Has CG Killed Our Imaginations?
Posted on Thursday May 1, 2008, 14:03 by Olly Richards in Empire States
I read with interest a lot of the reader comments about the new Incredible Hulk trailer. The main problem for those who didn't like it seems to be that the Hulk doesn't look real enough. It's a perfectly valid criticism – he doesn't always look utterly perfect and tangible – but it made me wonder if we've reached a point in cinema where we've lost the ability to suspend our disbelief. We are, after all, talking about a 10-foot tall green man, something you would be rather surprised to see standing in the queue at your local Tesco. Precisely how realistic can something entirely unrealistic be?
We never used to be so picky. If somebody watches the original King Kong or any of the works of Ray Harryhausen, you will never hear them complain about how the skeletons were a bit jerky or that the big ape's fur didn't blow realistically when he was climbing the Empire State Building (if they do complain, however, you should feel free to shoot them on the grounds of wrongness and philistinism). You just watch the film, acknowledge that what you are seeing couldn't possibly exist, admire the artistry it took to create it and choose to believe it anyway. That's what suspension of disbelief is: ignoring the protests of your eyes and more logical parts of your brain in order to enjoy a good story.
We've now arrived at a place where technology is capable of producing something so photo-realistic that if we can detect a small patch of skin that doesn't fold in the right way or an eye that fails to glint with emotion, we cry foul and declare what's on screen to be ridiculous and unbelievable. I've done it myself, huffing through Spider-Man 3 about the fact that the giant man made of sand just didn't look like a real giant man made of sand. I base this complaint on precisely no experience of giant men made of sand, just a belief in what he should look like. Apparently my vision contrasted with those of the vastly more talented and able people at ILM (or whomever created it). So, why have we become so demanding? Why have our eyes taken over the job of filmic enjoyment from our brains?
Maybe it's that we're spoiled. I look at Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean and can't separate him from the real people, so good is the CGI, so I know computer created characters can look perfect. Or I can see an actual emotional performance in the eyes of Peter Jackson's King Kong, so I know they don't have to be blank beauties. So does that mean we have to expect every film to hit those standards, even without budget in the upper $200-millions? Have the effects houses shot themselves in the foot by being too capable? I hope that I can still enjoy The Incredible Hulk even if I sometimes don't think the light bounced properly off Abomination's spine spikes. To mix my summer blockbusters a bit, I want to believe.
Maybe Guillermo Del Toro has the right idea in his approach to The Hobbit: do as much as you can with animatronics. Hell, let's go all the way. Bring back claymation. Or Fingerbobs.
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Posted on Thursday May 1, 2008, 17:49
I think that ever sincweTerminator 2, through Jurassic Park and the Matrix to POTC and Transformers we have expected visual effects to drop our jaws, to awe us into a state of uncompehending amazement. "How the hell did they do that?" We want to be able to ask. Sadly we know all too well how they do that. We're just too savvy to the processes used. No matter how detailed, how astoundingly real an image might be we all too easily see the flaws because our expectations are always too high.
Maybe we'll nevre get that "It's a bloody dinosaur!!" feeling again - maybe we'll only get it when in Jurassic Park 9 or whatver they actually have real dinosaurs. Then again what's amazing about the real thing?
Posted on Thursday May 1, 2008, 18:23
yeh I think you're right Olly, we are so used to seeing such astonishing CGI we expect in all big budget releases. Part of the emphasis on The hulk is that it's obviously an effects movie, so they should be up to scratch. If we're watching a lower-budget piece, or one with different emphasis, we'll be more forgiving towards the effects. In Pan's Labyrinth for instance, when we see explosion go off in the distance they look awful (compared wo what we see elsewhere) but becuase Pan's Labyrinth was never meant to be an effects movie it doesnt detract from my enjoyment of it.
It's just that Hulk, compared to other recent Comic book movies; looks below par.
when the film comes out maybe it'll make up for this in different ways, but the trailer is an obvious CGI fest, and it could at least have the decency to be a proper one :P
*that last sentence is sarcastic...*
Posted on Thursday May 1, 2008, 19:02
i'd love to have seen them do it as per the tv series (bodybuilder) but with better makeup on the face and even a reference to stretchy trousers! No amount of skin detail or lines on the face is going to make the cg hulk look anymore realistic. I also think the leap between what david banner looks like and the hulk looks like is too great for the audience to empathize with. If they could just get a bit of ed norton in there.
Posted on Thursday May 1, 2008, 20:38
but again we're basing a Hulk FILM on a Hulk TRAILER. sure we had this argument four years ago when the first Hulk film came out and everyone said "oh, but he doesn't look realistic" OF COURSE HE DOESN'T LOOK BLOODY REAL, HE'S A BLOODY 10FT TALL GREEN SMASHING MACHINE!!!!!!
There's a time when i want to see photo-realistic CGI (Jurassic Park, POTC) and times when i want to see fantastical images (The Hulk, Spiderman, Science Fiction Movies), I'm quite happy with both!
Posted on Thursday May 1, 2008, 20:46
Not for me, but I can see why it has for a lot of other people. For me, a movie needs to have the basic elements of great story, great dialogue and great acting. Effects are important, too, but not so much as the other three things and to completely discredit a movie because one movies effects aren't on level with anothers by even a percent is crazy to me. Maybe they should just close their eyes and imagine it if what they are seeing is so god-damn awful.
Posted on Thursday May 1, 2008, 21:27
The Hobbit with fingerbobs... I would love to see that.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is all I have to say on this topic =D lol
Posted on Thursday May 1, 2008, 22:39
I've started dreaming as if the characters are CGI constructions i guess the movies are feeding into the makeup of my unconcious, maybe i should call them DGI dreams.
Even when an effect is cheap it seems to stands up better years later, gremlins may be a bit wonky at times but damn if they have a prescense on screen that a even the Deamons on (oscar winning effects) Golden Compass couldn't beat IMO.
