I was watching Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull again the other day on Sky HD. It struck me how different it felt from the previous Indiana Jones films and I think I know the reason why. CGI. It’s an effect that I also noticed on the latest James Bond film, Quantum of Solace. The cgi was jarring.
Now, both those films in the past tended to have purely physical effects, great stuntmen and elaborate sets and effects. The last two installments of these films had some physical effects in, but they also had a great deal of cgi stuntwork. Gone are the days when a stunt really got your nerves jangling at the ‘apparent’ danger involved. These days, anything which is deemed too dangerous for a stuntman or actor to do is replaced with CG actors. The inherent problem is with these is that generally, the cg actor is forced to perform some unnatural stunt, needing the aid of an animator to keyframe the action. It’s this which makes the action sequence a part of ‘uncanny valley’. By uncanny valley, I mean that you can tell there’s something not quite right with the actor, in the fact that he or she is performing a routine that couldn’t possibly be done in real life. Look at the stunts Wesley Snipes does in Blade 3 for instance. They morph from the real actor into this video game character who somersaults around the screen. Whenever I see a stunt performed that is so obviously created with a CG actor, it pulls me out of the film. Makes me think I’m watching an animated movie.
It seems that if a stunt isn’t possible to do with real people, then it shouldn’t be done. Don’t replace those actors with CG counterparts as we the audience can tell the difference, however minute.
That’s not to say all CG doesnt have it’s uses. Take Cloverfield for instance. The film wouldnt have been possible to create without the use of the in camera computer graphics. I don’t think it would work with purely physical effects. It also has it’s uses in creating invisible CG. The kind of effects that used to be done with travelling matte paintings. They’ve really improved with the advent of CGI.