The year that is about to end has brought us many deaths of people who shaped the world of entertainment as we know it. In some ways, the cruelest was the death of Carrie Fisher who played Princess Leia in “Star Wars” because she like actresses of the past represented the dreams of a generation. That generation became the last to feel the three senses we have lost in the cinema and in many other ways in our lives, fear, wonder, and awe.

From 'Star Wars' to 'Alien'

When Princess Leia appeared in the first film of the George Lucas’ 'Star Wars' franchise the audience had already been stunned by the opening sequence with the massive cruiser chasing her ship it had seen minutes before seeing her on screen.

The sight and sound of that cruiser, just like the massive spaceship in Steven Spielberg’s 'Close encounters of the third kind', drew gasps of awe from audiences at the time that we no longer hear in cinemas.

These two films marked a change in the mentality of film producers and directors which has unfortunately made us the poorer because it took away a part of our minds that we no longer use in our daily lives. Due to the very fact that previous special effects were rudimentary film directors had been forced to make the audience use its imagination, even in films that inspire fear. In fact, the arrival of the modern techniques meant the loss of the ingenuity by directors in making the members of the audience feel fear, wonder, and awe.

Ridley Scott understood this consequence of the special effects and it was no coincidence that in 'Alien' the audience never saw the adversary until the final confrontation when we could appreciate the monster all its awesome brutality and outwardly beauty.

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The fact that the members of the audience did not know what it looked like only made the fear more real and visceral.

Storylines rather than special effects

Since those films, the trend in cinema, and not only in science fiction and horror, was the surrender of many directors to technology at the cost of the storylines. Thus the films have too often become the frameworks for the technicians to display their skills at manipulating images rather than as a means for the audience to appreciate the story written by the scriptwriters. This surrender has taken away from the emotional impact of the film on those who pay at the box office to see the latest films.

While we may be amazed at the skills of making cartoons and films ever more real, we no longer truly look at the screen for the hidden messages and jokes that directors often used to entertain their audiences. One master of this technique was Alfred Hitchcock who played with games with his fans by making them look for him in cameo appearances in every movie.

Thankfully there are traces of this in the 'Indiana Jones' films, but by the fourth film the routines has become tired and overworked. It will be interesting to see how Steven Spielberg will manage to refresh the story of the next film in the franchise.

We saw this happen in 'Star Wars' as well when grew to love characters like Princess Leia and Han Solo and wanted to follow their story, but unfortunately with the second 'Star Wars' trilogy George Lucas surrendered to the technology and we never connected with the characters as we did in the first film.

Challenge to film directors

Worse still this looking for more sophisticated imagery has had a bad impact on young people who no longer use their imagination and thus do not find entertainment in books as did previous generations. This has made their lives poorer because it is our very imagination that sets us apart from the other animals.

Thus the challenge for filmmakers should not be to make more sophisticated films but to provide stories that give back to audiences the sense of fear, wonder, and awe that we lost since we first visited that galaxy far, far away a long time ago. Are they able to meet the challenge?