Posted on Thursday May 1, 2008, 22:57
i dunno, im not overly fussy unless somthing moves in a particularly odd way (in that it doesnt usually or isnt meant to) other than that i dont mind unrealistic cgi usually. In many ways it can be used to enhance the feel.
Posted on Friday May 2, 2008, 07:29
yes but punchdrunk.... Golden compass should never have won that. It was a shoddy film, and no where near the level of Transformers...
Example of how great Digital effects can look... Wall-E That first trailer where he's shifting through the rubiish, with the dust swirling around him, absolutely phenomonal! When audiences get used to awesome quality effects, thats what they come to expect, and when a film doesnt deliver, or doesnt APPEAR to deleiver, then people get annoyed...
chola1, what would you prefer us to base our opinions of the movie on? Trailers should be enough to pique our interest, after all many of the public who dont read film mags it'll be the only way they'll have of getting an ideaof the film, and if the trailer lets us down, then doesnt that hint that the movie will to? You're right, no-one should make any definate judgements till after they've seen the finished product, but we can at least admit that first impressions aren't looking to great right now... Not terrible, but perhaps not what people were expecting.
I personally thought the first trailer was awful but this one is alot better... It's still low on my 'most anticipated' list but i'm pre-deposed to not like it as I've never liked the Hulk as a character.
Posted on Friday May 2, 2008, 08:17
From what I can gather there is no good CG in the incredible Hulk (of the dead). Spiderman 3 featured far superior CG to the other 2 movies, but it sucked. Same with Jurassic Park 3. T2 and Jurassic Park were great movies, but because there was a reason for the special effects, they were neccesary.
Posted on Friday May 2, 2008, 09:53
Bring back the life and death stunts of Indiana Jones, James Bond etc because they always impress audiences. Films should only have special effects when its completely nessecesary. Speial effects can amaze audiences (Transformers) but not as much when something is done for real.
Posted on Friday May 2, 2008, 12:14
Think about it... the best Star Wars films were / are / unarguably the 3 originals! Apart from the fact that they ROCK... they looked REAL... no CG in sight... and that's why they worked... the new ones were great & all that, but you just didn't get a sense that the Characters were real. I think CG has it's place... but characters? Nah... never works... KEEP IT REAL HOLLYWOOD... KEEEEEP IT REAL!
Posted on Friday May 2, 2008, 12:43
Maybe it's just me, but I kinda think the Hulk CG looks okay. Not pant-wettingly awesome, but pretty good. It is certainly fair to say that Spiderman 3 was an example of bad CG - the fight sequences all displayed 'weightless' figures in a way that did take you out of the film. With regards to CG it's that kind of thing which takes me out the film - like some of the lesser bits the burly brawl in Reloaded.
Posted on Friday May 2, 2008, 12:54
People only expect effects to be up to the highest standards of the day. Take Superman 4 for example, upon release the effects in that film were rightly decried as being terrible, but only in comparison to the original's effects.
My problem with CGI is one that affects film geeks and no one else. Effects are so much less romantic now. Whereas in the past we would find out through occasionally screended TV "movie magic" shows and magazine articles that the effects we knew and loved where painstakingly created by artisans and craftsmen who spent months conjuring with chemicals, rubber, puppets and explosives to create and effect that they would only ever have "one of two chances at". There was a physicality to stunts and effects where we knew, in some remote part of out hindbraind that "somebody actually made that".
Now, with the advent of DVD and special features as standard it's not just that we don't wonder how effects were created, we don't care either. We know the answer...a guy on a computer made them. On a personal level I don't find guys talking about wire frame animation and rendering times half as cool as seeing Rob Bottin or Rick Baker talking me through how they had to set the man in the animatronic wolf/monkey costume on fire while making tentacles emerge from a head that was simultaneously inflating.
But like I said, it's probably a geek thing as most people don't seem to care.
Posted on Friday May 2, 2008, 14:03
It was interesting that after the first Star wars prequel they went back to puppets no matter how good the CGI was there was something great about the way frank Oz could bring the puppet to life better than the computer simulated Yoda...
Posted on Friday May 2, 2008, 14:44
I think the problem is that effects are now in that annoying grey area between real and fake. A few years ago, they were either so unrealistic that you suspended belief, or so bad you overlooked them.
With modern films, lots of shots look 'almost' real, but that question mark ultimately spoils everyone from detaching themselves and enjoying the flicks for what they are.
I agree though - great article. I think the return to 'real effects' is a massive trend in Hollywood right now. Just look at Batman Begins (which only used very sparse and cleverly dark CGI), the departure on Casino Royale from the disgustingly awful effects on Die another day, Bourne doing everything in camera, etc.
The trouble comes with a film like Hulk or Spiderman, when there really is no other alternative. And in that case, maybe you're better off not trying to be hyperreal...
It's odd, but some things just don't work in live action. Much as I love Batman Begins for example, the animated flick Mask of the Phantasm still nails the human character much more...
Or maybe it's just that we're all getting older and expect too much?
Posted on Friday May 2, 2008, 15:47
I think the problem is that CGI is often now so good that we don't have to suspend disbelief. That makes the 'errors' that much more glaring. I think this is a problem with almost any aspect of a film. For example, I am very familiar with the workings of the legal system in the States. When films make major errors in courtroom protocol (such as Philadelphia, despite all its other brillance), it pulls me out of the film. I no longer see the story, I see the errors. However, when films decide to disregard reality all together (such as Legally Blond), I find it very easy to sit back, suspend disbelief and enjoy the film. That's probably why animantronics still works so well. Its not that we no longer have the ability to use our immaginations, its that we need to be asked to apply them consistently, not only at specific moments.
Posted on Friday May 2, 2008, 16:03
I blame Steven Speilberg for making Jurassic Park so damn good ;)
Posted on Friday May 2, 2008, 16:17
I totally agree with you, Olly.
