There once was a time, if you wanted to know how your favorite movie creatures were made, you had to wait for a behind the scenes special to air on network television prior to the films release. As a young boy, fully enamored with the art of film-making and special effects, I relished those moments. It meant I could see how the artists made their creations and got to stay up a bit later than usual. Thank you ILM for those late nights.
Now, with the advent of home entertainment, exceptionally good releases come with discs loaded with extras. And with the expanse of specialty cable television stations, if you're lucky, you'll find such a special. Yet, these days it seems these behind the scenes specials are all about the talent in front of the camera as our celebrity idolatry has reached staggering heights. So it is good to see that a show like Face Off not only gives its audience a look at make up effects from conception to execution but it has been so well received - the second season finale was SyFy's most watched unscripted telecast - that it is about to start its third season.
I feel a show like Face Off is right up ScreenAnarchy's alley because it appeals to our desire to highlight the film makers and talented people behind the camera and part of the production. Yes, the reality television/elimination competition aspect of it is not up our alley. But! I think it is pretty darn cool to watch folks get creative and make these awesome creatures, aliens, zombies, et al. Recognize that a show about practical make up special effects is already in its third season.
The 90 minute season opener airs tonight at 9pm ET on SyFy in the U.S. and here in Canada on Space. The contestants meet in L.A. at a party hosted by Sean Astin (Goonies, Rudy, and a little trilogy called Lord of the Rings). They start their first Foundation challenge by choosing a theme out of the party paraphernalia and creating an original creature out of the many pretty people/models 'at the party' as well. Astin helps series host McKenzie Westmore choose a winner. The winner of the Foundation challenge is immune from elimination at the Spotlight challenge, which will take up the bulk of the premiere.
At the Spotlight challenge the contestants find out they get to create an alien that could fit in along with the aliens in the Mos Eisley Cantina scene (See clip below). The winning design will be featured on the Stars Wars web site then recreated in the style of The Clones Wars animated show. The episode follows the teams over the next three days as they work together - or not. As this is also reality television you can be sure that personalities clash and some teams will not get along and that will be also be clear at the end of the competition when you see their creation(s).
The end of the season premiere is actually quite a surprise; one of the contestants doesn't take the criticism from the judges very well. Ve Neill and Glenn Hetrick return and are joined by newcomer Neville Page whose credits include Avatar, Prometheus, Star Trek, Super 8, Tron Legacy and The Amazing Spider-Man. Guest judges will include Kevin Smith, Paul W Anderson (hide all potential projectiles away from your television) and Hollywood heavyweight producer Brian Grazer, among others. So there will be plenty of expertise and egos to scrutinize the contestants' creations.
When you can set aside the reality competition part of the show I think there is something here for fans who enjoy how this aspect of film and television production is made. I ignored the show after previewing the series opener back in January 2011. I may just give in and pay more attention this season. It could be worse. It could be a reality competition show watching computer nerds vectoring gawdy CGI for an hour. Hail practical effects!