How CGI Ruins Modern Cinema

Graham Host
Movies Doctor Who
Movies Doctor Who Star Trek

The old Incredible Hulk program – worth a watch and funny with age – ran for five seasons and spawned three films. During his forays into feature length, Banner met Thor, fought alongside Daredevil and ultimately met his end. During all that time, there was only a changing animation, two different actors for Banner and Hulk and a tub of green paint. By contrast, the modern Hulk is a man in a leotard with some reference spots.

Mark Ruffalo Avengers Set

With so much techno-wizardry going on after the filming, a career in acting has become less and less real than it was to begin with. Despite the cheesy acting of styrofoam walls being thrown around, you can actually see the cast working to create the proper effect with what they have. There weren’t many special effects because they cost far too much. Now, cinema replaces rocks with green cushions to edit in the right lighting.

Think about the recently released Star Trek: Beyond. The latest in the Kelvin Timeline of films, I have no doubt that it is crammed full of exciting phaser fights, McCoy being forced to remind his crew that he is just a doctor – not anything else – and starships cruising through the final frontier. But I watched the trailers with gusto without realizing that the big bad of the film is Idris Elda, hidden beneath several layers of computer imagery. If it hadn’t been for a news article, I would probably still be none the wiser.

star trek beyond

Back in 2009, nobody was sure of how the Star Trek reboot would go. Yet the new crew were portrayed well and people liked the inclusion of Leonard Nimoy’s Spock alongside the replacement Zachary Quinto. But little acting actually goes on. Running across an ice planet from a big red tentacled creature is possibly one of the greatest fleeings I’ve ever seen but it could be done with a treadmill and some green background.

Star Trek Kirk Hengrauggi Delta Vega

By contrast, Shatner and the gang had a teenage boy who could roll his eyes back in his head and a rain-stick. And those times the ship came under fire? Remove the rotating camera and the illusion of imminent danger almost falls away – almost. The way the crew throws themselves around is marvellous fun, even without the camera tilt.

Star Trek Original Series Stabilized Camera

Good enough for the Queen, but not good enough for modern filmmaking

Possibly the moment that will really hit it all home is a tale from the filming of the first of The Hobbit films. According to several reports, Sir Ian McKellen himself – although you might know him better as Gandalfbroke down in tears. With twelve dwarves and a hobbit to his tall Man, the studio decided to film the Gandalf portions with green screen and edit it in later. McKellen had to imagine that each lump of green had just delivered their lines and how he had to react. The strain of this had him break down in tears and say “This is not why I became an actor”.

Ian McKellen Green Screen Crying Hobbit
CGI green screens for company

Being a seasoned actor, McKellen has been forced to watch as acting takes a back seat on the stage with CGI and computer technicians taking the fore. Back in the original Lord of the Rings films, standing in the backround was enough for forced perspective to do the works. So much cheaper than computer animations,

I willingly admit, good CGI can increase the quality of a show as much as bad CGI ruins it. But regardless of good or bad CGI, the acting community suffers in both instances. There is a blooper from Guardians of the Galaxy where Michael Rooker (Yondu) walks a few steps too far on Morag and the camera passes over the edge of the green screen in the background, ruining the effect. Come to that, even the ‘rocks’ in the foreground aren’t real – just more shapeless blobs of green. If we keep going, entire films will be done with only a handful of stuntmen and a few technicians to add the action.

Graham Host is a member of the Fan Contributor program. In his spare time, he enjoys the works of Terry Pratchett, DC Comics and a wide assortment of video games. Under no circumstances should he be fed after midnight.
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