An excerpt from an honours paper
"Realism in film is a contentious issue because what we accept to be real in film is actually the deliberate arrangement of the edited, digitised, manipulated, tweaked, directed, acted and staged. Realism is an aesthetic choice or the artistic expression of a representative reality. Film aspires to mine the memory so that we may engage and encapsulate conjurations readily and without judgement. This is evident in "special effects" which should be both novel and familiar.
The novelty of an effect is to create spectacle but the effect should never be unfamiliar as to distract or confuse. An example is a scene from a science fiction film of a spaceship exploding to an emanating fiery ringed death. Broken down this scene contains elements that do not obey the natural laws of physics which include: no sound in space; fire cannot exist without heat and oxygen which in the vacuum of space is entirely absent; and finally an emanating fiery ring is an improbable explosive choice and in a vacuum an explosive sphere is just as likely a scenario. At the time of this writing the emanating fiery ringed explosion is popular in science film effects given that we have graduated over many years of film. It is also coupled with our own familiarity with natural phenomena of explosions such as fireworks. This leads me to my final point about special effects and how the spectacle is used to carry narrative.
Special effects contain novel and familiar properties and is spectacle to "wow" an audience. When the spectacle is overused an audience becomes over-whelmed which may dampen or even mute an effect. The end result for banal effects result to the degradation of the film narrative and disappointed audiences. Film makers should envisage with vigilance and contemplation the importance that effects have on film and that the special effect should be used sparingly to parade an inventive idea or to communicate and empower narrative or, in the very least, provide brief respite from the story. Some "big-budget" films often fall prey to saturated special effects especially in Hollywood film and in my opinion it is ultimately why they fail. 'All things in moderation' comes to mind but a quote from my lecturers holds true to all that I do that 'when you emphasise everything you emphasise nothing'." written by Eli Peters.