Can CGI make or break a movie? - AVF Movies Podcast discussion thread

The first time I was blown away by CGI in a film was:


  • Total voters
    20

Tom Davies

Editorial Contributor
Hello and welcome to the very first AVF Movies Podcast discussion thread.

Our 'new look' Movies Podcast hosted by me, @Casimir Harlow and @Simon Crust starts with a live stream (and live giveaway) on our YouTube channel on Tuesday 6th April 2021 at 8:00pm.

In advance of every Movies Podcast, we're going to be asking you, the denizens of the Movies forums, to share your opinions on a different topic each month.

This time, off the back of the launch of Godzilla Vs. Kong, we're going to be discussing whether computer generated visual effects can make or break a movie. But we'd like to know what you think. The most interesting responses will be discussed on the podcast!

So, with that in mind:

Are there any movies which would be great if it weren't for botched CGI? Alternatively, are there any rubbish movies which are made more enjoyable by their VFX?

How is watching at home different different to the big screen when it comes to CGI? Does either hide the sins and/or show off the achievements more effectively?

What do you think of directors who return to their movies to touch up ropey CGI before releasing them for HD or 4K?

Answers on a postcard or...you know, in the thread below.
 
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SyStemDeMoN

Well-known Member
I voted for James Cameron, T2 or course. But I watched a documentary the other day about flight of the navigator which I did not know it was CGI to render the space craft morphing and all the reflections on it which Cameron then said he was going to use that on T2.
The director or producer is not listed here and I had always assumed it was some other trickery as I had no idea CGI was anywhere near that good back then.
 

Drax1

Distinguished Member
The most recent example I can think of where cg utterly wrecked what was possiblly an average movie otherwise, was Call Of The Wild. There wasn't a single damn scene with the monstrous cartoon dog, where I wasn't pulled out of the whole experience, and didn't see it as anything other than a guy in blue/green suit being petted by Harrison Ford. A huge misstep, a big waste of 90 minutes and a film that I'm currently putting together a suitably poisonous review of....
 

Drax1

Distinguished Member
I think in terms of being blown away by cg for the first time, it's got to be T2 all day long. I had friends who went back for multiple screenings as they couldn't believe what they were seeing! It had never been done to that level before, and given its heavy use throughout, could have been a disaster if not of a good calibre.
In terms of earlier impressive cg work, I was pretty awed (I emphasize at THAT time) by the stained glass knight in Young Sherlock Holmes, and the genesis computer model in Wrath Of Khan.

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Tom Davies

Editorial Contributor
Both the knight and the genesis animation in Star Trek were hugely groundbreaking. Great choices.

I'm not that surprised to see T2 popping up a lot already!
 

barnaby jones

Distinguished Member
T2 stands out in my mind as the first, Jurassic Park obviously went on to then blow my aforementioned mind. Yet to be recovered from the long gone ABC screen 1 I might add.
 

Hokusai Wave

Active Member
Doesn't hold up today but Tron was probably the first I remember.....also another of James Cameron's and slightly before T2, would have been The Abyss, the way the water was manipulated looked pretty good at the time.
 

lucasisking

Distinguished Member
While I'd seen Tron, The Last Starfighter, Star Trek II, YSH and the magnificent pseudopod from The Abyss- yes it has to be Terminator 2. That was when the world really sat up and took notice. I remember sitting there slack-jawed thinking "how the fudge did they do that?" Ditto for Jurassic Park not long after.

Since then we've become blase about it but I still appreciate good CGI when I see it, even if it is getting tougher to be impressed. Deep Impact, Star Wars Prequels, Lord of the Rings, King Kong 2005, Avatar and the new Apes films are also milestones for me. Most recently I've been impressed with Alita Battle Angel. A lot of the more exiting stuff has been in mo-cap. And de-aging is also getting great.

source (3).gif


Worst application for me would include the Star Wars Special editions; the 2003 Hulk film. Good films, shonky CGI.

Its a tool at the end of the day, and I find it sometimes gets a bad rap through over-use. Here's a great vid to remind us how good a tool it is:

 

Hokusai Wave

Active Member
Didn't actually realise the first CGI film was Westworld.
 

Casimir Harlow

Blu-ray Reviewer
While I'd seen Tron, The Last Starfighter, Star Trek II, YSH and the magnificent pseudopod from The Abyss- yes it has to be Terminator 2. That was when the world really sat up and took notice. I remember sitting there slack-jawed thinking "how the fudge did they do that?" Ditto for Jurassic Park not long after.

Since then we've become blase about it but I still appreciate good CGI when I see it, even if it is getting tougher to be impressed. Deep Impact, Star Wars Prequels, Lord of the Rings, King Kong 2005, Avatar and the new Apes films are also milestones for me. Most recently I've been impressed with Alita Battle Angel. A lot of the more exiting stuff has been in mo-cap. And de-aging is also getting great.

View attachment 1487604

Worst application for me would include the Star Wars Special editions; the 2003 Hulk film. Good films, shonky CGI.

Its a tool at the end of the day, and I find it sometimes gets a bad rap through over-use. Here's a great vid to remind us how good a tool it is:


Love that.

Yes, that's a very good reminder of just how much we take CG for granted.

I think T2 for me too, as the defining milestone, but I was also wowed by Avatar and even things like Tron Legacy. The visuals were just sublime (another example where people are too busy complaining about CLU not quite looking right, when actually the whole damn universe is CG, and is spectacular).

BR2049 is also a work of art.
 

Tom Davies

Editorial Contributor
In my mind both TRON movies are definitely examples of okay adventure movies made great by their VFX.

