The biggest mishandling of CGI is not the Star Wars special editions, although some would argue but I figure that dead horse has been beaten enough. The biggest crime to filmdom is the massive blunder of touching up E.T. The Extra Terrestrial.
Carlo Rambaldi, who designed the head mechanics for the Alien(1979) also designed the title character of E.T. He won an Oscar for both films. His Oscar winning work was literally taken out when, in 2002, Spielberg decided to replace some of his work in the film with a CGI abomination. Let me repeat that:
SPIELBERG DIGITALLY REPLACED PARTS OF CARLO RAMBALDI’S OSCAR WINNING ANIMATRONICS.
The only logic I can fathom from this is that George Lucas, high off his own CGI addiction; peer pressured his old buddy Spielberg into succumbing to this grotesque mutilation of cinema. Now, I know that he released the Special Edition as well as the untouched 1982 version, but that still doesn't erase the fact that he broke the one big filmmaker rule: Once your film is out and has become part of popular culture for 20 years, leave it alone.
I really though Spielberg would have wised up and not bought into this “keep retouching my work” disease, but the ease of CGI proves too tempting for some. In a 1996 interview, Producer Kathleen Kennedy had this to say about the film’s effects:
“I really think that a big part of the reason the movie hasn’t aged very much and it feels somewhat timeless is because in a sense it was never designed to be an effects movie… and so, even though we had to create that creature with the technology that existed then, Steven shot E.T. as a character in a way that he really existed. He wasn’t trying to call attention to the fact that, ‘Isn’t this a great effect?’ He was really trying to achieve something that would feel as real as possible.”
So, what happened Steve? Why were you led astray? I want to understand you but I can’t.
I hope Carlo has forgiven him. I know I wouldn’t.