The problem with overusing CGI in movies
Computer-generated imagery (CGI) has been a staple in filmmaking for decades now. In the past, movies relied more on practical effects, with CGI being used occasionally for enhancing scenes. But in many modern films, entire scenes are made revolving around CGI, with superhero and action movies in particular relying on over-the-top CGI set pieces.
The problem with this practice is that the action scenes in these films lack the same impact of practical effects, and at this point has become a lazy attempt at aweing the audience.
Now, special effects are vital for movies with super powered beings and all, but there is a certain line between using them the right amount and overusing them. If you look at the behind the scenes footage of most Marvel movies, you will find that almost the entire film is shot in a green screen studio. This takes away the human element in certain scenes, and if you pay close attention, it becomes noticeable that the actors clearly were not in the same room together and do not know who they are interacting with. Another example of needless CGI is in the fact that actors sometimes wear motion capture suits instead of actual costumes, making their outfits seem a bit off in certain scenes.
Last year, news spread that Marvel Studios allegedly overworked their VFX teams with rushed deadlines on multiple projects and underpaying artists as well. This further brings to light the problem of CGI in the industry.
All this plays into the superhero fatigue which we are experiencing now. At this point the over the top CGI battles have become all too familiar and fails to captivate audiences as it once did. Films like Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy and even Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy relied a lot on practical effects for the most part, and as a result the action scenes in those films resonated more with audiences.
Speaking of Christopher Nolan, he is a filmmaker who prefers to implement practical effects instead of CGI and has yielded outstanding results in doing so. He bears the philosophy of making scenes look as real as possible, and for that practical visual effects are more effective. In an interview he perfectly laid down this sentiment when he said, "I believe in an absolute difference between animation and photography. However sophisticated your computer-generated imagery is, if it's been created from no physical elements and you haven't shot anything, it's going to feel like animation."
Superhero films are not the only victims of overused CGI, as other action blockbusters also have this problem. The Fast & Furious franchise, for example, becomes more CGI heavy with each new entry. There are some modern action films like Top Gun: Maverick and Mad Max: Fury Road which make excellent use of practical effects and are objectively better films partly because of it.
From a filmmaking standpoint, CGI is often a safer option as practical stunts and action scenes come with a risk factor, and there are many instances of stunt people being injured and such. But from a storytelling perspective, practical effects just make scenes feel more real and convincing for the audience and makes for higher quality end products.
In the end, I believe it is not far-fetched to say that the current trend of CGI overuse is resulting in most films lacking in substance, and the general audience is beginning to feel this problem more vividly.
Sabil spends most of his time trying to stay as hopeful as possible. You can contact him at [email protected]