When I watch 'Blade Runner' I can see the miniatures, the matte paintings and the composite shots. But no-one complains that they can see the seams.
CG is just another imperfect cinematic tool. But it is one that has freed filmmakers' abilities to push the 100 year old medium of cinema in new directions.
Posted on Friday May 2, 2008, 17:10
I personally didn't think that the CGI in the new Hulk trailer looked all that bad - am I missing something?
Theres nothing wrong with the odd "below Par" special effect in a movie, well.... except that surfing iceburg scene in Die Another Day "Shudder"
Posted on Friday May 2, 2008, 17:14
CGI has ruined effects work anyway. I rarely, if ever, connect with big effects pictures now because for all the detail and snazziness, I'm always completely aware that it's CGI and that actually I'm looking at nothing. It's hard to describe exactly, but no matter how 'impressive' (and I use that term almost ironically) the computer effects are, they always feel hollow, lacking in artistry and effort. On the other side of the coin, while the Harryhausen models might look a bit daft, they're the tangible work of skilled artists who have had to do a hell of a lot more than press some buttons to get them on screen- that they're there and somehow work beautifully, is far more impressive than any CG I've ever seen (that's not to say there isn't bad model work either- witness the later Gojira pictures for example). The original Kong model is a thing of real beauty and character (his nose wrinkles!), it is the fact that he's actually THERE and the product of so much hard manual work, along with the fantastic storytelling and directing obviously, that makes him so memorable. The godawful Jackson remake version might have gone ice-skating and had fully rendered fur effects, but the ape just felt like every other empty CGI creation I've ever seen. No character, no beauty, no artistry- just an image pasted onto a green screen. Same goes for stuntwork and such- look at the difference between how amazing the free running sequence in Casino Royale was compared to any of the nonsense in Die Another Day. Let's hope Indiana keeps it nice and old-fashioned. Technology can never replace true artistry.
Posted on Friday May 2, 2008, 17:27
When a filmmaker uses CGI as a tool in order to tell a story that without CGI wouldn't have been possible, then it becomes a potentially powerful instrument. T2, Jurassic Park, The Matrix and Lord of the Rings are all wonderful examples. However, when CGI is used to compensate for lazy storytelling it's another thing entirely, and nowadays that seems to be the rule and not the exception. It's not that were spoiled because visual effects have become more sophisticated, it's that we've become bored by filmmakers who think digital effects are the holy grail of modern cinema and that story and character are secondary priorities.
Posted on Friday May 2, 2008, 17:57
I agree that debating the 'realism' of something which could not exist in the real world is slightly ridiculous but there's ample examples of good and bad CGI these days. Too often, I think, directors rush to the computer generated outlet for their imaginations without considering low tech solutions that are often far more effecive. A case in point: millions must have been spent rendering the laughably un-scary 'vampires' in I Am Legend (not to mention the ropey looking lion family at the start). Danny Boyle achieved many more frights in 28 Days Later on a shoestring budget by slapping some make up on some extras and careful choice of shots / editing. Jasper makes a good point that flashy visuals are too often used in an attempt to compensate for weak story and 2 dimensional characters. As our ability to be blown away by CGI lessens, we're bound to become more critical. There's so much of it now-a-days, people are becoming de-sensitized to it.
Posted on Friday May 2, 2008, 18:00
I reckon the Hulk should be pretty cool. I agree with Olly, we have become too picky as movie goers.
The main problem for me with CGI is when they do those huge sweeping shots over, around, upside down and then out the other side. You KNOW that no camera operator has gone swinging about on wires to get the shot and it all looks too perfect.
As a fully paid up member of the old and grumpy club I have, on occasion been known to moan on about how computers have brought action movies to a bit of an impasse, but really I think there's room for CGI, as long as it's not needless.
Hulk can never be real but then that's the fun isn't it??? Lou Ferigno in the TV series was excellent and they used the technology available to them at the time to make it look as cool as they could. Times change and movie budgets demand more return, so the effects get bigger to try and get more bums on seats.
Summer will have its CGI fests (Speed Racer, Iron Man, Hulk) and it will have movies less reliant on all that techno twiddling (the obvious one, it's out in May) and I'm sure there's room for all tastes....
But give me the old fashioned stuff any day!!
Posted on Friday May 2, 2008, 20:48
nail on the head. i look at independance day as the perfect modern benchmark of what you should be able to enjoy special-effects-wise. if you look at it and say "that's so fake" then you simply aren't going to enjoy movies.
i think the fault on the part of the filmakers is to create movies where the cg is only so imressive because it's the best so far. even look at the real modern marvels, such as the hulk, or gollum, and you'll see that it's just not the same now that you've seen something better.
I miss the 90s
Posted on Friday May 2, 2008, 22:27
To tell the truth, I prefer watching any film from before the mid 90's , Star Wars...Escape from New York, Pulp Fiction and so on. Don't get me wrong, I'm easy going and see many up to date releases. However, it's hardly rare to come across a mindblowing, intriquing, cinematic break through in modern cinema. Hollywood was at its pinacle once, when movie makers were using and experimenting practical techniques. Although there are quite astonishing, and phenomenal CGI results, I can't watch a movie full of FX with a bollocks story arc. For example, Transformers: Everyone was blowing off their rockers and I didn't particularly see what the big deal was? It had an alright cast, a likeable, nostalgic tendency which shined through only because many grew up watching the original cartoon...
I'm all for improving this, and supporting cinematic history, but I think there are different aspects which directors can focus on to make their mark. Instead of big explosions and a lot of bloody, mindless violence.
I remember recently hearing on a DVD commentary, "Soon we wont have to hire actors, they'll all be CGI"
I hope that's not the case.
Leave the full animation for the kid stuff.
I know many may disagree with me, but I have to say what I gotta say.
