It surely won't be the last, of course -- any time a technological breakthrough is partly responsible for a film grossing almost three billion dollars worldwide, we'll be seeing a lot of it. We took a look at some of the movies that spawned innovations we've since come to take for granted. When the first trailer for 'Resident Evil: Afterlife' hit, it downplayed the swords, zombies and Ali Larter-in-the-rain aspects of the film in favor of a technical detail that rarely gets its props: the Fusion Camera System, which makes this the first post-'Avatar' film to have utilized Cameron's invention.
It surely won't be the last, of course -- any time a technological breakthrough is partly responsible for a film grossing almost three billion dollars worldwide, we'll be seeing a lot of it. We took a look at some of the movies that spawned innovations we've since come to take for granted.
Synchronized dialogue -- 'The Jazz Singer'
'The Jazz Singer' marked the first time that a feature-length film included actual dialogue -- previous pictures only used music and sound effects that matched up to the screen. Various short films had managed to pull off talking before, as well, but we can mark 'The Jazz Singer' as an important and forward-thinking feature ... except maybe for the whole "Al Jolson in blackface" thing.
Technicolor -- 'Becky Sharp'
While 'Gone With the Wind' and 'The Wizard of Oz' both typically get cited as the first feature-length movies shot in full color, that's just because they're the ones that people have actually heard of. In fact, that distinction belongs to this 1935 adaptation of Thackeray's 'Vanity Fair,' which was poorly preserved for six decades and thus languished in obscurity until a proper restoration was done in 1992 by the UCLA Film and Television Archive. And just because you may not have heard of it doesn't mean it's not any good -- Miriam Hopkins was nominated for an Oscar for her work in the movie.
Polarization 3-D System -- 'Bwana Devil'
Of course, sometimes there's an old movie that was the source of a major technical breakthrough, and it's been forgotten because it's ridiculous. Take 'Bwana Devil,' which was the first American 3-D feature film shot in color. The plot was the same as that of the 1996 Michael Douglas / Val Kilmer thriller 'The Ghost and the Darkness' (seriously), and it seems mostly as though it was made to show lions in 3-D. We will leave you with this quote from noted film critic Hollis Alpert's review: "It is the worst movie in my rather faltering memory, and my hangover from it was so painful that I immediately went to see a two-dimensional movie for relief."
Nudity -- 'Peeping Tom'
Beyond good-and-forgotten and bad-and-forgotten lies a third category: widely-considered-bad-at-the-time-but-later-revered-by-some-as-a-masterpiece, a group which contains Michael Powell's 'Peeping Tom.' The 1960 British Hitchock-ian thriller was so controversial at the time of its release that it ended Powell's career; but he got the last laugh, as Martin Scorsese oversaw its re-release in 1978, and Roger Ebert included it in his "Great Movies" column. All of that, and it has the first female nude scene in a major motion picture (albeit for about five seconds).
Computer-Generated Imagery -- 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day'
This one's technically a little bit of a cheat -- 'T2' wasn't the first movie to use computerized effects (1973's 'Westworld' owns that distinction), but it was the first to make them really work. Until that point, conventional optical effects (i.e., blowing things up when you needed an explosion) ruled the day. but in 1991, when James Cameron birthed the T-1000, effects ranging from morphing to digital green screen became a mainstay of Hollywood. The film also included 'You Could Be Mine' by Guns 'N Roses as its theme, marking the last time the band would be cool.
Computer Animation -- 'Toy Story'
While most major innovators are of questionable merit as actual movies, 'Toy Story' sprang fully-formed from the head of Pixar like Athena did from Zeus, and you don't need us to affirm its status as a classic. There've been countless computer-animated films and TV shows in its wake, to the point that traditional, 2-D animation has been on life support for years. 'Toy Story' has spawned two equally brilliant sequels, and is best remembered as a testament to the very brief moment in time when Tom Hanks and Tim Allen were both stars of roughly the same status.
Bullet Time -- 'The Matrix'
Hey, remember the time before every action movie featured a climax in which everything got reeeeeally slooooow and the camera moved around to show just how quickly things on the screen were supposed to be happening? We do, kind of, but only because we started watching action movies before 'The Matrix' was released in 1999.
Digital Cinematography -- 'Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones'
George Lucas created a lot of controversy with the 'Star Wars' prequels, but one of the lesser-publicized ones was his decision to shoot the entire second film digitally. Filmmakers, enamored with the first word in their title, were wary of the idea of doing away with the actual "film" part of their work, and the stiff 'Attack of the Clones' probably validated most of their worst fears. Since then, however, time (and budgetary constraints) have steamrolled those concerns, and in 2008 a digitally shot film, 'Slumdog Millionaire,' even won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography. Presumably this was at least partly because it didn't feature Jar Jar Binks in any capacity.