Special Effects Evolution
The inevitable fact that, as franchises go on, they will be given a special effects (very often, CGI) upgrade to compete with the times. Justified in the fact that many of today's sequels are of series from the 1980s or 1990s, where then-new CGI was often ditched in favor of actual explosions and stunts, and CGI is much safer (and cheaper) than, say, blowing up an entire office building. Often results in They Changed It, Now It Sucks
if the CGI is poor
or merely jarring
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- The Pokémon series continuing today has changed A LOT since the first episode from 1997. The movements of the characters are much more fluid, there's more computer-generated effects (especially the Pokémon's attacks which were originally drawn with the same animation), and the environments are much more colorful and vivid. For its fourteenth opening sequence, it was fully CG, while initially the show didn't even use digital ink and paint.
- This was one of the actual driving forces of the Neon Genesis Evangelion Rebuild project. It was at its most striking in the first movie, which had a lot of redone original footage.
- Transformers Energon had some well-modeled but pitifully primitively animated cel-shaded CGI. The "sorta sequel" Transformers Cybertron ditched the cel-shaded look, but the animation was a definite step-up, especially the great looking and dynamic Stock Footage shots (in Energon, when a scene had to look good, they'd at times switch back to hand-drawn animation). Although both of the shows suffered heavily from Dull Surprise.
- The first Terminator film was just a modestly budgeted film, albeit one with a rather convincing (if not in movement) T-800 "skeleton". Then came along Terminator 2: Judgement Day, which had animatronics much more convincing than the "go motion" endoskeleton, and one of the more famous early uses of CGI involving seamless liquid metal effects of the T-1000.
- The fourth movie even used CGI Terminators for the most part.
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, made 19 years after The Last Crusade had a lot more CGI used in its action sequences.
- The James Bond series makes pretty good viewing to see how special effects have come along from 1962 to 2012. Although Casino Royale has actually cut back on CGI.
- The Star Wars prequels and the re-mastered originals in comparison to the films from The Seventies and The Eighties. So... much Scenery Porn. (Though that is not always the case)
- Ditto for Star Trek, which has been in near-constant production with films and TV series since the 1970s.
- The Remastered Original Series in particular.
- The 2009 film, to, well, anything else.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation was converted to HD using the original film, requiring the replacement of the effects that were only on the digital video tape, requiring editing of effects from the 35mm negatives, and replacement of any effect done just on tape. Including the Transporter, Replicator, phasers, shields and some planets. The ships, originally done on 35mm, were digitally recomposited. On top of all that, a few matte paintings were recreated.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine lasted long enough for CGI effects to become affordable. The Defiant was introduced as a model, but by the final seasons was done in CGI. Similarly, the Borg battle seen in the pilot (all model work, only a couple ships on screen at once) was positively sedate compared with the giant starship battles from the Dominion War (all CGI, scores of ships on screen at once).
- For the first three Die Hard movies, they all depended on actual explosions (with the exception of one scene in the first movie), miniatures and live ammunition. It's stated that the directors favored the real thing over the then-new CGI. Then Live Free or Die Hard had its oil refinery explosion, the F-35 shredding a highway to bits and CGI cars flipping out.
- Commented on in Death Proof, where Stuntman Mike bemoans the fact that CGI has put stuntmen like him out of work. It's then fully averted in the final act, which features an epic car chase without a single bit of computer imaging.
- The shift from a simple quad bike to a hovering vehicle as the Mule between Firefly and Serenity. Word of God states that the original intention was something similar for the TV show in the first place, but budget constraints wouldn't allow it.
- Also partially explained, in-story, with the original Mule being destroyed in the episode War Stories, and the fancy new one being bought with the proceeds from the sale of the Lassiter.
- The Godzilla series has been going on for over fifty years, and started with men is rubber suits smashing miniature cities to men in rubber suits smashing miniature cities done BETTER!
- TRON: Legacy, looks much darker and slicker than TRON. The special effects are also much improved, albeit in a much darker setting. This is especially notable since the first Tron film was one of the first major films of its time to use extensive computer graphics - and still most of the effects were rotoscoping instead of primitive CG. This can also be justified since Tron takes place in a video game world where it must have been upgraded into a newer setting.
- Clash of the Titans: The newer version uses computer animation as replacements for the stop-motion effects of the 1981 version.
- The Harry Potter movies started in 2001, so they used plenty of CGI from the start. However, the quantity and quality of the CGI increases with each film. It's telling that Jim Henson's Creature Shop only worked on the first Potter film while ILM worked on every film in the series.
- In the first film, the floating candles in the Great Hall were done with wires. In fact, after Quirrell announces the troll in the dungeon, there's a close-up of McGonagall in which you can plainly see the wires which the candles are suspended from. An accident with a falling candle prompted them to make the switch to CGI candles for safety reasons.
