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In praise of movie magic

Luke Skywalker

Luke Skywalker

People take special effects for granted these days, but a ton of work goes into the creation of these innovations.

At the forefront of the special effects field is Industrial Light & Magic, which was founded in 1975 by George Lucas to create the space-age effects for “Star Wars.” Since then, the company has had its hands in countless movies, making the unreal look incredibly real.

“ILM — Industrial Light & Magic: Creating the Impossible,” a documentary about the effects house, debuts on Encore on Friday, and amNewYork is here to highlight some of ILM’s greatest achievements. Ancient spoiler warnings, of course.

‘Star Wars’ trilogies 1977-83; 1999-2005

You’ve seen these, right? Some of the effects in the original trilogy might look a bit cheesy now, but for the time, they were top of the line. Those lightsabers were a huge deal back then. As for the second trilogy, let’s just say that while the existence of Jar Jar Binks is deplorable, he’s still an impressive feat of artistry.

‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ 1981

Two words: face melting. When the ark is opened and all hell breaks loose, Nazi faces start melting like candles and — again, for the time — that was just about the coolest thing you could imagine.

‘The Abyss’  1989

Creating a tentacle out of water is not easy to computer-generate, but the smart folks at ILM were able to do it in a live-action shot. Imagine what this film would be like had the filmmakers decided to go with cel or stop-motion animation.

‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ 1991

The T-1000 was an unbelievable achievement. The malleable monster normally looked like the somewhat creepy Robert Patrick most of the time but could turn into a humanoid that looked like he was made of mercury. And when Patrick walks through the bars of a prison door, that was a technological breakthrough.

‘Jurassic Park’  1993

Think back to what dinosaurs in movies looked like before this Steven Spielberg classic. Clay or some guy in a rubber suit. “Jurassic Park” made the thunder lizards look like they were filmed by a documentary moviemaker on location.

‘Transformers’  2007

Turning a “Transformer” toy from a robot to a vehicle wasn’t always an easy task for kids. And those only had a dozen or so moving parts. In the “Transformers” movie, Autobot leader Optimus Prime has thousands of moving parts which all need to come together in sync to make a transforming robot that is, indeed, more than meets the eye.


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