jurassic Park gave us CG dinosaurs for some wide-angle shots. Most of these, however, were designed to mesh seamlessly with robotic dinosuars operated on-set. 1997 gave us the Special Edition of the Star Wars trilogy. Some expanded environments like Mos Eisley looked more realistic. The big embarassment was the animation of Jabba the Hutt. First, the design looked all wrong compared to the Jabba used in Return of the Jedi, and it didn't appear to really be occupying the space it was in. Two years latere we got an improved design, that looked more like the character from ROTJ, but the computer graphics weren't really able to create the disgusting feeling we got around him, as when Leia was made to stand closeby while he stuck his tongue out. The Lord of the Rings gave us Gollum, arguably the most successful computer generated character in a movie. However, much of the rest of the movie rests not on computer generated creatures, but on using digital compositing to put together practical effects. Thousands of ANZAC extras were made up in creature make-up. Large environments were created not on a computer (unlike Rome in Gladiator), but as practical models. What really makes me question whether CG has really led to better movie are the recent spate of horror movie remakes. We've gotten a new Halloween, a new Friday the 13th, a new Wolfman, we're getting a new Nightmare on Elm Street, and soon we'll be getting yet another remake of The Fly. They've all used newer technology to create flashier special effects, but have they really resulted in a better movie being made? I wonder what David Cronenberg thinks he can do with this new Fly that he couldn't do before. His previous take benefitting from the advances of its day in animatronics and make-up. And IMHO, it benefits greatly from having Jeff Goldblum act underneath the make-up, than be having computer animation create his disfigurement. Seeing Brundefly emerge from his body, even though I know it was an animatronic creature, is far more convincing to me than seeing a computer generated monster walk across the laboratory. There's a place for some computer generated effects in movies, but I personally feel we were making better movies with practical effects, and that todays suffer from too much digital trickery. A practical effect has a certain tangible presence that few if any computer effects have been able to replicate.