What Makes a Good Movie: Writing or Special Effects?

Let me start off by saying I am a hard-core fan of special effects. Now with that said, the question that I bring to the table tonight is, “Do special effects make a good movie, or does a good story make a good movie?” Bringing this all to light for me was HBO last night showing the orginal Alien. I’m flipping through the channels, I begin to watch, as happens to me on many classic sci-fi movies. Now as I’m watching the original Alien movie, I noticed that a lot of the halls, aisles, and walkways are dark and not well lit. It makes me wonder, “Did they create this dark and gloomy place to tell the story, or did the story decide the effects of the hall and the lighting?”

I personally believe that if you go back through a lot of the older movies that you will find that most of them have stronger stories then exist in modern-day movies. I also believe that over the years the storytelling itself has gotten weaker, and the special effects have gotten better. The special effects getting better, I believe, has contributed to what could be lazy writing or high demand of the market product. High demand of the product, I think, can take some blame for what’s going on. What I mean by this is you have such a broad way to distribute products, and so many people in so many markets that the demand for more and more content has weakened the quality of such content.


I also believe that a good story can never harm the success of the movie. Equally I don‘t think that good special effects could harm the success of a movie either. Before some of you and my editor jump out of your seat and scream that I’m wrong, please remember, I did say good special effects or good stories. With all that said, there are a ton of classic stories that would have been enhanced immensely with good quality special effects. Having those special effects in my opinion would have only enhanced the quality of for example the original Doctor Who series, the original Star Trek, modern day special effects in the original Star Wars. Story quality alone, however, proved to be strong enough of a factor in these high quality original stories.

Modern day special effects, on the flip side, allow some movies with very poor storylines, or weak storylines at the very best, still be successful in today’s marketplace. Now is this caused by a change in the audience and their expectations, or is this caused by the same thing that makes the classics good? With some elements so strong that, regardless of the quality of the remainder of the content, it’s still good. I for one believe that we have seen recently very few examples of both quality stories and quality special effects.

Some of these examples include the recent series of movies put out by Marvel, including The Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America, and in addition to these, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. With there being so few examples of good quality writing and good quality special effects combined in one movie, it’s hard to determine what causes success and what causes flops. Some of this is marked up to luck or is there really some magical formula that some people know, and that the rest of us just don’t understand.

I look forward to the day when the market starts a change in each of us to demand a little bit higher quality. Well, who am I kidding? I watch so much crap I need to be one of those first people to change the way I picked stuff to watch. I enjoy a lot of this crap. I also overlook a lot of the flaws and enjoy things for what they are. So maybe we’re better off just the way it is?