How To Make A Monster
21 ways movie and TV Doctor Frankensteins have brought their monsters to life…
1 Computer Graphics
Director James Cameron gave us cinema’s first true CG monster in the form of the shapeshifting T1000 in Terminator 2 (1991) having experimented with digitally-created lifeforms with the alien water tentacle in The Abyss (1989). The next major breakthrough came with Jurassic Park (1993 – pictured), a film that was going to use Go Motion (see below) to create its dinosaurs until the tech-heads at Industrial Light & Magic showed Spielberg what they could do with their pixels.
Soon it seemed that directors had forgotten there was any other way to create monsters. Fine you have a budget and can create things like the creature from Cloverfield (2008), the title stars of Transformers (2007) or Davey Jones in Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006) – poster boys all for the real cinematic magic you can create with pixels.
But it can be a bit of a problem when the cash flow’s not up to the task and you have to settle for the Hanna-Barbera end of the CG spectrum – the devil in Spawn (1997), the shark in Deep Blue Sea (1999), the whatever-they-weres in The Sound Of Thunder (2005). There’s also the danger of a director using CG just because they can, even though they really shouldn’t have bothered – Blawp in Lost In Space (1998) is a particularly heinous offender since the Jim Henson Workshop had already built an animatronic Blawp that had been used during filming. Another pitfall is CG porn, when a director just can’t stop adding CG set pieces even though the poor FX department really can’t keep up and the quality threshold plummets – we’re thinking the CG Jabba The Hutt in the Special Edition of The New Hope (1997) or the dino stampede in Peter Jackson’s King Kong (2005). And lest we forget, CG is also responsible for the most hideous, loathsome, nauseating creature ever to put on screen – Jar Jar Binks.
2 Stop Motion
The 3D version of cartoons, this is a form of animation where you take a model and film it one frame at a time, moving it slightly between each shot. Its cinematic pioneer was Willis O’Brien who made audiences faint with his realistic dinosaurs in The Lost World (1925) before using the technique to create the groundbreaking King Kong (1933). Watching that film when it first came out was Ray Harryhausen, who was so overawed he decided he too wanted to spend the rest of his working life locked away in a shed. Lucky for us he did, because he gave us some of cinema’s most memorable monsters, including the fighting skeletons and bronze giant Telos in Jason And The Argonauts (1963) and Medusa in Clash Of The Titans (1981).
3 Go Motion
In 1982 it seemed as if Go Motion was the future of special FX, but then someone went and invented CGI (which, believe it or not, was cheaper). Go Motion was a kind of computer-controlled, advanced version of stop motion in which the models were filmed a few frames at a time; this eliminated the jerkiness of stop motion. It was developed for Dragonslayer (1981- pictured) and used extensively in The Empire Strikes Back (1980) for the AT-ATs.
Tags: Alien, Alien3, Brute Force, Daleks, Dark Star, Doctor Who, Dragonslayer, Farscape, Food Of The Gods, Frankenstein, Godzilla, Hot, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, Jabberwocky, Jurassic Park, King Kong, Labyrinth, Lost In Space, Night Of The Demon, Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Planet Of The Apes, Quatermass, Ray Harryhausen, Robot Monster, Slurposaur, Star Trek, Star Wars, Terminator 2, The Abyss, The Creature From The Black Lagoon, The Creeping Terror, The Dark Crystal, The Killer Shrews, The Land That Time Forgot, The Lost World, Transformers, Xtro