Spectacular Digital Effects: CGI and Contemporary Cinema
Kristen Whissel is Professor of Film and Media at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of
By developing the concept of the "digital effects emblem," Kristen Whissel contributes a new analytic rubric to cinema studies. An "effects emblem" is a spectacular, computer-generated visual effect that gives stunning expression to a film's key themes. Although they elicit feelings of astonishment and wonder, effects emblems do not interrupt narrative, but are continuous with story and characterization and highlight the narrative stakes of a film. Focusing on spectacular digital visual effects in live-action films made between 1989 and 2011, Whissel identifies and examines four effects emblems: the illusion of gravity-defying vertical movement, massive digital multitudes or "swarms," photorealistic digital creatures, and morphing "plasmatic" figures. Across films such as Avatar, The Matrix, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Jurassic Park, Titanic, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, these effects emblems heighten the narrative drama by contrasting power with powerlessness, life with death, freedom with constraint, and the individual with the collective.
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