It’s hard to run away from computer-generated imagery. It’s all over TV–from commercials to ongoing series. And it pervades the cinema, where it has become, in some cases, the main reason to see certain pictures.
Yes, filmmakers can do things with CGI that couldn’t have been achieved 40 years ago. But is that always a positive? Are we relying too much on high rather than low technology?
I worried about this recently while watching Life of Pi, whose CGI animals—especially the growling, boat-hogging tiger—had a gloss and fluidity of movement that seemed slightly off. It was a solid technical achievement, surely, and the cinematography was often stunning. Yet the animals seemed less “real” than the fighting skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts. The tiger showed its stripes.
That doesn’t mean I think we should go back to adjusting models frame by frame and discarding all cinematic developments … though the process of creating CGI creatures may only be slightly less onerous. But I do think something’s missing from most of the computer-crafted images used today, whether it’s a tiger or a snowflake. It’s not just naturalness; it’s essence. Those battling skeletons—ludicrous as they may be—draw me in. That smooth-purring tiger doesn’t.
Somewhere Bruce the shark is rolling his dead eyes.