The Wind Done Gone

JR, Angie, Babe, Krystal

In the history of disaster cinema, no two movies illustrate the great divide between campy greatness and head scratching exclamations of "What was the %#^#*%* point?" than Irwin Allen’s 1972 The Poseidon Adventure and Wolfgang Petersen’s 2006 remake, Poseidon.

For all of The Poseidon Adventure’s over the top excess, the original chronicle of the desperate escape efforts of trapped survivors aboard the fictional capsized ocean liner was filled with heart, unpredictability in the fates of who would live or die and we were invested in characters that we grew to care about or despise within a short period of time.

As much as we laugh at Shelley Winters’ Olympic swim through the ship, there still is hardly a dry eye in the house when she succumbs to the stress of the effort and dies. On the other hand, the remake was enjoyable on its own merits but burned through its story so fast that it was nearly impossible to care about the fates of its survivors. When Freddy Rodriquez’s waiter suddenly plummets to his death, who cares? If all of them died at the end of Petersen’s version, it would have been a pleasant surprise.

This brings us to ABC’s much hyped 2008 remake of the tornado storyline which ripped through Pine Valley in 1994, heralding the "official" arrival as Charles Pratt as All My Children’s new head writer. Fitting somewhere between the technological successes and dramatic failures of the two tales of the Poseidon, so far this tornado is swerving between a lot of hot air and a gust of breaking wind.

ABC’s breathless press and on air promos, more breathless than their usual hyperventilating marketing, have not helped. Soap fans have never seen anything as exciting as this! The CGI work is so incredible it will put Twister and The Day After Tomorrow to shame! You will be blown away more than our cast and sets!  OK, ABC didn’t actually use those words but you get the idea. And what did we get? Some of the most shoddy CGI work recenly to see a pixel. Not all of it was bad, but even the not bad stuff was sometimes hard to take.

Renderings of the ominous clouds and seascapes were reasonably convincing on their own, such as shots of the house where Kendall and the boys were trapped or Zach’s car thrown off the roadside; yet when the CGI was combined with actors the result often looked as convincing as one of the reporters standing against a fake backdrop on The Daily Show. Oh wait. That is exactly how these scenes are filmed. What was I thinking? These shots should have been seamless. And they weren’t.

Even worse was the shot of the funnel cloud formation witnessed by Ryan and Greenlee and the twister chasing Zach’s car, both so horribly done that I literally busted out laughing! The typical schlocky Saturday night Sci Fi  Channel cheese fest has better special effects.  The cyclone that whisked Dorothy away to Oz was created using Fuller’s earth, sulfur and a big ass nylon stocking and that movie was released in 1939! Hell, I probably could have created more convincing tornadoes on my ancient PowerMac G4 for 1/12th the price ABC paid Stargate Digital. It’s a sad day when after seeing shit like this that one longs for the empty parks and cluttered backyards of Peapack, New Jersey.

I have a golden rule when it comes to special effects: either do it right or don’t do it at all. Unlike others, I welcome CGI work on daytime soaps, but only if it is done convincingly within the context of story. Personally, I think Stargate Digital would have better served the audience by combining actual tornado footage with its other computer generated work. Better yet, ABC would have been better served by editing out the CGl tornados altogether, letting us in on the terror of Pine Valley’s residents getting hit out of the blue. Unfortunately as aired, too many of the scenes looked like a 1940’s movie with rear projection. Those sad little CGI tornadoes really were a disaster. More…

17 Responses

  1. Profile photo of ssjohn

    See I have to argue with the CGI aspect of this storyline, I do agree that it wasn’t the best CGI ‘EVER’ but i wasn’t exactly expecting ‘best ever’, If i want the ‘best’ I will play a Square-enix game or something along those lines.

    I had my expectations LOW, i mean super low, and this passed my expectations.

    The CGI wasn’t as horrible as GH’s ‘state of the art’ CGI. The problem i had was that it was overused, and the more they used the CGI the more ‘fake’ it looked.

