CGI or Die: When Movies Should Just Be Animated

Written by Jacob Chimilar (@sweetlows)

With movies like The Jungle Book and Warcraft hit theatres, I often wonder to myself, why bother having live action parts? This movie is 90% CGI, just go all the way. The problem with trying to add in those live action elements is now the rest of the CGI elements have to be so seamless and perfect that anything less than that will look out of place. This isn't a condemnation of the over use of CGI, thats another thing entirely. CGI is a tool like anything else, as is live action. If you look at movies like Roger Rabbit and Space Jam, those have not aged entirely well but they were a testament to the technology advancements, now we have gotten so far as to making the entire world CG with a single character or characters being the only real things around instead of the other way around. 

A scene from The Jungle Book

A scene from The Jungle Book

Before seeing The Jungle Book, I had the knowledge that people said the effects were incredible. I saw the trailer and wasn't super impressed, but maybe things would be more polished by the time it was released. The scenery was astounding, but the characters like Baghera and Baloo, when put together with Mowgli were still very much in the realm of "I'm seeing a person interact with a tennis ball that was later turned into an animated bear." Additionally, The Star Wars Prequels also had some truly horrendous CGI scenery that didn't make sense to be CG and made everything else look worse when you have all these real characters walking around video game quality looking sets. Now some movies managed to do a great job with its CGI elements. The work Weta did on the new Planet of The Apes movies for instance, is phenomenal. Some of the characters were clearly given less attention to detail due to their limited screen time but overall the main characters of Caesar and Koba were excellent and that had something to do with most of the movie being live action with motion capture characters I feel. At least with that there was more time to spend on getting the blending in of those elements right rather than degrading the overall quality because of the quantity of effects.

The motion capture apes for Planet of The Apes

The motion capture apes for Planet of The Apes

I come back to it because it's fresh in my mind but The Jungle Book was a movie that could have been done like Zootopia, that was a movie I loved the look of, the animation was excellent and would have worked perfectly for The Jungle Book, at least with that the only thing you would be adding into the CG is Mowgli and some of the set stuff like rocks and grass. That was one of my biggest problems with the movie, the uncanny valley was hit so hard so often it took me out of the movie. Warcraft has that exact same feel, as did Avatar when I saw it. Ideally the story will trump all that but wouldn't you want a movie to at least try and make itself a little more timeless if it can? I'm not saying CGI heavy live action movies are bad, I just think there is a line where if you are going to do almost the entire movie that way, much like having poorly done CGI characters in an otherwise live action movie like in Alvin and The Chipmunks or The Hobbit, you might as well just go all the way because you really hurt the credibility of your story when you are presenting it. These movies are the top tier Hollywood movies. Indie movies get a pass because they use what they can to tell their story. Big budgets means not excuses to visual quality in my opinion and sometimes you have to realize that you are better off just going fully animated, or if you won't spend the time to do the important CGI right, fully live action.

Sad isn't it?

Sad isn't it?

What are your thoughts? Did you find movies like Avatar and The Jungle Book distracting to watch? What movies don't hold up any more because of the technical elements?