In a column published by Variety recently, David Cohen contends that the economy is to blame for the relevant sparseness of VFX-driven cinema good enough to fight for Oscars at the end of the year. Films like Iron Man 2 and Alice in Wonderland are the exception, he argues, in a summer full of underwhelming VFX in the shape of The A Team, Robin Hood and Prince of Persia.

He makes a fair point. Cast your mind back a year, and the CGI feasts were evident in the likes of Star Trek, Terminator: Salvation and Transformers 2, even if the latter two didn't impress in other areas. The year before, we had Iron Man, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and The Incredible Hulk.

Animation remains unchanged, with studios like Pixar and Dreamworks large and profitable enough to withstand the effects of the economy. But some smaller VFX houses have been shutting up shop, while the larger studios are pruning staff to cut costs.
The result is that the talent in work is stretched and unable to turn around top class work, while many more are unemployed waiting for the tide to turn. Missing the time needed to perfect shots has been evident in films rushed out in quick turnarounds, with the most notable recent example being Twilight: New Moon. With some more time to perfect the look of the werewolves, Twilight: Eclipse is a slight improvement, but it doesn't really stand up to the sort of buzz necessary to bag Oscars.

But the year is far from over, and films like Inception, The Sorcerer's Apprentice and Predators could still surprise us. For my money, though, two films this year achieved Oscar-worthy VFX works on comparatively miniscule budgets. The first was Vincenzo Natali's dark sci-fi tale Splice, which birthed a CGI creature to rival Gollum and used VFX to great effect to enhance the make-up on the adult Dren.

The second was Gareth Edwards's Monsters, which premiered at SXSW and should be arriving in theaters in October. Shot on a budget on £250,000 (about $380,000), it's a character drama about a pair of Americans walled in to Southern Mexico by a zone infested with gargantuan alien creatures. Filmed guerrilla style on location in Mexico and Guatemala, the film is enhanced by spectacular effects created by Edwards on his home computer. The results demand the biggest screen you can find. If it's not a shoe-in for an Oscar nomination in this category then perhaps the year hasn't been so bad after all.

Perhaps this is the answer? The CG industry has built itself on the high prices its technology demands, and so up until recently it's been the preserve of big-budget Hollywood summer releases. As films like these - and District 9 and Paranormal Activity - promise to do much more with the ever-more-accessible technology at their disposal, perhaps larger members of the industry feeling the effects of the economy should consider the landscape has changed, somewhat.

What do you think about this year's CGI offering? Sound off below!
categories Movies, Cinematical