Steven Spielberg Thought There Were Too Many Special Effects Used in Movies Today

Steven Spielberg has directed and produced several blockbusters that are known for their special effects. But although he’s applied this kind of movie magic to his films, he once felt special effects lost some of its luster.

Steven Spielberg felt the movie industry was relying too much on special effects

Steven Spielberg posing at the 'Back To The Future: The Musical" Gala'.
Steven Spielberg | Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Spielberg has always been a user of special effects. In a 2014 interview with Empire, he once quipped that he enjoyed visually enhancing his films even if that meant agonizing over them.

“I like to inflict pain and suffering and sleepless nights on myself about special effects cost overruns and about the fear of being able to spot the blends and being the first to notice all the inconsistencies that come out of the special effects movies. I guess that’s my lot. I must, somehow, enjoy it,” Spielberg once said according to Empire.

But the Jaws director has also usually balanced out the CGI used in some of his features with practical effects. The progress of cinematic technology helped special effects be more accessible to mainstream movies as time went on. Although it’s benefited a lot of films, Spielberg feels it’s also hurt them by reducing the use of practical effects.

“There’s so many tools we have now in the toolshed and it’s just a matter of individual choice of how we use these tools,” he once said in a 2010 interview with Empire (via Contact Music). “I frankly think that special effects are becoming too special. There are too many special effects in all these movies today. It means that the movie starts on a special effect, ends on a bigger special effect, and the middle is the same special effect.”

Steven Spielberg warned this actor about the future of practical effects

It wasn’t the first time Spielberg’s had these thoughts. The filmmaker once talked to actor Antonio Banderas regarding the issue. Spielberg worked a bit on Banderas’ Mask of Zorro, and offered the star at the time some heartfelt advice.

“Steven Spielberg said to me once when we were shooting, ‘This is probably going to be one of the last Westerns shot in the way the Westerns were shot in the old days, with real scenes with real horses, where everything is real, [real] sword fighting, no CGI.’ Everything was [practical],” Banderas once said according to Yahoo.

Which was why Spielberg urged Banderas not to take Zorro for granted. It was a message that stuck with the actor for a long time.

“And he said, ‘But things are going to change. they’re going to change and they’re gonna change fast. And so you should be proud of this movie.’ And I am, probably even more now than at the time that I was doing it,” Banderas added. “I don’t know if I was absolutely conscious when I was doing Zorro that it was going to have an impact. The impact that it’s had, and especially after 25 years. … It was a very beautiful adventure movie with a lot of ingredients that made it shine in a very beautiful way. I have nothing but good memories.”

Steven Spielberg wouldn’t use special effects to digitally enhance past movies

Spielberg’s friend and fellow filmmaker George Lucas would use special effects to digitally enhance or alter his original Star Wars trilogy. But Spielberg refused to use the same process for his own past films. In a resurfaced interview with Ain’t It Cool News, Spielberg explained he wouldn’t use digital corrections to enhance any of his past movies on Blu ray. Even if the film in question had shoddy practical effects work.

“[In the future] there’s going to be no more digital enhancements or digital additions to anything based on any film I direct. I’m not going to do any corrections digitally to even wires that show,” he said. “If 1941 comes on Blu-Ray I’m not going to go back and take the wires out because the Blu-Ray will bring the wires out that are guiding the airplane down Hollywood Blvd. At this point right now I think letting movies exist in the era, with all the flaws and all of the flourishes, is a wonderful way to mark time and mark history.”

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