Thursday, February 21, 2013


So when I was doing my original brainstorming for this entry about special effects, I was dead set on writing about something intense and full of action—I was thinking like a Star Wars or maybe The Day After Tomorrow. Then, as I was sitting through my cliché Valentines movie date, it came to me. I was seeing the new apocalyptic—and uber romantic—Warm Bodies. This apocalyptic twist on the popular Walking Dead trend was awesome! I mean, in my opinion it was the zombie movie of zombie movies! The characters were great, and the story was action-packed while also having some truly endearing and sweet moments.  But most of all, some of the effects utilized in this film truly enhanced the story and really provided great visual explanations for the viewer. 

Webster’s dictionary defines special effects as “unusual visual and sound effects beyond the range of normal photography or recording”. Obviously that definition can be interpreted in infinite ways. While I was watching Warm Bodies I kept noticing interesting little effects that the filmmakers used to tell the story without dialogue between the characters. Some of their “unusual” techniques added so much more to the viewing experience than just traditional camera shots. Louis Giannetti discusses successful special effect in his book Understanding Movies. “The American cinema has always been on the cutting edge of film technology—especially in the area of special effects. Computer-generated images have allowed filmmakers to create fantasy worlds of the utmost realism” (Giannetti 35). This is especially true in Warm Bodies. The devastated world that they create is so successfully executed and very visually stimulating. 

My favorite special effect—and what really made me want to write this blog—actually took place in the first ten minutes of the film. When the movie opens, the first scene takes place in a run-down post-apocalyptic airport. Zombies are shuffling around slowly, there are no cars or planes running, and the mood is very blah. But as the zombies continue to mill about the entire setting and all the dead people slowly morph back into their former world. The transition is smooth and effortless and happens in the most subtle ways. In one instance everyone is a zombie and then one will shuffle through the metal detector in the security line, and then all of a sudden it is all a hustle and bustle of healthy humans going about their daily lives. This happens four or five times, and the amazing thing about this effect is how it tell you the entire background story of so many of the people. It shows how the world used to be and then what it became. I felt like I knew everything I needed to know as far as understanding the premise…and this was before any of them even grunted a word to one another. I instantly had an emotional connection. The filmmakers utilized pathos appeal extremely well in those initial minutes. They had me hook, line, and sinker, and I just wanted more. I felt for the zombie who is his former life was a kind airport janitor who wished people good luck on their travels. It made me feel a twinge of sadness when he morphed back to his zombie-self and just pushed his mop back and forth and back and forth. In the book, Everything’s an Argument, Andrea Lunsford and John Ruszkiewicz describe this feeling you get when something emotionally connects with you. “You may sometimes want to use emotions to connect…to use President Bill Clinton’s famous line, “feel their pain”…If you strike the right emotional note, you’ll establish an important connection” (Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz 44). This scene made that connection for me; it built a bridge between what happened in the past and what there were going through in the present. That, to me, is a “special” effect.

In addition, this same scene that struck a chord in me in an emotional sense also provided logic in an otherwise illogical movie. I do not speak for everyone, but to me it is hard to sit through a zombie movie and think, “This is so realistic and logical!” But this scene was. The way that the filmmakers chose to show viewers the past was logical in itself. It just made sense. It answered questions in a smooth, visually appealing way. In other words: strong example of logos. 

Furthermore, watching that first scene proved to me that this special effects team knew what they were doing, or at least knew how to create special effects I would enjoy. That first ten minutes really set the stage for the rest of the film, and I believed established ethos and credibility for the filmmakers.  This is how the beginning of every film should be. I think that utilizing a special effect to tell you the story without words is a great cinematic technique.

So if you have not made it out to see this one yet—DO IT! I promise the rest of the movie is as good as the first ten minutes, and it is surprisingly an excellent date movie. Even for girls like me who are not typically zombie movie superfans. You will not be disappointed and you will be wishing you could run out and get the DVD the second it is over. The effects are realistic, seamless, well-executed and really add to this already really entertaining flick! Three tickets, no question!


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