I'll forever rely on my DVD collection. Keep my fingers securely crossed.
'Cos once in a while, there's bound to be something breath taking.
Posted on Friday May 2, 2008, 23:32
I would argue that the whole purpose of special effects is to suspend the audience's disbelief. If the effects are not enough to convince the audience, then the cinematic illusion is broken and for want of a better phrase, you start picking holes in what you are seeing.
Case in point was that awful sequence in Die Another Day where Bond surfs a very naff looking digitally created wave. Ok, there was the awful invisible car before that, but the wave "stunt" really buried the film for me at that point.
I've just got back from Iron Man which is quite fun, but nothing special. However the effects are of a high enough standard where I didn't really question what I was seeing and just enjoyed it for what it was.
Unless there is a quantum leap forward in the quality of the Hulk's effects, then the second the big green giant appears on screen (three mins in according to the director), my belief in that film will be shattered.
That's my two pence worth anyway. On an unrelated note, if you're watching Iron Man, be sure to stay for the post credits scene.
Posted on Friday May 2, 2008, 23:39
CGI and Animation is not just for kids !!!
Its a shame one of the reviewers thinks "Leave full animation for kids" - this shows how backwards some people still are.
When CGI works well eg. T2, Jurassic Park, LOTR trilogy, Matrix, Transformers, Iron Man - it greatly enhances the film and bring a "Wow" factor to films - which is why I usually pay money to go to the cinema. I can watch dramas/documentaries on TV.
When the CGI is dire eg. the Space Monkey in "Lost in Space", Peter Parker crawling up the wall in Spider-Man 1 and the new Hulk trailer - I suspect not enough research was conducted or the main purpose is simply to sell "toys". You then have a "Groan" factor replacing the "Wow" factor.
Posted on Saturday May 3, 2008, 00:26
I don't think it's an issue of something being unrealistic in the sense of something has to exist in the real world for you to believe it. I think it's more if something is tangible in the scene. For example, when I watch 'Jurassic Park' I know Spielberg ain't filming real dinosaurs, but I know that he is filming a real dinosaur suit or animatronic. The fact that it exists and is tangible makes it far more realistic than most (I'm not saying all) CGI.
CGI is fantastic. I think it's the most important thing to happen to cinema in decades BUT I also think the market is now saturated with CG fest movies made by filmmakers who really don't understand fully what effects can do for their movies beyond the very, very obvious. Bad CG stands out like a sore thumb more than bad model work or bad creature work and it's also harder to forgive i think, because it can lack soul. And a large portion of that has to be attributed to its intangible nature.
I don't think high audience expectation is the problem (if it wasn't high then filmmakers wouldn't have to strive to break new ground in the films they present to us, so that's no bad thing) I just think it's a lack of understanding of how to get the most out of effects ( just look at Jackson or Del Toro or Cameron for guys who know how to use effects!) and instead of exploring options, filmmakers are going instead for the shinest, newest toy on the market - CGI. Give it another ten years and people will have moved on and CG will be once again only be used to enhance a movie rather than sell it.
Posted on Saturday May 3, 2008, 02:12
Judging by the Indiana Jones trailer there's a fair bit of CGI in the new movie (which can't be worse than some of the effects in The Last Crusade - but don't get me started on that). Look at the shot of the car driving close to the edge of the cliff in the new trailer. See how plastic the background looks against the actors' heads. Now compare it with...well, any shot from Raiders of the Lost Ark...
Know what I mean?
Posted on Saturday May 3, 2008, 09:48
Any chance this blog can be converted to a pop up that appears every time some armchair director/VFX co-ordinator whinges? Sums up my feelings on the matter perfectly.
Kudos to you Olly.
Posted on Saturday May 3, 2008, 14:05
Anyone who looks at the crap CGI of The Hulk and says they "don't expect it to be realistic"is using a poor excuse for crap FX.
We don't expect Gollum to be a real,living creature,but LOTR fx convinced that he is!
Posted on Saturday May 3, 2008, 14:17
Lets face the facts here people, CGI was the single biggest shift forward in film making since Sound and Technicolor. It enabled film makers to do things both in terms of camera work and effects that could never have been done otherwise. But the draw back to that is, as Olly mentioned, the loss of the magic of film making. No body thinks, "bloody hell, how did they do that?" anymore. Funnily enough, the last time I was actually blown away by a scene was the opening sequence of Casino Royale. There sheer athleticism and skill involved it that scene was breathtaking. And as far as I can see, invloved little or no CGI.
To give you another personal example, when I first saw The Matrix Reloaded at the cinema, the film was sold on the premise of it's cutting edge special effects. But to my mind, the most impressive scene was the fight between Neo and the Merrovingian's henchmen. Again, little or no CGI, but the sweat and the altleticism of the performers and the sheer genius of Wo Ping's cheorography. These are the scenes more often than not astound me.
No one can question that CGI has contributed to the advancement of cinema as an artform, but some have quite rightly questioned the over reliance of the technology. And does this over reliance subtract from the suspence of disbelif. The problem is, as it has always been in cinema, how do you make the unbelivable, belivable? And when they get it right, it can be quite phenomonal, the dinosaur effects in Jurrasic Park still look good even now (but that was complimented by the also excellent animatronics). But when they look crap, like Jumanji with its glass eyed lion, it can really ruin they effect the fimmakers are trying to acheive.
To conclude, it is a double edged sword, but when they get it right, CGI still stands out as being the most effective way of making us suspend our disbelif.
Posted on Saturday May 3, 2008, 17:09
CG is a lazy option and it creates a void between the real world and reality that all too frequently dilutes my viewing enjoyment.
From a film maker / producer's perspective, CG offers new levels flexibility. This often encourages ill considered staging and results in shoddy, over egged 'money shots'. CGI is a great tool and when done well (Pirates 2&3 / Transformers) it is convincing enough to suspend disbelief and advance the scope of the story.
