Is bad CGI ruining movies? A nuanced critique

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Most anime is more-or-less cel drawn, so when CGI shows up, it’s so noticeable it’s a TV Trope. Occasionally it’s well done, but mostly annoying.


Hell, I’d say good CGI is ruining movies. People stopped writing interesting characters in exchange for having a tornado pick up a cow or Will Smith beat up an alien. The whole Transformers series is nothing but great CGI work but they are terrible, terrible movies.


That’s my one and only issue with Spirited Away. The whole thing is a feast for the eye but the little bits of 3D are really jarring. It’s not because they’re poorly done but because it’s a completely different, mismatched visual texture.


Not to mention Avatar. Everybody was blue in the face (see what I did there) from swooning over it because of the 3D and CGI. The effects were cool, but the story was a mediocre noble white savior/Disney Pocahontas trope we’ve seen hundreds of times.


If the 2007 Beowulf movie had every CGI scene simply cut and not replaced with live action, it would have been much better. :smiley:

I find that usually, movies with bad CGI are also bad for other reasons.

There’s a lot to be said for suspension of disbelief. This also brings to mind the old Nickelodeon show Lights! Camera! Action! and a segment on the making of Krull. The voiceover narration had a line about how sometimes filmmakers will focus on special effects at the expense of story and character.

It wasn’t explicitly aimed at Krull, but when I saw it I thought, yeah, that’s the case here.


You’re describing how bad movies try using GI as a crutch. Look at how blade runner final cut used CG. N new scenes. Just cleanup and supporting practical effects.

Look at Fury Road. Hell there’s a lot of movies where cgi is there but arn’t action movies for the sake of getting a perticular look.

as the video stated, done right and you’ll never realize it was there.

As for Avatar’s OH LOOK AT THE CGI! LOOK AT IT!’ I personally think Tron Legacy will age better. Geometric shapes, plus they actually used setpieces for the bits characters walk on an augment with green-screen. It isn’t the best movie in the world, but neither was Tron. It isn’t as groundbreaking, but the setpieces and cg serve the story.


I am indeed. And without CGI they simply would not be made.

Fury Road was more practical effects than CGI and CGI was used to color correct and fill in backgrounds for the most part. Similar to how it was used for O Brother, Where Art Thou? Fury Road involves actually placing a real camera somewhere and real cars and actually shooting a movie, this is a rarity. Jurassic World involved Chris Pratt pretending to face down three green globes in a green room, or a CGI camera that moves around space in a way induced to create drama but not actually doing so.


Bad CGI is mostly appalling when they start replacing actors with hand animated CGi clones.

All it really takes to make it look good is to have an actor in the scene, whether with mo-cap or as a guide for animators like in Rango.

Oh and of course, the cheapening of cgi action sequences give rise to every action movie having an ILM city destroying sequence usually involving giant metal snake monster things a la Transformers and Avengers.


After awhile cgi movies just kind of melt into one big explosion battle that no one really cares about.




I rather thought that most anime was digitally drawn, that we got rid of painted cels years ago.

CGI in anime got a bit better. the fake back ground characters are always terrible, but that’s just a budget issue.

When done well though, it can be great:

Exactly. This recent piece on the making of Robot Overlords, details how much planning went into the film’s ~265 VFX, from the earliest stages of its conception. It’s not really the focus of the story, but at no point do they talk about developing the story, probably explaining why it gets a 21% on Rotten Tomatoes and 4.5 on IMDB.

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Some quotes from an interesting review:

There is so much CG work in this movie, it’s hard to fathom. Miller […] made a movie FOR people who worship practical effects. . .and he did it all with CGI. And the audience is going INSANE for the results. They believe. He told them “It’s all real,” he lied to them, and they believed it.


The vehicles you see in the movie are almost never moving. They’re sitting still, propped up on what are essentially airbags. The airbags allow the crew to bounce the trucks around, they are so severely agitated, they can literally throw people off the truck with the force. But the truck is always sitting in one place.


There are scenes where Charlize Theron is talking, and those are her lips moving, but they’re her lips from a different shot, a pickup months later, from a different angle and a different distance, matted together seamlessly using CGI.

Does anyone else know how true this is?

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Yup, writing, writing, writing. I’ve said for years Toy Story would have been a great movie hand animated with stick figures. As others have said, the only way VFX can ruin a movie is if the creators think it’s a substitute for good writing. I recently heard an interview with Inside Out director Pete Docter where he talks about the Pixar writing process, how they have a series of crits on a script and don’t do a movie till the writing is up to par. Other studios will have a release date long before the writing is done, and whatever gets on screen, so be it.

I don’t believe there’s no good writers out there. I believe the people who claw their way to the top in Hollywood today wouldn’t know a good script if it bit them. There’s a famous story about a frustrated writer who sent out to studios the script to Casablanca under the title “Everyone goes to Ricks”. Only a fraction of the recipients recognized the story, and none of those who didn’t were interested in further development.


Adding this, because I saw it the other day and it seems relevant.

finished scripts often lag behind the key special-effects sequences, which are devised early so mockups around which actors can be directed are ready when shooting starts. Screenwriters, says Pearce, are often left to link the showpieces as best as they can.

Yeah, it’s not just the actual CGI; it’s that because the writers have access to these effects, so many movies just seem to be a collection of impossible fight scenes and chases. They’re so LOUD.


“Are bad synthesizers ruining pop music?”