In movies, we’re familiar with the concept of special effects. In today’s online world, special effects are things like sound, animation, motion, and certain kinds of interactivity and layering.
I consider a special effect to be any expendable deviation from essential simplicity.
I see a certain obscenity in unrestrained special effects.
The Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky sought to make his special effects seem banal and ordinary. Speaking about his 1972 sci-fi film, Solaris, Tarkovsky says he tried to make boarding a spaceship feel like boarding a trolley. Most directors fetishize gadgets and technology, explaining away every contrivance as if they had to show you the blueprints. The result is that Tarkovsky movies still feel ordinary and timeless, while movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey now feel like products of the 1960s, as movies like Minority Report in ten years will surely feel like products of 2002.
Special effects are not all bad, and a few well-chosen effects, used sparingly and for good reason, can really bring a world to life. Again, it is useful to remember Baz’s advice—beginners strive for the easy Wowww!, while masters seek the more difficult Wowww...