It seems as though all movies these days have the same kinds of storyline—not many are truly different or surprising. From superhero films to romantic comedies, the only two things that really vary are the casts and visuals. The film industry has made leaps and bounds ever since the dawn of CGI when it comes to special effects, and Hollywood continues to produce more and more talented actors and actresses. But any film on a budget must face the question: Do we spend more money on good actors or on special effects? Obviously, it depends on the type of movie. A comedy does not need a bunch of digital effects, so the acting quality naturally comes first. But when the two different approaches are analyzed in regard to finances and critical responses, a clear winner emerges.
Take the movie Battleship, for example. This 2012 sci-fi action flick pits naval battles against invading alien ships, loosely resembling the board game Battleship. The special effects are impressive, as expected due to its alien-explosion-packed plot. However, the cast lacks any true acting stars. Taylor Kitsch (Friday Night Lights) plays the main character; he is joined by supermodel Brooklyn Decker in her second major appearance in a film and singer Rihanna in her first. While these stars are definitely big names, their acting experiences and qualities do not make the cut. The cast very obviously lacks the high-caliber acting, yet the film has awesome effects. How did it do? Financially, the movie has grossed just over $303 million after being out for almost a year and a half with a $209 million budget, meaning the film has made a net profit of just under one hundred million dollars. As far as the critics are concerned, the movie earns an average of two and a half stars out of five. While there have definitely been worse, these numbers are not great. Other films that focus more on graphics than casts (Transformers, Pacific Rim, etc.) have experienced similar results.
“Maybe there should be a combination or careful balance between the special effects and acting budgets.”
On the other hand, the movie Silver Linings Playbook exemplifies a film with more script and acting orientation. This romantic comedy-drama stars Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Julia Stiles and more. With a cast of some of Hollywood’s most famous, the acting quality is nothing short of remarkable. This, coupled with a delicate and intense script, made the film both moving and praised by most viewers. Little to no visual effects were used, though they definitely could have been on occasion. The movie’s budget came to about $21 million, and the film has grossed over $236 million since its release in November of last year—making the net profit around $210 million. The film earned an average of four and a half out of five stars from critics across the board. Furthermore, though this movie could be classified as extraordinarily successful due to its Oscar victory and nominations, other similar movies exhibit the same kinds of numbers.
So which is better, impressive effects or acting skills? Truthfully, that cannot be determined by any single person. While the box office reports and critics seem to suggest that the movies with higher spending on script writing and actors have been more successful, that does not mean that they are better overall. Maybe there should be a combination or careful balance between the special effects and acting budgets, who knows. But, since us Tech students like our numbers so much, here is the objective truth: if a choice must be made between talented actors and actresses and visual effects, a strong cast usually cannot be beat. It makes sense, though. Start with the most important part of any performance—the acting—and go from there.