The Special One?

One joy of having a family grow up around you… you get to subject the young’uns to all the films they haven’t yet seen that you think they should. This has mixed results. And to be honest, it divides along gender lines. The Hunt daughters pour discouraging remarks on the dodgy special effects of past classics, despite admiring modern science fiction and fantasy offerings.

The Hunt sons, however, seem to lack in taste enough to forgive poor special effects, suspend judgment, and get into the storylines on the basis they were originally offered. Imagine my junior male cohort’s astonishment at such splendid achievements as the first and second Alien movie. And you get to mix them up with Predators too, in certain instances. As long as there is gore, battle, and danger, they are interested enough.

For the female cohort, however, the number of clear plot holes are painfully teased out mid-flow, interrupting the enjoyment of the movies somewhat.

We just tried Minority Report, which is now 19-years old. The special effects from this film hold up well. I remember at the time the whole Tom Cruise wearing interface gloves and tossing icons about midair became a bit of a thing, imitated in other films and an entire line of Currys PC World computer adverts on TV. The automated vehicles which can drive up the side of buildings to park outside your 200th-floor apartment still seemed like a good idea, even now. I wonder if Elon musk has watched this for Tesla?

Following Minority Report, we got into an interesting discussion about which films’ SFX have held up better over the years. The first Star Wars movie still seems to be fairly robust to me, but maybe that’s because the studio keeps on going back and tinkering with the models, making them better than they were back in the late 1970s?

The Fifth Element divided opinions. The colourful French graphic novel cartoon-style still holds a certain appeal to me at least. For the kids, not so much. And you just have to look at the difference between the original Blade Runner and the reboot to see that that original’s ingenuity is hard to beat, even with state-of-the-art rendering machines from an age beyond the point where the original movie was chronologically set (November 2019).

British TV output seems to be very easy to date. There’s no mistaking a 1970s shaky rubber suit in Doctor Who from the intricate computer-rendered monsters of the more recent Timelords. And let’s not even get started with Space 1999Blakes Seven, and The Tomorrow People.

Of course, the best movies are still the flicks where the special effects complement a special storyline, as opposed to SFX being front and centre, with the spectacle itself standing alone and shivering.

By the by, I estimate the SFX in my genre books will hold up until around 2345A.D., after which they will look faintly ridiculous. 


I am an author of various fantasy, science fiction, crime and other genre books from Gollancz, Hachette and HarperCollins. Some day I hope to grow up and be an astronaut. Exploring Mars would be nice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.