    The outdoor shots were painful at times, if they would have just kept the ‘background’ out and just showed the sets it would have been alot better.

    But when we have seen some awful CGI in daytime, this is at least a step in the right direction, and we know NO ONE is going to put in the money for ‘state of the art CGI’ into a soap nowdays so hopefully we will atleast get this quality CGI.

  2. Profile photo of J Bernard Jones
    J Bernard Jones

    ssjohn, then agree to disagree we shall.

    My position is this: if a show or network is going to hype a major event where a majority of its campaign is based around a technical aspect of the event — in this case, CGI — then that aspect is fair game for tough criticism. The limitations of the genre or medium must be taken into account, but cannot exempt them from what I hope is constructive criticism.

    Like you, I didn’t expect feature film or even prime time quality CGI. But I did expect quite a bit better across the board than what we got.

    The cast and crew of AMC no doubt did amazingly hard work throughout this process and, as pointed out, the tornado isn’t over yet. Rest assured this isn’t my final verdict but of the CGI that’s aired so far a lot was left to be desired.

  3. Profile photo of Agim87

    I felt myself feeling sorry for Babe, i couldnt believe it, u could see the sadness in her eyes the last couple of weeks. I wish her luck since its hard to get a job right now. Good post JBJ.

  4. Profile photo of ssjohn

    I guess it is because i ignored the advertisement campaign, I really try not to pay much attention to AD’s because well they always lie.

    Anyways while it mite not be ‘the best’ it is keeping my attention and keeping me tuning in.

    And I agree i actually don’t want anything to happen to Babe, i want some kind of a miracle to happen and she will live! :(

    Heck i have even been liking new Colby lately.

  5. Profile photo of williamjc

    Great post with some interesting points. I felt… robbed at the CGI scenes given the hype they received. I totally agree it’s about the aftermath and ramifications of the tornadoes impact upon Pine Valley that is the “real” story. Plus, I’m not totally convinced Babe is dead or David might pull something at the hospital to make everyone believe she’s dead then usher her off somewhere.

    The Bianca reveal and then to give away the pregnancy plus daddy reveal in the previews was, IMO, a bad move. I’m just hoping Pratt has not only a plot but an endstory for some of these storylines as well…

  6. Profile photo of GiJoe8

    j Bernard- I have to totally respectfully disagree with you and some of the other posters. Anyone who knows daytime TV knows that the CGI effects were not going to be incredible. The budgets are certainly not big enough for a remake of “Twister”. I have really enjoyed all the promos and hype. We should be happy to get any commercials at all. The tornado and storm scenes I did see were good enough to keep me glued to my seat. think about the crap we saw on Gh when the car was hanging over the bridge with Sam hanging to the edge- that was some terrible CGI

    I hope you all can look past the CGI and see how this storm is bringing characters together and bringing drama like we have not seen on AMC in a long time.

    Eric and Adam finding the secret room with the bed and old food-being trapped together!? priceless. Babe pinned under the column, screaming for Little A to be saved- soap opera tearjerker at its best. Greenlee and Ryan trapped together with Aidan seeing them cuddling outside the window!? Incredible. Zach and the car accident and then finding the babies and Bianca under the rubble! Superb.

    Daytime is never going to be primetime – we already know that. i think if we took the time to sit back and enjoy the ride without overanalyzing every detail we would all be happier. I applaud ABC for paying so much attention to their little shows that could.

  7. Profile photo of Karissa

    I have to disagree with you as well the CGI wasn’t Sony movie worthy but it was good and the storylines. We very feeling. I have never liked the character of Babe but I felt for her being trapped under the beam and her little boy underneath her and they did panic about that. They may not have had the over the board break down but people were screaming for their love ones.

    Peace, Love and Happiness

  8. Profile photo of season1217

    I don’t want to here any more nonsense about Babe’s death being temporary. If this show could kill beloved characters like Edmund and Dixie and ruin countless others then who cares about some two-bit, backwoods, hypocritical, baby stealing (yes, I know it was Billy… um, Paul but the wench still kept what wasn’t hers), crocodile tears crying, slut’s death! Good riddance to bad rubbish! Sorry, Babe fans.