I Am Legend and the recent Hulk films have missed a big trick. They are CGI renditions of human monsters so... Hulk : use a body builder, paint him green, introduce cutting edge prosthetics, give him ghoulish contact lenses (major freak out!), use false perspective and keying work to 'enlarge' him. How terrifying would that be?! A monster, just like the old TV series but brought right up to date! Good story, major bayhem backdrop, believable connections and emotions.
For me, the Hulk trailer is like watching Toy Story 10.5.0 blended with live action in some charmless take on Mary Poppins! Let's hear it for the rebels - Chris Nolan (Batman), Jon Favreau (Iron Man), Guillermo Del Toro (Hobbit etc.) who have used CGI sparingly and effectively combined with more than 100 years of other cinematic SFX techniques.
Posted on Saturday May 3, 2008, 17:22
Perfect example! CG scorpian on the new Indy trailer! I mean there's plenty of other CG work there but the CG scorpian does nothing to creep me out and I NEED TO BE CREEPED OUT BY INDY 4! I will actually never forgive Lucas if he's stopped Spielberg from getting his hands dirty!
Posted on Saturday May 3, 2008, 19:29
Blade Runner, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Close Encounters, Aliens, 2001 have the best special effects ever without computer enhancing. Star Wars was ruined by CGI
Posted on Sunday May 4, 2008, 09:05
I quote: I've done it myself, huffing through Spider-Man 3 about the fact that the giant man made of sand just didn't look like a real giant man made of sand. I base this complaint on precisely no experience of giant men made of sand, just a belief in what he should look like. Apparently my vision contrasted with those of the vastly more talented and able people at ILM (or whomever created it).
Thus proving that cg hasn't ruined our imaginations.
It's simply raised our expectations.
Posted on Sunday May 4, 2008, 12:17
I'd say, yes. Films like Apocalypse Now and Aguire Wrath of God mean something because they are real. CGI may let the imagination loose but there's no discipline, no relationship with reality. I like the blood, sweat and tears of staging real spectacular events rather than rendering them on a computer screen - that's not very impressive. www.filmslashmagazine.com
Posted on Sunday May 4, 2008, 13:03
I agree with everything you said Olly, except the last lines. Animatronics creep me out. I'd rather have thefake perfection of the one's and zero's from CGI. And you still need CGI (or reaaaaally good matte painting) to fill in the rest of the pictures. It ain't all in the characters.
Posted on Sunday May 4, 2008, 14:46
CG rocks. Anyone who says it's the downfall of cinema as we know it is just wrong. I have a great deal of respect for the older movies that employ miniatures and scale models. How can anyone not love the getaway vehicle in Aliens? Or the patrolling ship of death at the start of The Terminator? But when I see the Transformers in all their CG glory I don't think, "I wish Michael Bay had just got out his Transformer toys and used stop motion."
CG is a natural evolution of the art form. When it's done right, it;s beautiful, like the opening space battle in Episode 3 or the aforementioned Transformers. When it goes wrong though, you get The Rock in The Mummy Returns (which incidentally still gives me nightmares, but for the wrong reasons). But can't the same be said for the special effects of old?
Posted on Sunday May 4, 2008, 23:03
Personally i am throughly enjoying watching, and admiring, the technological advances of our time. I have recently watched the new Hulk trailer, as specifically discussed in the blog, and the new full length Hancock trailer; both are spectacular in terms of cgi. I feel peoples expectations are way too high in regards to movies heavy laden with cgi. Fair enough the Hulk is not ultra realistic but its damn near close! The progression cgi as achieved in the past decade or so is phenomenal. Pirates of the Carribean 3, Transformers, Lord of the Rings and the list goes on. This year promises to be one of the biggest tests for cgi especially with iron man, speed racer, hulk and hancock all released in relative close succession.
Posted on Monday May 5, 2008, 07:31
A special effect is to make something that is not real appear to be real, if it does not accomplish this then it should be cut from the film.
CGI has not killed our imaginations but it certainly has killed the quality of many films over the past years.
Cletus Van Damme
Posted on Monday May 5, 2008, 08:10
I agree Stucy. They should have gone the TV route and had a huge unknown painted green in the role. they could still have him chucking cars about, but now it just looks like a big car toon. There was somehting real about Lou Ferrigno, cos he was after all, real!!!
As for Olly's question about whether we should expect all CGI to be up to scratch.....Too bloody right we should, anything that looks shit should be dumped and the director shot. SOme of it is just plain lazy. Its not OUR imaginations that have been killed, its the film makers. Hulk would be so much better with a real bloke and complicated stunts, now we are just going to see a cartoon monster lifting a cartoon car fighting another cartoon monster.
Posted on Monday May 5, 2008, 10:32
It's the Uncanney Valley - effects are so close to being "real" now that we pick up on the stuff that's missing, rather than filling in the blanks ourselves.
Posted on Monday May 5, 2008, 20:59
All I know is that whenever I see an effects laden film I always believe the CGI characters to be a full part of the cast. Looking at the photo image from the Hulk of The Hulk and Tim Roth standing face to face I don't question either person not actually being there. That is good enough for me I have the wonderful Toy Story outtakes to thank for this belief.
Posted on Monday May 5, 2008, 23:48
Olly you are right but u forget to mention that we have come so far since that shot of the alien in the Abyss that now, as an audience we don't really CARE about the effects anymore. It's all been done. What we want now is a damn good story - which is what cinema is all about. When a bad effect comes on screen however, it reminds us that in this day and age...such a thing should not exist and it distracts us from the flow of the story. I agree with the Del Toro approach....anyone who has seen Pan's lab. will know what a wonderful experience it is to know something is not real but at the same time...not be 'fake'. There is really a guy in a suit. he is there. u can grab him (careful where...). An effect on the other hand...well it just leaves me cold nowadays. I don't say "WOW" anymore....Hell, i've even managed to replicate some of the effects in T2 with aftereffects....
here's hoping the new indiana jones does what it says on the tin. Real stunts. real action. and for eff sake...a real character.