In terms of immersion smashing badness, @Drax1 is right about The Call of the Wild. But the other that immediately springs to my mind is The Mummy Returns. The Scorpion King is maybe top of my all time terrible CGI creations.
 

Belzok

Well-known Member
There are some superb worlds made in CGI these days, it adds so much to a film.

T2 was definitely a watershed moment, that point computers became powerful enough to manage what was required, bit ironic given Skynet 😁

We don't seem to be quite there with humans, or animals, as we are wired to recognise them and CG versions just look 'off'.
 

Mentalsheep

Standard Member
Tron and Gladiator for me. The cgi in Tron was ground breaking and very manual, incredibly impressive the man hours that went into it. Gladiator at the time was the first seamless use or CGI that I recall not even noticing 99% of it until watching the behind the scenes.
 

bootyman81

Distinguished Member
I was 12, sitting in a cinema in 1993 watching Jurassic park, I’d never seen anything like it..blew my tiny mind!
for me it’s still the benchmark even though I know it’s technically very simple compared the new stuff.

something a bit left field but Rampage has amazing creature effects, personally I love CGI when it’s applied correctly.
Dawn/War for planet of the apes also a favourite. sublime stuff, so much emotion in those performance.
 

bruce-leroy

Distinguished Member
T2 and Jurassic Park - I saw the latter in the cinema and it was amazing. Spielberg and his team got it spot on between using CGI and animatronics. I didn’t originally see T2 until VHS unfortunately so didn’t get the same impact as I undoubtedly would have in the cinema.

In terms of VFX affecting the enjoyment of a movie, watching The Rock running around a CGI skyscraper (in erm, Skyscraper) doesn‘t quite cut it after Cruise did it for real on the Burj Khalifa.

I found Gemini Man quite distracting as the ‘young’ Will Smith de-aging effect veered from decent to awful from scene to scene. Also, I think many felt the same about the De Niro (in de-aged mode) geriatric, leisurely beat-down in The Irishman. Just didn’t seem right!
 

Tom Davies

Editorial Contributor
What about mocap acting - Gollum and The Hulk for example?
Is technology good enough yet for us to accept those characters unquestioningly?
 

Coz22998

Distinguished Member
What about mocap acting - Gollum and The Hulk for example?
Is technology good enough yet for us to accept those characters unquestioningly?
Absolutely.....but only in small doses. And only for non-humans for me.

The two characters you picked are very much supporting characters and sufficiently different from a normal human to not have to deal with the uncanny valley effect of a purely human mocapped character.

Even looking at the finale of Season 2 of The Mandalorian and its CG cameo......a very short amount of screentime but it still looked sufficiently odd to draw comment, something which CG shouldn't do.

What I find odd is that so many of these DeepFake vids that pop up on YouTube appear to do a better job than the actual VFX in these mega-blockbusters. The Mandalorian comparison of the real CG and the DeepFake version - this shows that the DeepFake version did a much better job than the official one for me. So why? Is that down to time/money? Some other reason? No idea. Maybe again, its because these DeepFake vids are on YouTube, on a small screen and only for a handful of seconds so we're sufficiently fooled.......no idea.

But we're definitely getting there. As CG improves exponentially, the creatives also have to improve on how they use it - the big lesson from the late 90s and early 00's that was learnt was that the newness of CG has now well and truly worn off: audiences will not accept sub-par VFX because it lets us see something we haven't seen before. And this needs to continue with cheaper productions relying less and less on being happy with a sub-par realisation of their grand ambitions on screen.
 
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richp007

Distinguished Member
Good posts in here have covered it already, but it really is Terminator 2 and what they did with the T-1000.

The bit where he walks out the flames, and where he goes through the bars in the mental hospital.

Also when Arnie cuts the skin off his arm.

All absolutely scandalous.
 

mb3195

Distinguished Member
Another vote for T2. Watching it at the cinema as a 13 year old, absolutely blown away by what I was seeing. 30 years old now, I watched it again a couple of weeks ago, the cgi still sort of holds up, even better than some recent releases - bloodshot for example!! 🤦‍♂️
Jurassic Park was another one, seeing these massive dinosaurs on the big screen, it was something we’d never seen before in pure scale!!

Bad CGI ruins any good film, it makes you realise none of its real, watching a bad computer game isn’t quite as riveting!!
 

Tom Davies

Editorial Contributor
Another vote for T2. Watching it at the cinema as a 13 year old, absolutely blown away by what I was seeing. 30 years old now, I watched it again a couple of weeks ago, the cgi still sort of holds up, even better than some recent releases - bloodshot for example!! 🤦‍♂️
Jurassic Park was another one, seeing these massive dinosaurs on the big screen, it was something we’d never seen before in pure scale!!

Bad CGI ruins any good film, it makes you realise none of its real, watching a bad computer game isn’t quite as riveting!!
Jurassic Park was like a religious experience for me.
Insane how well the CG in that movie has held up, as well.
 

richp007

Distinguished Member
What about mocap acting - Gollum and The Hulk for example?
Is technology good enough yet for us to accept those characters unquestioningly?

Yep. It's only going to get better, but pinnacle stuff has been reached for me already to be honest. In the examples like Gollum I mean, not when it's done shoddy!
 

Sloppy Bob

Distinguished Member
Standout moment for me fairly recently was the de-aging done to Linda Hamilton and Edward Furlong in Terminator: Dark Fate. The opening sequence had my jaw on the floor.

Unfortunately, the good CGI didn't save an average film.

Puny Captain America is another one. So well done.

It has to historically be T2 though.

Ultimately, IMO, good CGI doesn't save a bad film and bad CGI just dates a film.

I seem to have an ability some of my friends don't which is to watch a movie in consideration of the time period it was created. This extends beyond CGI, to politics, sexism, racism etc.
 

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