- For the first six films, the Hogwarts exterior was a large model built at 1/24th scale. For Deathly Hallows Part 2, they switched to a CGI version in order to properly create the Battle of Hogwarts.
- In Iron Man, there was both the digital and the practical suit. In the sequel, the practical suit was used without the lower part (i.e. the legs and such are CG) as it was hard to wear and unconvicing. In The Avengers, every time Tony Stark is wearing his suit it's a CG version.
- Planet of the Apes has two: from the original series to the Tim Burton 2001 reinvention, the evolution of make-up; from the 2001 movie to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the evolution of CG (which in the latter is used to create the apes themselves).
Live Action TV
- Doctor Who is made of this trope. A lot of fans found it very jarring when the new series premiered and the spaceships and aliens actually looked like spaceships and aliens, and none of the props were made out of egg cartons and bubble wrap any more.
- Happened quite a few times in the classic series as well. Particularly noticeable in the last four seasons, which featured a large advance in effects from the previous couple of seasons (a lot of which is still convincing today) and some early CGI. The bump may have been even more noticeable had the budget not been slashed following the 18-month hiatus.
- It happened more times than that as well - the production team was often able to experiment with some fairly early stuff, but tended to overuse it. What seems now to be a Special Effects Failure was occasionally a Special Effects Evolution at the time, such as the massive use of unnecessary CSO during the early seventies.
- The new series has a subtle, but visible evolution continually across the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctor's eras.
- Star Trek, as mentioned above.
- Babylon 5 suffers from this a lot.
- The effects of Walking with Dinosaurs and its sequels have gone through a spectacular evolution beginning from 1999 to 2005. While very good for their time, the effects in the original series have aged quite a bit, and the closeups of the CGI dinosaurs looked particularly odd, which is why the bulk of these closeup shots were realized using animatronics. The computer graphics of the series had advanced so much by the time Walking with Monsters was released, that even CGI closeups looked magnificently lifelike.
- Tokusatsu is an obvious example, given that the genre as such (primarily Super Sentai and the Kamen Rider franchise) have been around since the 1970s. Of course, evolution can be found on the small scale too: compare the transformation effects in 2000's Kamen Rider Kuuga to the giant monster versus Cool Train battles in 2007's Kamen Rider Den-O.
- It's especially noticeable during a Reunion Show, when you get to see past characters do their favorite attacks with today's technology. When powers from the 70s or 80s show up in Kamen Rider Decade and Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, your jaw will drop.
- In Movie Wars Megamax, the original seven Kamen Riders appear. The franchise began in 1971. If you think 2000's Kuuga's effects are a bit cooler in 2009's Decade, try the first Rider's effects in 2012. Each got to use special attacks and finishers and they looked spectacular. Especially since some of them (especially the first three) never had any special effects for their attacks. X and Stronger especially; if you're used to flashiness equaling power and so underestimate the old Riders, today's the day you'll believe that the modern Riders have nothing on at least those two.
- Speaking of new looks for the same tricks, there's a world of difference between mecha and vehicle action between now and the old days. Used to be, heroes' vehicles vs. enemy air force would be the same three or four swooping movements on either side put together different ways. Villain air forces then largely disappeared for ages. Then the moth-vehicles in Go-Onger arrive. Of course, it happened a lot faster for American fans, where the special effects were a bit spiffier. The three-or-four-motion plane fights in VR Troopers and Beetleborgs give way to Star Wars class dogfighting in Power Rangers in Space.
- Though in this case, VR Troopers was adapted from three different shows made in the mid-to-late 1980s, while In Space's source material came from 1997-8 (Beetleborgs's source material was only a couple of years older at most).
- In Supernatural the colored demon eyes were originally done with colored contact lenses, which left the actors virtually blind. This made for some nice footage for the blooper reel, but the actors often had difficulty hitting their marks when they could not see. In later seasons this practical effect is usually replaced by CGI.
- Parodied in the Freakazoid! episode "The Curse of Invisibo". When he first appears, the titular villain is portrayed by a staff suspended from obvious wires, and the narrator interrupts, asking the audience to pretend that it's scary. After a couple of minutes, the narrator comes back and says they've successfully embarrassed a bigger FX budget out of the network, at which point the staff now seems to float and glow on its own.
- In the DCAU, the use of conspicuous CGI backgrounds and vehicles (particularly in the animated films) has continued, but is done much better. Compare the Batwing in Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero to the Batwing in Batman: Under the Red Hood.
- Beast Wars (as well as most of Mainframe Entertainment's early output) looked very crude in its first season, but season 2 provided a notable visual boost with the more detailed backdrops and the new, more robotic-looking character designs. Season 3 saw yet another upgrade, with lush jungle sceneries, convincing underwater scenes and far more fluid animation. Also, whereas the organic animal modes were clearly composed of several separate parts in season 1, solid, better deforming animation models were introduced later on.