Posted on Tuesday May 6, 2008, 09:26
This is why Cloverfield was such a fantastic film. The monster looked terrible, but the way in which its appearance was built up, through seeing it on news reports and flashing across the screen, and the POV filming, immersed you in a way that rendered the monsters special effects moot. Unfortunately this suggests that we have nothing left to gain from normal films, that we need to continually reinvent the way we watch films to believe them. However, having said that, when I watched Titanic the other day, the SFX are still better than anything thats been made since, and it really does make for realism. Therefore, once photorealism is being achieved more regularly, and someone can stand next to the hulk in the film without making him look bad, then suspension of disbelief will once again be possible..
Posted on Tuesday May 6, 2008, 11:34
Too Damn right, I say, roll on the hallucinogenic rainbow ride that is.....SPEED RACER!!!!
Posted on Tuesday May 6, 2008, 16:28
What I want to know is how come they can make an awesome live-action Hellboy but not a live action Hulk?
Posted on Tuesday May 6, 2008, 20:14
I think some of Jim Henson's Creature Workshop's output still beats some modern-day CGI. Film makers are too quick to jump to the CGI conclusion.
Posted on Tuesday May 6, 2008, 20:20
Hellboy has a more human size and wears a coat. That really helps a lot. If you put a man in a suit to play the Hulk, you get about the same effect as the rocky dude in Fantastic Four. Mike Chiklis played The Thing in a rubber suit, and it looked like a man in a rubber suit. Hulk would get the same bad effect.
Posted on Tuesday May 6, 2008, 21:58
King Kong wasted so much money creating a Creature that actually exists just much bigger couldn't they have just trained a gorrilla or a man in a suit to do that stuff on bluescreen?
I prefered the scene In "Human Nature" with a Hairy Patricia Arquette climbing on a Cardboard building and the small man flying around her to that CGI climax to The Kong Remake, Jackson said that if by by end you were not crying then he had failed, after three hours of a CG Gorrilla i was crying that I had wasted money on my cinema tickets! Don't get me started on the man eating Bugs scene...
Posted on Tuesday May 6, 2008, 23:42
Good CG is great, but I agree it is often used just to be lazy - to achieve effects cheaply and quickly that other directors would have problemsolved. One recent example I can point to is "I Am Legend". Dodgy darkseekers aside, the use of CG to create the empty cityscape was very well done and a highly appropriate use of technology. But, why, oh why, did they choose to have a really fake looking CG lion come out and attack the fake CG deer? This was right at the beginning and was really jarring. You can get real lions and animal trainers and achieved a much better scene - think how much better it would have been using a real lion. Instead, this ridiculous cartoon animal comes on screen and the audience reaction was to laugh - thus spoiling the atmosphere. Keep CG for realising the fantastic, not just as a cop-out.
Posted on Wednesday May 7, 2008, 07:37
I get the feeling that more and more Directors and Producers are simply saying "we'll do it on a computer - that will be easy" and then you get a Hulk that looks way to grainy on screen or a Daredevil that moves wrong...BUT...how else are they gonna do it?
Lest we forget that horrid 'Mr. Hyde' suit worn by Jason Flemyng in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Posted on Wednesday May 7, 2008, 09:18
The only reason it was possible to make Lord of the Rings were advances in realistic CGI (and is still the best example so far IMO), they brought the story to life. I've got serious reservations about Del Toro using animatronic for the Hobbit.
Posted on Wednesday May 7, 2008, 10:47
When the brain sees something that obviously isnt real, as in the original King Kong or the Skeleton battle, it allow you to accept it and move on. But when it it confronted with something that ALMOST there, it starts to fight. Beowulf was a fine example; though the animation was great, they decided to make some of the characters look a bit like they're real like counterparts - Antony Hopkins, Branden Gleeson etc - but changed them to make them look more of their time - bigger jaws, heavier brows etc. By doing this your brain spends all the time noticing the difference and cant settle down and enjoy it. Because they changes Ray Winstone completely we didn't have that problem and could accept Beowulf easier. The Hulk is so nearly there, that the brain want to believe it, but then sees the tiniest flaws and getting confused, pulling the viewer out of the movie. I dont think its about being spoilt, if it were we wouldn't be able to watch a pixar movie without moaning about the fact that Mr Incredible's chin is too big and his legs couldnt possibly hold all that upper body weight.
Posted on Wednesday May 7, 2008, 19:10
I first watched the trailer with a sense of excitement and must have watched it 3 or 4 times pausing it at times to see if I could catch anything I did not see the first, second or third time of watching and never once passed judgement on how the Hulk actually looked. I think for most because when I go see a film the most important thing is the story it's trying to tell.
When I showed it to my girlfriend the first thing she said was, "you'd think they would have learnt their lesson from the 1st film and made the Hulk more realistic". I then argued the point that it's CGI, it's not the final version, it'll look better on the big screen, anything to make me right that it looks like it's gonna be a great film.
Then on Monday night we went to see Iron Man and there in all it's glory was the new Hulk trailer... and it looked way more passable, even my girlfriend thought so, which got me thinking.
When we're looking at the trailer, in a well lit room, on a PC/laptop with a back lit display, in HD we spotted cartoon like aspects to the Hulk. Yet on a raw, grainy screen in a dimly lit cinema it looked better, and so therefore I now again look forward to seeing the big green monster smash everything up in its path!!
Posted on Thursday May 8, 2008, 15:48
The least amount of CG possibleshould always be the way...the Star Wars originals are frighteningly flawless compared to those that have followed ie. the battle droid/Gungan scrap at the end of Phantom Menace - that's like a poorly constructed computer game and is not why we fell in love with the Galaxy Far, Far Away in the fist place. CG Yoda is unfortunate too (although better than the spoof looking one that appeared in Phantom Menace) albeit necessary for the bout with Dooku.
