Yes, I know, everything would be so much better if it was all hand-drawn and there were puppets, and miniatures, and all that jazz. Except it wouldn’t be. Those things existed before, they still exist in some capacity now. They are fantastic tools, and mediums, for telling stories or for making spectacles come to life — except when they don’t work. Go pick your favorite movie, or television show, that used “real” artistry, not that “fake” CGI stuff. Watch it with a critical eye. Not a “Special Edition” or some remastered, augmented version. Go dig up the imperfect experience you would have witnessed before.

Watch the ghost train in Ghostbusters II float (“doesn’t track”) with the train tracks. It’s an optical effect. Watch it slide through Winston with no real reaction. Watch the guys get sucked in to the slime river and bob around. These were the best effects you could witness at the time, and though they are imperfect, we remember them as being perfect because our mind likes to edit and improve what we see on screen.

Watch a 2D animated movie from before computers contributed to them (you’re really looking at things before Disney’s Beauty and the Beast). You’ll see things that pop, edges that sizzle, and feet that slide on the “floor” — but it’s all charmingly handmade and adorable.

Now go watch a modern CGI movie, one of the ones that has won an Oscar, for example. You’ll see imperfections, but instead of being charmed by the flaws you’ll feel cheated. You’ll wish they had drawn it, or used puppets. This isn’t adorable.

I argue that it has nothing to do with the medium. If you’re willing to overlook flaws in one, why not the other? Are you just making an assumption that the act of using a computer has made what you’re seeing in to some soulless monstrosity? Why? Humans made all those things in the computer. They animated those things by clicking, and tweaking, very similar to what they would do when posing a stop-motion armature. Some studios even have tools that allow 2D shapes to be drawn for the 3D data to conform to. Why do you think the act of using a computer makes it inhuman?

This stigma is silly and dumb. CGI, computers, 3D, none of this is why you don’t like the movie. None of this is why you should feel cheated. You’re just as cheated with rubber-moulded prosthetics, and thick-black optical matte edges.

Watching all the knee-jerk reactions come out about The Peanuts movie made me sad for this very reason. They went through an enormous amount of effort to produce something unique. If you don’t believe me, watch that trailer again. (Oh? What’s that? You didn’t watch it? You saw a promo still and said something about it? You’re totes adorbs, go watch the trailer.) Compare it to the trailers for recent CGI movies from Dreamworks, Disney, Sony, other BlueSky projects… Write down the specific thing you’re critical of and it will be the goofy, 1960’s pop culture reference to Kubrik’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. That has nothing to do with computers. I can assure you that someone could do precisely what is in that trailer on hand-painted cels, and you’d still think it was a bad trailer.

Stop using “computers” as an easy-out for critical thought.

Oh, but it’s a cash grab? That’s why you object? Well, I have some rather unfortunate news for you, The Peanuts have been licensed for all sorts of things in the past. Life insurance, toys (the toys were even in dreaded three-dimensions!), cars, theme parks — even the animated specials had product placement inside of them. No, really. Don’t give me this “it’s sacred” nonsense. You are ascribing some kind of purity to it that never existed.

Does any of this mean the movie will be bad? No, stop whinging about your ruined childhood. Your youthful memories have been leveraged for money since before you knew what the word “licensing” meant.

Go deeper. Think harder. I could write a Python webapp that sent out a tweet condemning a movie every time a trailer for a movie was released because it used CGI and it would be just as incisive as the human commentary I’ve been reading on that trailer. Wouldn’t you like to sound smarter than a programmed response?

2014-03-18 17:46:16

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