CGI: three letters that are as divisive as any in moviemaking, particularly among the rising stars and purists.
Computer Generated Imagery have become the fallback of seemingly every movie made in the last 15 years.
Is CGI really worth the cost?
If you are the creator of Frozen or Monster Inc., you probably think so. Then again, a single frame Monsters, Inc. took 29 hours to create. The whole movie took over 100 million hours on computers. There are well over 500 animators who worked on Frozen. Movies like Star Wars: Episode 4 are not any less fun to watch than Episode 7 because of the CGI.
Most CGI films take over five years, like Brave, which took 6 years. By contrast, Fantasia took less than 4 years to make and that included getting a world-class conductor to record the music.
The Transformers franchise, most of the Marvel films, and it seems nearly every other film have CGI in them. For example, in the movie John Wick, the producers paid $5,000 to put in a CGI dog poop. Go back and read that again so you get how stupid that is. Real dog poop is free and you can be sure the prop department has lots of fake poop lying around. Other CGI idiocy includes the creation of pubic hair for 50 Shades of Grey and a ridiculous pear scene (yes, pear, as in the fruit) from Star Wars: Episode 2.
For some filmmakers, like Christopher Nolan, who directed The Dark Knight, this is all a bit much. He still works in real film and his movies have a minimum of CGI. Over 100 years of special effects is plenty to get the job done
The question of whether CGI is worth it is a matter of taste and context.
- The new Star Wars movies really should have CGI.
- Does every movie Disney makes have to be CGI? Nope, except they own Pixar, so that’s what they’re going to do.
- The Lord of the Rings trilogy wouldn’t be nearly as cool without CGI, but it probably could have been done.
- Do we need CGI dog crap in a movie? Nope. Just no.
The real problem with CGI is that it is everywhere. If it was used as a seasoning on most films, it would be great, but the reliance on CGI when a simple special effect or pile of dog crap would do is the heart of the problem.
So back to the original question: Is CGI worth it? From the standpoint of the films that are successful, like Avatar, yes. There are, nonetheless, a lot of movies that will barely break even.
The artistic value of CGI in terms of classic movie criteria, like acting and directing, is another story. Are we likely to see a digital equivalent to Bogart or Bette Davis? Probably not. Acting is an art that requires a human touch. CGI is, by its very nature, not going to be successful at portraying human emotion well. At least not soon.
Hopefully, in future films, we can have real dog poop, pubic hair, and pears. Our spaceships, blue aliens, and singing princesses can all come from computers, but let’s temper our love for this new toy with a return to the art of film.