The Suicide Squad Director Breaks Down the Challenges of Practical Effects vs. CGI

One person that no doubt knows the difference between creating characters and environments practically versus computer generated is no doubt filmmaker James Gunn. The Missouri born filmmaker has run the gamut through his film career, working on low-budget schlock like Troma's Tromeo and Juliet to developing the entire cosmic side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the Guardians of the Galaxy films, so his experience is wide ranged. A fan on Twitter got a great breakdown from Gunn about the differences in both cost and quality between the two after asking if it was more expensive to do a practical effects based movie, something Gunn recently touted about the upcoming The Suicide Squad.

"The cost difference depends partly on what you’re doing and how good the work is," Gunn tweeted. "Cheap practical is cheaper than cheap CGI but cheap CGI could be cheaper than high quality practical. And you just can’t do a full-size practical, say, Mothra...But for me the problem is filmmakers often don’t plan ahead. Because they don’t make distinct choices and visualize up front, they do CG because it’s the lazier, easy way to shoot and they can make whatever choices they want about aesthetics, sets, shots, whatever, in the edit."

Gunn went on to give an example from his career, specifically the slimy alien worms from his horror movie Slither, revealing that they looked better as CG than the practical versions they had created for the movie. To his point, he said the minds behind creating the slither worms "cared about the artistry" but that the choice to practical vs CG usually comes down to "procrastination & non-preparedness."

"Some of this is the fault of lazy directors and a lot of it is the fault of studios, who greenlight scripts before they’re ready (and often before they’re written) just to put a flag in a certain release date," Gunn added. "So there’s no time to properly prep the film...One of the things I’m proudest of with #TheSuicideSquad is that we are old school this way. There was no Squad movie coming out until the script was written and everyone was excited about it and THEN we got greenlit with a budget and release date."


To Gunn's point, the filmmaker confirmed that he used practical effects "whenever possible" on the upcoming World of DC movie, shouting out production designer Beth Mickle, costume designer Judianna Makovsky, the prosthetic work by Legacy effects, and even "pyrotechnics" by special effects supervisor Dan Sudick.

The Suicide Squad, and its giant practical sets, is scheduled to hit theaters on August 6, 2021.