Monday, 28 March 2011

The 'Star Destroyer' Moment

Right, here’s a question for you all. What would you consider (y)our generation’s Star Destroyer moment?

In case you don’t know, a ‘Star Destroyer’ moment is the defining moment of your young film-going life. You often hear of people saying that the opening shot of Star Wars, with Tantive IV being chased by a massive, seemingly never-ending doom bringer, or a Star Destroyer, was the defining moment of their cinematic childhood. So, what was ours? [I say ‘ours’ because I’m speaking for my generation. People who are currently 25/26/27.]

For me, it has to be this:

I was 8 when Jurassic Park came out, and it’s the first movie I can remember seeing in the cinema that wasn’t animated. And is still one of my favourites. I reckon it’s easily top 10 of all time for me. And this scene is something special. We’d seen the brachiosaurus grazing earlier, we’d seen what a raptor can do to a cow, but this was different. This was up close and personal. It’s tense; it’s exciting; real fingernail biting, edge of your seat stuff. And still is today, nearly 20 years later. There’s a reason it’s the most iconic part of the movie.

The build up is perfect. It’s been parodied so many times now, but the ripples in the glasses of water ramps up the tension to near unbearable levels. The leg of the goat landing on top of the Jeep. The bars of the electrified fence snapping off as the Rex pulls on them. Remember, we haven’t actually seen a dinosaur yet, aside from friendly ones, so we’re already anticipating something special. But also something scary. And it delivers. What makes it so good is the fact that unlike today where the T Rex would be CG, this thing looks real. I mean really real. I mean, ‘Steven Spielberg travelled back in time and brought a dinosaur back to the present and taught it to act’ real. Never once do you believe that this is not a real dinosaur. It’s there, its flesh and blood. And it will kill you. Stan Winston is a fricking genius. And again, nearly 20 years later, the effect hasn’t aged one bit.

There’s one bit in particular, where the T Rex moves its head into the light coming from the torch, and its eye dilates. That’s attention to detail. A tiny thing that you might not notice on first (or even second or third) viewing, but a small touch that makes it all the more believable.

Anyway, that’s my Star Destroyer moment? Anyone care to add theirs?



  1. A New Hope was my Star Wars moment. Jurassic Park remains tied with Schindler's List as Spielberg's last good movie(s). (They were shot simultaneously.)

    You are correct about the Rex effect being so good. I think part of the problem these days is even when practical effects are used, there's so much camera spam that the spectacle becomes unconvincing. You bolt a camera to the bottom of a jet to record a carrier take-off in Top Gun, it looks real because it is real. All the flying in that movie was with real aircraft. You have a sense the camera is inhabiting the physical world because of course it is.

    Compare Top Gun to Stealth, both being cheesy jet movies. It's obvious that the camera is virtual with the way it moves and thus reminds you that most of what you're seeing isn't real.

    Much as I enjoy Lord of the Rings and consider it to be some of the best movie work to date, I wish that Jackson would have restrained the camera just a little. Include the fell beasts and oliphants, don't make it look like someone is carrying a hand-cam into the battle, but make it look like there's a film crew sitting there recording things as they really happened. Don't make the spectacle feel rushed, let it linger.

  2. I like you.

    Interesting thoughts on LOTR. I've never really thought much about the camera work to be honest; but I shall rewatch and take note next time.