Reading through Below the Line's review of the year's big visual effects movies, one sentence jumped out:
... [O]ne problem ... making visual effects a victim, in a sense, of their own success – is that a “consistent level of knock-your-socks-off has made us numb.” ...
There's another problem for effects in the digital age. When people aren't numb from apes or dinosaurs or mind-bending airplane crashes, they are unimpressed with shots that used to jerk them upright in their theater seats.
Think about the long take. In the old days of film, a lengthy tracking shot that ran seamlessly for three or four minutes was truly impressive, because you knew that the actors were exchanging big blocks of dialogue for the entire scene, that the background elements were choreographed in real time, that you were, in short, watching an actual event.
Now the same tracking shot might be cobbled together from multiple takes, but computers humming in dark rooms make it appear as one. Audiences know this, so the real-time "Wow!" factor is gone. Now it's all tricks with pixels.