Attack Of The ClonesIt’s bad form to pick on George Lucas, but for a director who managed to do some pretty cool things with limited technology back in the 1970s, he’s fallen quite low.
Attack of the Clones is just one instance of some good ideas laid low by some really bad CGI. We finally get to see Yoda stand up and fight some baddies, but it’s so obviously computer generated that there’s no longer any excitement in the scene. If you were still hopeful about the prequels after The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones really hammered home the soullessness of the new trilogy.
BeowulfSomeone needs to stop Robert Zemeckis. He managed to take one of the greatest epics the world has ever known – and a fairly OK script, once you get past the idea that it’s not really the Beowulf that you had to read in high school English – and transformed it into a terrible attempt at motion-capture animation.
This was back in 2007, when motion-capture was still in its infancy, but Beowulf is a particularly bad example of the technology. The lifeless eyes of the characters are exceeded only by their lifeless speeches and not even Angelina Jolie walking around in gold stilettos could save what was an absolute train wreck.
Die Another DayWhile not the finest of the Pierce Brosnan James Bond movies, Die Another Day did have its high points (most of them involving Toby Stephens chewing on scenery). What it did not have was good CGI, especially in the opening “surfing” sequence that has Bond and pursuers pulling a lot of ridiculous stunts, some of them in front of obviously CGI’d waves.
James Bond films often have bad effects – lest we forget the skiing sequences in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – but the surfing scene here was particularly dreadful. No amount of Halle Berry rising from the sea could erase that from my memory.
King KongPeter Jackson cannot catch a break. He’s revolutionized certain things in computer generated images, but with others he’s managed to take a massive leap backwards.
His King Kong was an uneven attempt to bring back the original 1931 classic (itself quite a jump in special effects) and made brilliant use of Andy Serkis’ physical abilities, if nothing else. So for a film with pretty good effects overall, the scene where dinosaurs pursue our heroes is incredibly jarring. It looks like bad back-projection from the 1930s.
Maybe that’s what Jackson was going for, but it certainly removes the urgency of the situation.
Return of the Jedi (Special Edition)Star Wars is THE space opera and few would argue with its sci-fi brilliance. The practical effects of the original films were remarkable for their time period, and remain far more convincing than the risible attempts at “updating” the series in the 1990s. Unfortunately, George Lucas has decided to make the Star Wars Special Editions the primary form of the films, which means that in addition to slightly grungy Muppets, we also have to deal with poorly animated musical numbers and added spacecraft.
You can take your pick of any of the special editions for bad CGI, but most of my hate goes towards the unneeded musical number at Jabba’s palace.
Return of the KingReturn of the King won an Oscar and closed off one of the major fantasy epics of our time. It also, I am sorry to say, includes some less than stellar CGI from the once-dependable Peter Jackson.
While the director managed to integrate CGI, costumes, and practical effects to fairly good results, there were the odd moments: like the bit where an obviously computer-generated Legolas runs along the back of an oliphant. The Hobbit films would become even more notorious for defying physics, but in Return of the King. that CGI looks so bad because elsewhere it’s so good. A grave disappointment, indeed.
The Matrix ReloadedNo one would argue that The Matrix sequels are brilliant films. They’re certainly not up the par of their predecessor, but at least The Matrix Reloaded is a fairly decent action movie in most respects.
In most sequences though, the CGI leaves a lot to be desired, like in the scene that pits a very obviously computer-generated Neo against a very obviously computer-generated Agent Smith and his clones. The results take you right out of the film. It’s like watching someone else play a poorly rendered videogame.
The Mummy ReturnsThe Mummy Returns has a lot going for it: it’s an enjoyable sequel bringing back the O’Connell family, this time with a little rugrat in tow, and complete with ancient Egyptian curses and some amusing repartee. It even promised some badassery in the form of The Rock (back when he was still The Rock), who appears briefly in the beginning as the Scorpion King and will return once again at the end.
But then it laid this on us: some truly risible CGI that turned the Rock into some sort of cartoon-ish scorpion thing with vaguely recognizable features and absolutely no chance of scaring anyone. For a film series that had some pretty good special effects in the first outing, this was a major disappointment.