Moulin Rouge, for example, was shot entirely on sound stages. The resulting “staleness” that can accompany CGI worked for that world thematically because it embodied Satine’s physical and emotional prison, underscoring the hopelessness of her situation. Fortunately for Gatsby, Luhrmann learned how to better mix real landscapes with computer-generated ones from production on 2008’s Australia. Regardless of whether you liked or disliked that story, the film was technically proficient and visually stunning. The Great Gatsby, being the tragic romance that it is, benefitted from the techniques used in both Australia and Moulin Rouge.
In Gatsby, Visual Effects Supervisor Chris Godfrey allowed enough grit to come through so that, once again, visuals aided story beyond simply filling up the screen. Like the juxtaposition of East Egg and West Egg, old money and new money, a world on the cusp of development and technological innovation that still relied on the old and inefficient, the effects provided a visual component to the theme of competing dualities. Godfrey’s VFX are like the shiny yellow car zipping through the junkspace of the train yard. If you assent to the fact that Baz Luhrmann uses his effects like no other filmmaker – not meant to disappear but rather create dissonance in service to the story – these stunning effects can be appreciated on another level entirely.