    //**It’s the writing, stupid!**\\

  9. Profile photo of J Bernard Jones
    J Bernard Jones

    I think a few folks have missed the point I’ve made several times already about the CGI:

    1. I did not expect prime time or film quality. Said it explicitly.

    2. The CGI is being judged on its own merits in relation to the level of hype that ABC Daytime gave it. Some was good and some was horrible. One can’t just dismiss the CGI as unimportant when it was an integral part of ABC’s own marketing efforts to get people to watch the show using the tornado as a jump off point for new viewers and lapsed ones.

    3. Some dramatic elements are good and some are not so good. But the real issue is going to be the repercussions after the tornado.

    Like I said, this isn’t my final verdict. Your mileage may vary…

  10. Profile photo of elle

    I thought the Comeback scenes were well done. Better than the other areas affected. I wasn’t impressed with Zach flying through the air in his car, but the editing, the drama, the acting, everything associated with the Comeback, I thought was well done, and riveting, all these considered.

    I don’t understand the comment about this being his official work? I thought end of August, when his name appeared in the credits- that was announced as his official work. Taylor was his idea, Fusion takeover was his idea, so I’m a bit confused. He was even quoted on his plans for the above.

  11. Profile photo of GiJoe8

    HEADS UP! I thought the tornados were finished after Friday but apparently the biggest one hits on Monday. If you go to the website they have major spoilers. Without giving to much away, its basically saying that we would be crazy to miss next weeks episodes. Another tornado is going to effect characters we haven’t seen yet, the hospital, and may take more than just Babes life. I can’t wait! Daytime has never had me so excited, I think the last time was during Days serial Killer story LOL

  12. Profile photo of J Bernard Jones
    J Bernard Jones

    Elle, it is true that Pratt has been onboard AMC as head writer for months, including a period of transition between the Esensten/Harmon Brown regime. However, the tornado is the story that more or less marks Pratt’s “big splash” on the show, demarcating The Pratt Era at AMC. This is why I put “official” in quotes.

    GiJoe, read the last paragraph of my acknowledgement in the blog that this thing ain’t over.

  13. Profile photo of Beth

    Great post, and I do agree with you on several points. While I definitely don’t think the tornado scenes were A-list work, considering the approximately $5.00 budget AMC probably has at this point, I give them credit for what mostly looked pretty seemless, at least to me. Obvious stunt doubles at The Comeback, but I give the crew and post-production folks a great deal of credit in staging something like that given their time contraints.

    However, I didn’t really feel that AMC was quite as overblown (pardon the pun) in their hype for this as GH was with the serial killer nonsense back last February. I have plenty of issues with GH at this point, but I felt that their need to do a “behind the scenes” special on their pretty shoddy special effects scenes was only to mask the fact that this was the denouement to poorly-constructed story.

    GH at this point stages things like this for the sake of staging them, almost. They do stunts that have no rhyme or reason, and have no resonance once the stunt ends. AMC I believe used this as a jumping-off point for many new stories that Pratt is developing, and I think at the end what’s going to resonate are those stories and those characters, not just the one or two stories where the show stepped up to stage the tornado. I’ve got a heck of a lot more faith in AMC at this point to right by this in the long run.

  14. Profile photo of marceline

    I think the CGI was actually pretty good. For better or worse it was on par with a number of primetime shows I can think of. And “real world” destruction i.e. the beach house, Comeback, etc… combined very well with the CGI to create a nice scene of destruction. Just like with the J&A wedding, as much as I appreciate the efforts of the actors I think the real kudos belongs to the people behind the scenes: stunts, editing, set design it was all premium.

    And I know I’ll get reamed for saying this but I wish people would stop playing “compare and contrast” between the two tornadoes. It only serves to highlight how soaps have failed to bring on new viewers. It’s been 14 years! What happens on-screen now should be judged on its own merit. Romanticizing the “good ole days” is part of what has killed soaps.

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