Review by Camden Ferrell
Movies are a wonderful medium that captivates people all over the world. Many people contribute to the final product, and one aspect that is crucial to filmmaking but can sometimes get overlooked is visual effects. Jurassic Punk is a documentary that follows the work of VFX pioneer Steve Williams and the role him and his colleagues played in the introduction of CGI in movies. Directed by Scott Leberecht, this movie had its premiere at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival. It may lack charisma and might have some weird narrative shifts, but this documentary is quite educational and insightful into the VFX work of some timeless classics.
In this documentary, we get to hear from industry legends and professionals about the work that went into the visual effects for various movies in the late 20th century. We get an in depth look into the actual technology, techniques, and methods that were used to achieve groundbreaking effects, and we also get a behind the scenes look at the studio politics of the time. This is an interesting period in film history, and it’s one that is important to learn as it plays a big role in so many of our favorite movies.
I really enjoyed a lot of the interviews and guests they got to star in this, and for people who thrive behind camera, they are quite interesting to watch talk in front of it as well. They have great anecdotes to tell about their jobs and the famous people they’ve worked with, and they have a light sense of humor that makes the film feel quite fun at times. It also has some great archival footage and VFX test footage to help audiences get a feel for what the work was like at the time.
While it is interesting and engaging at times, it also doesn’t have a whole lot of personality in its execution. It plays like a very solid History Channel special, but it purely relies on its subject matter to engage audience and doesn’t really do anything creative with the way it tells its story. That being said, it is full of great trivia and information about the VFX work of great movies like Jurassic Park, The Abyss, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
One thing that stuck out was the drastic tonal shift the movie makes in its final half hour. While it was always concerned with the work of Steve Williams, it takes a sharp turn into his personal life towards the end. His story is an emotional one, but this aspect feels oddly shoehorned into the movie, and it ruins the flow of the documentary greatly. His personal story could have been hinted throughout or slowly developed, but it seems to abandon its objective and thesis at the end to almost exclusively focus on his personal struggles.
Jurassic Punk won’t win any points for innovation like its subjects, but it is an interesting look at the world of VFX. It’s a great starting point to learn about the history of computer-generated graphics in film and a chance to hear from the people who pioneered that. It is a little clunky towards the end, and it’s execution leaves a lot to be desired, but this is still quite informative and enjoyable for a casual viewer.
Jurassic Punk is in theaters and on VOD December 16.