However sometimes CG works brilliantly, ie the Kong v T-Rex battle in Jackson's remake.
Bring on Indy - real stunts, real explosions - for me that's brilliant filmmaking, not some clever guy sitting at a computer screen. Their geniusness should be saved for Toy Story and the like.
Posted on Friday May 9, 2008, 15:25
I think Olly is right. I mean, ok, some directors (like Lucas with the Star Wars prequels) use CGi as a way of making up the flaws AFTER pricipal photgraphy has finished 'we'll fix it in post' and CGI is used far too often as a lazy way of getting around a problem by some filmmakers.
BUT, more annoying than that is, reading constant comments from the 'THAT CGI IS AWFUL!' brigade is far more irritating that having to sit through the awful CGI. I watch a movie to escape into that world for 2 hours (especially if it's the middle bit of Beowulf with Angelina.... :) not so pick holes in the effects. What annoys me is that these people who cry foul of EVERY CGI shot in any movie / trailer is you never ever see them complain about the lighting, the costumes, the script. Just the CGI.
Indy has been denounced already by some people as the trailer has far too much CGI (it doesn't). Even before a movie has been released, people are complaining about the CGI, which is ludicrous.
There are lazy directors who see CGI as a way of making things easier. Fair enough. But there are also far FAR too many armchair computer graphics wizards who moan as soon as anything resembling a CGI creation shows itself on screen.
Posted on Friday May 9, 2008, 23:01
In my opinion the CG in the Hulk trailer looks too fake. I think the term self-restraint comes to mind. Less is more with CG, it's the reason why the first film was so shit. Eric Bana was OK, the film was just too long and the CG was too much. I agree and think that the film should have taken some pointers from the old TV series, by using a body builder (who slightly resembles a human), and airbrushing. To be honest, I wasn't particularly looking forward to the film anyway: a film that is not a sequel and not a prequel, but a film to make you forget that the first one ever existed! What the hell is that all about?
Posted on Sunday May 11, 2008, 16:17
Its weird - but totally completely true. Looking at films like Independance day, with the Fire coming down the streets etc, I remember thinking wow its real, how did they do that, but like we've all said, we know how its done these days.
Like some people have said - we don't have high standards for everything, but with a film like the hulk trying to sell it self mainly on us having relate and understand the feelings of a 9 foot green monster, it has to be believable. Some films have done it very well, like in POTC the pirate monsters look completely real, I know they arent but there's no glitches or anything, so you don't get distracted by imperfections and you enjoy the story as it goes on.
If a film is trying to sell us special effects then they need to be up to scratch. And like I've said on another forum - these Current Hulk Trailers - I hope - aren't finished products. We waited a long time to get a trailer for the film, and when the first trailer released, there was an interview with one of the production guys saying that [roughly] 'The effects were at a stage that we thought was good enough to get into a trailer' - which to me says that the whole CG for the film isn't complete yet. But they haven't got much time left to get it right! I hope they do though. :)
Posted on Wednesday May 14, 2008, 11:05
Just another point of view to throw into the hat...
My cousin works for WETA and worked on both King Kong and Return of the King. Despite the success of these film he has stated he will never watch them, reason....the cgi work is unfinished and he can see all the errors left in.
While budgets and more importantly pre set release dates dictate when a film actually comes out the CG teams will never finish the work in the way they want to, and the animation will never look real.....
Posted on Saturday May 24, 2008, 22:00
Google Roman Drake and "ANGELA" to watch the student film of the month
Posted on Monday May 26, 2008, 14:50
I know this is an "old" blog, but hey, I'm a slow reader! ;)
I think the problem is that CGI is a one-stop answer to every effects requirement and we no longer appreciate the artists sat behind the computer. There is no real difference between ILM and WETA anymore. In fact, they're almost in a race. They're taken for granted, faceless geeks, and we expect them to produce photo-real images regardless of which effects company they work for. All based on the fact we've seen so many examples, we know what's possible and therefore there are no surprises. Years ago, seeing effects develop was part of the fun, like Tom Savini getting better through Romero's zombie films. Now "getting better" is just another processor or another gig of RAM.
I wish they'd take a step back. I liked the old stop motion and I think it takes more skill and integrity to pull it off. Or just simple old fashioned gore and make-up! Can you imagine what the Thing would be like today? I just like knowing the effects guy is on the set, painting, building, smashing and getting stuck in. I don't like the idea that a typical director completes his film and most of it's green and then the CGI colours it in (Sin City).
Posted on Wednesday May 28, 2008, 01:12
It all depends on what the movie aims to be....
Take "Speed Racer" with it's cartoon-ey and fun animations; you won't hear many people complain because it's supposed to look that bit more wacky. Or the new Peter Pan which was again, purposefully, very cartoon-ey.
But The Hulk or other such movies, the CGI is aimed to blend seamlessly. Let's be honest, bad CGi is always bad CGI, no matter when it was made, and if somethings not right it's just our nature to complain, just like if the script wasn't right or and actor can't be arsed. We wouldn't be asked to use our imagination to forgive hollow dialogue, why should the computer effects be any different?
damn im good!
Posted on Wednesday May 28, 2008, 14:37
I can't believe the idiotic coments on here. They say you should read every email you write several times before you send in order to not be total tool. People should read their comments on Empire as well!
The Hulk doesn't look real enough? What? PJ's King Nong had no emotion? Digital Characters suck? What am I hearing?
I give up. I really do. Movies are not real people. Monsters don't exist. Do you want a low budget remake of the Lou Ferinog made for TV Hulk? Or do you want an big 10 foot tall car smashing Hulk?
