Special effects have always been one of the key mechanisms behind the magic of cinema. In the era of the blockbuster, computer-generated imagery (CGI) and other digitally-enabled effects take pride of place in the spectacle, and in the selling, of feature films. In the previous chapter, special effects were examined—primarily the ‘bullet-time’ sequences—in an analysis which was driven more by the films’ narratives than the characteristics of CGI or special effects themselves. However, this chapter now turns to the specificities of special effects and the discourses surrounding them. As Michele Pierson argues in her study Special Effects: Still in Search of Wonder (2002), the magic of cinema technologies has a long history of appreciation not just by cinema viewers, but by a specialised audience that she collectively considers as special effects fandom. This fan engagement has its own long history and notable publications ranging from the proto-cinematic fascination with moving picture technologies in the midnineteenth century, captured in the pages of Scientific American, through to the technophilic desire for CGI found at the turn of the millennium in magazines and websites such as Wired (Pierson, 2002, p. 3). Pierson notes that the main pathway to appreciating special effects is still to visit the cinema itself, but she also argues that DVD releases of feature films are rapidly expanding the potential audience, and thus the appreciation of special effects, beyond a viewer’s initial engagement with the silver screen:

‘Making of’ and ‘behind-the-scenes’ featurettes, special commentary, outtakes, film stills, production notes, screenplays, screenplay-storyboard comparisons, isolated soundtracks, and alternative versions are just some of the other features that have become increasingly standard for DVD releases of feature films.

(2002, p. 164) The initial DVD release of The Matrix was one of the first purchasable films to expand the use of extras, not just presenting twenty-minute documentaries where the cast and crew confess how much they enjoyed working with each other (although there is that, too), but including a number of innovations, most notably the ‘Follow the White Rabbit’ function which allowed viewers to watch the feature film intercut with two- to three-minute breakout featurettes which explained the mechanics behind the special effects sequences (Pierson, 2002, p. 165). In this manner, the continuity of the film’s narrative hybridised with stories of how the special effects, and film itself, were constructed. In recent years, DVD extras have become more and more highly produced, with the commentaries, and making-of documentaries often framing, or re-framing, the experience of the films for dedicated viewers (Hight, 2005). Indeed, larger films sometimes spawn DVDs which are only about the construction of the film, separate to the feature film release. In the gap between the first film and the sequels, for example, The Matrix: Revisited (Oreck, 2001) was released, which was primarily a discussion of the innovations in special effects achieved in the production of the first Matrix film. Similarly, in the lead-up to King Kong (Jackson, 2005), not only did the official website host more than five hours of making-of diaries, but these production features were actually released as a stand-alone DVD before the feature even premiered (North, 2008, p. 179).