Why we secretly like CGI
You’ve no doubt heard me rant once or twice regarding the use of CGI (computer generated imagery), especially in horror films. Traditional, hand crafted effects are the things keeping me interested in watching these movies…well, that and the story. Why? Simply because the two are inseparable. You can have a golden globe worthy piece of fiction, but if you dilute the material with a thick pastry CGI topping, your film ain’t going to be worth much to audiences…..and i’m talking real people audiences, not Hollywood audiences. However, we have to face reality. Kids today have no clue what real handcrafted effects should look like. They haven’t been exposed to very much of it, unless they watch a bunch of old school movies from the 70’s and 80’s. There is a good chance my own daughter will be clueless to the awesome significance behind traditional special effects.
So here I am again, ranting about how much better old school is over CGI. There’s plenty of reason to rant. Consider the CGI effects of the 90’s. Look at Spawn!!! I can still remember going to the theaters and thinking how awesome all those computerized effects were, how cool Spawn looked, but taking another glance at the same film today and questions begin to surface as to my taste in movies, as in: “Do I have taste?” CGI technology does gets better with time, but this makes all the old CGI look like crap. And that’s the big difference with traditional methods. True, tech also improves for hand crafted gore, but those 70’s and 80’s effects, done right, looked amazing yesterday, look amazing today, and will still look amazing tomorrow. Consider, The Thing, zero CGI and 31 years down the road, the movie is still legendary.
But lets be honest. As a kid, this debate mattered little. We simply wanted to see junk up on screen kicking butt and looking awesome. As an adult and amateur horror critic, I can nit-pick the details and be a little snobbish in my taste for visuals, but in reality, deep down, the kid in me is still there, watching the same movies adult me is watching, the difference is that the hidden child in me is only thinking about how cool it is to see crazy effects no hand crafted material could pull off. And that’s the secret. Consider, The Avengers. These mega superhero movies could not be done with traditional effects. And we can sit in front of our computers and tare these newer films apart for their overuse of CGI, but when the article is finished and we think no ones watching, we put in movies like the Avengers or Ironman or Man of Steel and hop up and down in our chairs all giddy for these amazing action sequences that blow our best action figure scenarios out of the water.
Yes, as an amateur horror critic and long time fan, i will forever plead for a return to traditional methods with effects. But, with that being said, I cannot simply knock CGI off the table. The Matrix, for me at least, proved that what I had been imagining since I was a boy, sitting in my room creating these elaborate fight scenes with my action figures could be done on the big screen. Neo, Morpheus, and Trinity are the embodiment of countless hours of smashing He-Man into Skeletor, with Wolverine (in the brown uniform) sailing through the air in slow motion martial arts, bicycle kicking Shredder into oblivion. Are directors overusing CGI graphics? Heck yes. But we critics need to be a little honest with ourselves and admit that despite being overused, if done right, CGI can make our fanboy dreams come true. My last point: consider Pacific Rim….nuff said.