Friday, January 13, 2012

CGI is ruining everything

Having recently seen Rise of The Planet of The Apes I think it's high time we discuss the direction that special effects have been heading in cinema for the last 20 years.  One of my favorite movies of all time is James Cameron's Aliens which came out in 1986, and I am happy to say, that watching that same movie 16 years later, the special effects still hold up.  But how could this be possible?  Did they even have computers back then?  How could anyone possibly render a realistic looking xenomorph on an Apple II?  What do you mean all of the creatures in Aliens were people in costumes and highly detailed moving models?  All kidding aside, take a good look at the effects in Aliens then pop in Alien 3 and tell me, which movie looks dated? 
Recently movies like Avatar, Tron: Legacy, and Rise of the Apes, have boasted the use of image capture technology.  Using hundreds of sensors placed on an actors face and body it is possible to get an incredible amount of detail on faces, and expressions.  In movies like Avatar where most of film is shot using the image capture tech, the effects work, beacuse of consistency,  the indigenous humanoids in Avatar all exist in the same space.  Now I am not saying that I think Avatar was a great movie, but there is no denying it's achievment in a visual sense, there were times that I didn't even think about the fact that I was watching one giant special effect.  But in films like Rise of The Apes, there is something that just looks wrong.  The apes look almost cartoonish, they are so clearly a special effect that I don't for a moment believe that they are truly interacting with the environment around them, or the people in the scene.  It seems that the films using fantasic model making and amazing costume design are fewer and farther between, I can only hope that in the future, movie makers will be able to opt for a CGI effect over a classic one because it looks better, not because it's easier, or simply available. 

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