We live in a world of unbelievable technology—our cars can drive themselves and we can print limbs, for crying out loud— but when it comes to cinema, this isn’t always a good thing. CGI is expensive, but it’s quicker than building huge robotic models or doing 6 hours of makeup before every scene.
But is it worth it? Here are five movies where CGI hurt more than helped:
5. IT (2017)
Being a huge Stephen King fan, I couldn’t wait to see what they did with this remake, and overall, I really liked the movie. The kids were phenomenal and Pennywise was super creepy (with respect to Tim Curry, of course). But my one criticism? The overuse of CGI. Specifically in the scene pictured above.
While this shot was only on screen for maybe three seconds, it cheapened the movie. The quality is poor, especially on the teeth, which look flat and don’t even appear to pierce Georgie’s raincoat at all.
4. E.T. (2002 re-release)
This is one of my favorite movies of all time; so much so, that this past Halloween I dressed up in a red hoodie and rode my bike around work with an ET doll in the basket.
The 2002 release of E.T. had quite a few changes. In addition to walkie talkies replacing shotguns during the bike chase, a CGI E.T. replaced the puppet from the original 1982 film. I’m not sure what the motivation behind this was, but I think it was risky—especially for an “older” movie (I was born in the 80s, so saying that makes me a little nauseous).
3. The Hobbit Trilogy (2012-2014)
Many Lord of the Rings fans weren’t thrilled with these movies, and the overuse of CGI had a lot to do with it. One theory suggests that the overuse of CGI was to “represent Bilbo’s own exaggerated retellings of his adventure.” Even if this were true, CGI done right is not something that would be obvious to the average viewer.
Picture above on the left is an Orc from the Lord of the Rings trilogy (real actors in costumes and hours of makeup and prosthetics); on the right is an Orc from The Hobbit trilogy (CGI).
2. The Mummy Returns (2001)
I can hear it now: “The movie is what ruined that movie!” Correct, this movie didn’t do all that well in theaters. But out of fangirl love and respect for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, I need to bring this up. WHAT were they thinking?
And last, but not least….
1. Star Wars: Episodes I-III (1999-2005)
Three words: Jar Jar Binks.
Don’t get me wrong, computer animation and the artists behind them have transformed cinema. But the movie-going experience is an escape for many; an hour and a half where the viewer can enter this alternate world and be totally involved with the characters. Ian Nathan, Executive Editor of Empire, told BBC in 2013: “I do get the impression people are wearying of the cure-all attitude with CG and are starting to hunger for more naturalistic imagery—in the end real helicopters look better than CG ones.”
So while the CGI has several advantages over traditional models and robotics, the real value is in the experience of the viewer.
Kristen DiMarzio lives in the Boston area with her dog and two cats, so her apartment often resembles the stampede scene in Jumanji. She loves coffee, the cinematic cheese that is Hallmark Christmas movies, and she totally believes in ghosts.
Follow Kristen on Twitter @krrrispy.