... there were lots of special effects in the film, but each had a purpose in the greater scheme of things, and at no point did I get the impression that someone was playing a videogame before my eyes, or showing me what their computer could do. Coupled to the fact that there was no ridiculously over-the-top slow motion gimmickry, along with no unnecessarily confusing edits, and I left with the real impression that this was a film made by people who absolutely, top to bottom, knew what they were doing.
This stands in rather stark contrast with Jim Emerson's earlier criticism of the film (which was, granted, more about the camerawork than the FX), but the two tend to go together. If one is overdone, the other's typically overdone as well. That gigantic walking slagheap Transformers, for instance; that movie hurt in so many ways that I couldn't bring myself to write about it, but they couldn't keep the damn camera still even when we were looking at a pencil on a table or something.
Not long ago there was a short piece about the making of David Fincher's Zodiac (excellent movie, will hold up immensely well in time), and one thing I noticed was that the editing bay was entirely digital and featured screens about the size of a 40" plasma or so. I thought: Have the people making these films spent so much time seeing them on TV-sized screens that they've forgotten what the effects of moving the camera even slightly are in a theater? Fincher's camerawork in that movie was tightly controlled and not very flashy at all, and one result of that was you were able to sink that much more deeply into the story. Transformers pitched and rolled and yawed so much, I got seasick at my desk.
[And the more I hear about Trek, the more dismayed I get. By all accounts, it sounds like they took the original inspiration, gutted it, and shoved in a bunch of action-movie tropes. That may be the Star Trek we deserve at this point, unfortunately.]