“For me, there is nothing more valuable than how people feel in a movie theater about a movie.”will smith
Picture yourself with your favorite snack in your favorite theater. After a long week at work or school, it’s your chance to escape into another world. The anticipation builds as the previews drag on until you catch a familiar theme or logo from the feature presentation’s production studio and finally… it’s time for some “movie magic.”
Part of the appeal and beauty of the cinematic experience is the swelling emotion these images on film ignite in us. One aspect easily overlooked but truly unforgettable is the effect these films have on us.
In other words, the movie magic cast upon us in the theater.
Do you remember the first time you felt the genuine shock and awe when seeing [insert that magical film for you here] for the first time? Something what once seemed impossible to you in the real world just appeared on screen, so amazing, so real and then you wonder how the blazes did they do that?!
I asked our MoviesMatrix team this very question and it is fascinating how “movie magic” casts a spell on people differently with different films.
What film made you appreciate movie magic?
Willy Wonka & the chocolate factory
Todd: As a young child, I fell in love with movie magic watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The fantastic Gene Wilder captured my imagination the second he tumbled into an improvised somersault before greeting the crowd at the factory gates. I was spellbound immediately.
The magic really took off when the doors to the factory opened. From the giant Gummi Bears to the serene and winding chocolate river and even the Oompa Loompas. Yeah, even those vertically challenged walking Creamsicles. I was mesmerized and became a fan of cinema ever since!
Chad: The film that made me really believe in movie magic was the one that started it all, The Matrix. Seeing Keanu Reeves as the prophetic Neo practically slow time down to dodge bullets — real bullets! It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen on screen before.
The genius on display in that film made me excited for the little things in film — visual effects, special effects, cinematography — things I wasn’t sure had a name at the time. From that movie, I’ve seen more and more how the use of special effects in action sequences could progress in future films.
Shawn: Back in 1985, when you could go to the movies and only spend $1 to see a movie (that alone was movie magic), I was at a slumber party for a friend’s birthday. His dad took us all to the theater to see a sci-fi movie (my nerd roots are deep). The ticket checker handed me a glossary of terms — it was two-sided. I read the entire thing standing in line to have a Coke and a smile. Twice.
It set the stage for what would be a time-traveling experience. It was the first time I saw a story that I read become a movie I saw — that was movie magic to a little guy like me. What were just words before had now become real. That was Dune for me (the David Lynch version, of course). And, really, it probably will be again once Villeneuve gets his version done. (And I kept the glossary for years. It was pretty dope.)
star wars: attack of the clones
Owen: I’m gonna go with Attack of the Clones as the first time I witnessed “movie magic.” It may be an odd choice to many, but I remember watching the “making of” featurettes as a kid and seeing that it was all filmed on a green/blue screen. It blew my mind that these things that looked so real, actually weren’t.
In particular, I remember seeing all of the various molds/designs for Dexter Jettster and realizing how much work goes into one singular character design (i.e., an entire room full of sculptures that were just potential designs for the character). I also remember them talking vividly about the visual effects for Yoda and how they studied the motion of Frank Oz’s puppetry. They made sure to design it with the rigidity of his arm in mind. I was just astounded by the amount of work that went into everything.
Michael: When I was four years old, my father told me we were going to watch “a dinosaur movie” called Jurassic Park. I fell in love it, watched it countless times, and memorized every line of dialogue. Even at a young age, I never skipped a scene.
Of course, it was the dinosaurs that created that sense of movie magic within me. I probably didn’t know it consciously at the time, but it was the first movie that made me wonder how they made it. On the DVD my father owned was ‘The Making of Jurassic Park‘ documentary. It became a ritual: As soon as the movie was over, I would fast forward through the ending credits just to get to the special features menu.
The documentary opened my eyes to the process of filmmaking and how there were real people behind the scenes figuring out how to make a movie. When you’re young, I think you just assume movies come already pre-made but here the truth was revealed to me. Films required thought and problem solving. It introduced me to the idea of a director and the legend himself, Steven Spielberg. A filmmaker I held onto as a favorite (as many have) for the rest of my life. I’ve loved movies for as long as I can remember, but Jurassic Park made me wonder how movies were made and that in of itself makes it magical.
back to the future
Loretto: I vividly remember being taken aback during the final act of Back to The Future. By the time Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) made his iconic slide down the electrical wire from the top of the Hill Valley courthouse to help send Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) back to his own present time, I was literally on the edge of my seat. On top of my suspense, I was simultaneously in disbelief and wonder.
The lightning effects, the fire trail that the infamous Delorean leaves, and the final shot when said Delorean takes flight was absolutely incredible. Not only did I need to find a way to own a Delorean immediately, but I needed to know more about what I had just witnessed. It was truly something special and the fact those same effects hold up so well now 25 years later is a testament to the amazing work that went into the mind-blowing movie magic.
Be sure to stay tuned as this is the first of many Film Firsts to help introduce you to our MoviesMatrix squad and learn about our journeys with this beautiful art we call cinema.