On a personal note I get hacked off when they use CG to replace people a'la The Matrix fight and the duel in Blade 2. It's something to do with the way the limbs don't actually bend properly. Anyone else noticed that? Rthaer than an elbow it's like a curve!
Anyway. If you don't like it, don;t watch it. Movies are all about suspending disbelief, so suspend it and shut up!
Posted on Thursday May 29, 2008, 23:25
Guess I'm the only one in here who saw, in Persepolis, what he'd been missing after watching years of CGI.
Read a book a while back about some Jewish feller who painted the crucifiction with his own parents faces. So-so book but it had an amazing couple of pages where he went into a Jewish primary school and described impressionism and how an exaggeration of size gives an impression of mood and how this was an advance on photorealism(example: childish drawing of a ram, realistic drawing of a ram, drawing of a ram with its horns horns pronounced, implying power and threat). Maybe movies are ageing through the same stages. I hope they are because that means there will be some amazing visual spectacles to come. Roll on Damian Hirsts' first flick.
Posted on Friday May 30, 2008, 13:17
There seems to be a few odd arguments here relating to people's perception of 'real' objects rendered in CGI. Simply saying that a monster isn't going to look realistic because it's a monster is ridiculous - 10ft-tall green hulks don't exist but they, like many film monsters/creations, are still recognisably based on things that do exist - human body forms, other existing animals etc. - and we can relate them in our minds and reasonably conceive of how they should look and, more importantly, move and interact with their environment.
A few criticisms aimed at the first Spiderman film sum this up well: it wasn't that the swinging Spidey looked un-human like, but that it didn't have the weight and force that we can imagine a human spider would do swinging between skyscrapers, which rendered it unbelievable. It's a problem with CGI in particular, rather than special effects in general, and I don't think the original comparison with Harryhausen etc. is valid; models and stop-motion animation may be recognisably 'unreal' but they still had a physicality borne of actually existing in the first place in some form. The problem with almost-but-not-quite-photo-realistic CGI is that it lacks this, being entirely a virtual creation. It's less of a problem with animals/aliens etc. perhaps, but with human-like creations the sense of something just not being 'quite right' can be very off-putting. Like a bad painting of a human face, we are so familiar with the form that even the slightest deviation in structure or tone is noticeable.
And I agree with many of the points here in that it's too easy for directors to think of CGI as a patch for bad writing/editing etc. A few exceptions aside (Speed Racer et al) most CGI is used to convince us of something existing within the real world - be it a flood, monster, ocean liner - and surely effective CGI isn't really that removed from visual effects in ultimate intent: we're supposed to notice the result but not the effects behind it.
Posted on Sunday June 1, 2008, 16:50
I must say I do also agree, its not that I don’t like CG but I find in this day and age it’s used all too much. People don’t put as much effort in as they used to. I look back at films like Jaws and Jurassic Park, they didn’t use a load of CG to get to good effects, they used animatronics and they worked just fine.
It does have its place in the world but I think that movie makes shouldn’t go over kill on it, try and find ways to be creative. Use different lighting or camera angles.
Posted on Tuesday June 3, 2008, 12:46
A quote from Jurassic Park seems to fit this discussion:
"Your scientists (filmakers) were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should."
Anyone remember the rumour that Back to the Future had on 32 special effects shots in the whole film? Now how would that film have turned out if they did have CGI at their disposal? The time machine would have ended up powered by a nuclear explosion from the 50's as per the original script which would have been no way nearly as dramatic as Doc hanging from a clock trying to catch lightning.
I do like some CGI and it does have a place in modern filmaking, the likes of Transformers & Speed Racer (which I love) could never have been made without it. But some films use CG to try and create a reaction when its not necessary.
Take Indy & KOTCS for example. That nuke was totally unnecessary, as was the Close Encounters/Mummy ending. In fact if those points weren't in the film and it was done differently, say not showing ET and merely having the beams come out of the skulls to destroy the Russian woman, it would have been more in keeping with how Raiders looked and made the film more enjoyable instead of the slur on the Indy legacy it turned out to be. And don't even get me started on those gophers and the ants.
In short, sometimes less is more.
Posted on Tuesday June 10, 2008, 08:31
Killed our imaginations? Maybe not. Jaded us to just how large and tecnically professant film is becoming these days, surely. However, there is time and place for CG and it seems that Hollywood in general has lost sight of this. Don't get me wrong, I think the Hulk looks great. Sure its not 100%, but its about a giant green comicbook character, for crying out loud. Films of a comicbook/fantasy nature, Transformers (possibly the best CG/live action mix since Starship Troopers), Spiderman, even Sin City are much better than they could ever have been just 10 years ago. The problem arises when producers, directors, use CG when it is for CG's sake. I Am Legend: Great story, better book, should have been made with minimal CG, yet the villains were completely computer generated. Then there's the trend of Beowulf. A group of some of the best actors money can buy, scanned and comp'ed into a fantasy film to make them look like, themselves? This is a strange move. Basics is what it's all about. CG when it serves, not when its cheaper or for 'wow' value.
Balian of Ibelin
Posted on Tuesday June 10, 2008, 14:01
I personally love CGI and that doesn't mean I have no imagination. We can all imagine things but CGI shows us our imaginations and it amazes us. Sometimes I doubt my imagination and then I see things in films which I think, 'could that really happen?' Well, until CGI, I wasn't sure and now I know. Recently saw Indy 4 and loved all the CGI, especially the rainforest chase scene and all the BIG creatures. Before CGI, you could see the not so imaginative glass between Indy and the dreaded snakes. Now there are no boundaries and real fear when giant insects and reptiles attack!!!
Posted on Wednesday July 16, 2008, 12:43
It comes down to this ...use CGI cleverly and it enhances a film. Use it lazily and tactlessly as a replacement for good directing and it sticks out like a sore thumb.
It ultimately depends on how good the film is. Leave the audience bored and disappointed and they have plently of time to pick apart the special effects.