Is it just me who is noticing that CGI is rapidly declining across the board in many of this years Blockbuster movies? From the horrific CGI that did Ben Affleck dirty in The Flash to the absolutely awful Harrison Ford CGI in Dial of Destiny. What is going on and why is terrible CGI suddenly creeping into Hollywood blockbusters?
Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI) has revolutionised the film industry, opening up limitless possibilities for filmmakers to bring their wildest visions to life on the big screen. Over the past few decades, CGI has played a pivotal role in creating breathtaking visual effects, stunning landscapes, and awe-inspiring creatures.
However, in recent times, there has been a growing sentiment among moviegoers and critics that CGI in blockbuster movies is on the decline. Independent b-movies are well versed in terrible CGI to add that cheesiness to it (Sharknado being a prime example) and in those cases with their budgets it’s acceptable, hilarious but acceptable.
When a feature film has a budget over $100 million and we’re seeing low grade CGI effects in there it almost feels like a kick in the teeth to moviegoers who expect the highest of quality when it comes to feature films of this magnitude and budget.
It was only a few years ago when I wrote an article about 10 poor CGI scenes in films that we just can’t forget. The problem is, it’s now getting even worse and happening more frequently!
Let’s jump into a few reasons why we feel CGI is on the decline in big Hollywood blockbusters recently.
Over-reliance on CGI
One of the main reasons why terrible CGI is getting worse in blockbuster movies is the over reliance on it.
Filmmakers, driven by the desire to create visually stunning spectacles, often rely heavily on CGI to carry the weight of their narratives. When a feature film has a poor script and has a poor direction CGI feels like the filler to plug the gaps of poor script work and scene setting.
As a result, the story and character development take a back seat, leading to films that lack emotional depth and fail to connect with the audience on a meaningful level.
It’s even worse when filmmakers of The Flash (see Ben Affleck’s god awful CGI above) actually claimed they added it on purpose to add to Barry’s (The Flash) perspective. Really? You expect us to believe that? If that was the case why wasn’t it mentioned even once until all the bad press came out about the god awful CGI?
When CGI is used as a crutch to compensate for weak storytelling, it detracts from the overall cinematic experience and from this years slate alone it really has been the case of poor storytelling across the board with only Avatar: The Way of Water standing head and shoulders above the rest and for good reason too. The Avatar films take years upon years to create and James Cameron is a meticulous and quite incredible breed of director nowadays who actually cares about not only his quality of work but how his audience experiences it.
It’s safe to say that many directors nowadays in Hollywood just don’t have that care for their audience anymore where hard work is overlooked in favour of cheap CGI entertainment without heart.
I can’t think of a more immersive experience than Avatar: The Way of Water in IMAX 3D. I felt as though the screen was a fish tank with such depth and layers and as an audience member I was fully immersed and truly amazed.
This amazement also applied to Top gun Maverick where the old school way of filming stunts was adopted over CGI. Seeing Tom Cruise do these stunts and seeing the behind the scenes footage of how they’re shot gives you more and more of a respect for what you’re seeing on the big screen.
Tom Cruise truly is one of the last great cinematic action heroes still pushing boundaries for our entertainment. Top Gun Maverick is one prime example of this and he followed it up with Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning.
When was the last time you were truly amazed in the cinema?
Rushed Production Schedules
Pressures of Blockbuster movies with high budgets and too many chefs in the kitchen pose an insane amount of stress to meet release deadlines.
There’s always an urgency of some kind or chopping and changing of production schedules that leave very little time for paying close attention to carefully crafting CGI elements.
Avatar has the luxury of James Cameron pulling the strings and the leniency of those around him to give him as much time and budget as he see’s fit but not everyone has that luxury.
Rushed productions compromise CGI quality and what you end up with is a subpar visual feature with unfinished or bare bones effects that stand out like a sore thumb on the big screen.
There’s not time for testing or refinement and the final product (which we’re seeing more and more of nowadays) is unpolished, unconvincing and unprofessional.
Audiences have grown accustomed to mind-blowing CGI effects and expect each blockbuster to push the boundaries of visual innovation.
However, the demands for bigger and better CGI in every film have become increasingly unrealistic.
Pushing technology to its limits in such a manner can lead to compromises in other aspects of the movie-making process, affecting the overall quality of the film.
Take Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny as a prime example. We all expect a de-aged Harrison Ford to move around and look like his younger self with absolutely no suspicion that it’s a terrible CGI overlay.
When he’s sitting still we are convinced and it looks wonderful but the second our CGI Indy starts to move the audience was in fits of hysteria at how cartoon video game the movements were and how terrible CGI was during those scenes.
Ironically, while blockbuster movies boast large budgets, the exorbitant cost of creating high-quality CGI often leads to financial constraints.
In a bid to control costs, filmmakers may resort to cheaper CGI options or even rely on outdated technology.
As a result, the CGI in these movies may fail to match the standards set by previous blockbuster hits and as a result leaves you with quite the poor display and hardly the poster boy advert for a technology (when done correctly) can be photorealistic.
Lack of Artistic Vision
Wave goodbye to a dying breed of filmmaking (alluding to my paragraph about James Cameron above in this article) as commercial success takes precedence over anything else.
CGI being used over artistic direction just becomes a flashy effects showreel that lacks substance and emotional resonance. A feeling we know all too well considering the last 98% of Marvel movies since Infinity War have shared this exact same mindset.
Yes, the CGI in the MCU is incredible but when it’s being used over storyline substance and other areas are just being sacrificed to make a film look pretty, you mayaswell have not bothered at all.
The absence of a coherent vision for the film can result in an underwhelming viewing experience, leaving the audience disengaged and disappointed.
Failure to Integrate CGI with Practical Effects
Practical effects just like stuntmen and women are a dying artwork in cinema in the modern era.
Some of the most memorable movie moments have been achieved through the seamless integration of CGI with practical effects. However, as CGI has become more readily available, there has been a tendency to overlook practical effects in favor of fully computer-generated sequences.
Wave goodbye to authenticity as CGI disconnects the audience from the real world and the films impact diminishes as a result.
Tom Cruise being one of the very few actors left who will put his body on the line for the perfect realistic shot much like how Jackie Chan and many others would do the same back in the day.
Practical Effects from special effects wizards that brought The Thing to life on the big screen and added these vintage yet realistic creatures to life.
I miss those days.
While CGI has played an instrumental role in shaping modern cinema, its excessive and often mismanaged use in blockbuster movies has contributed to a decline in quality.
With AI suddenly making a resurgence it feels as though not only has CGI replaced the incredible work of artists in cinema but AI will soon replace performances in cinema. The strikes currently have highlighted this very concern and rightly so. Bring back artistic films led by filmmakers who work on films for passion over profit.
The industry must strike a balance between technological innovation and artistic storytelling to prevent CGI from becoming a mere gimmick.
By placing greater emphasis on strong narratives, appropriate use of CGI, and artistic vision, filmmakers can ensure that CGI once again enhances, rather than detracts from, the cinematic experience.
Only then can blockbuster movies regain their former glory as year after year it feels as though the heart of cinema is slowing decreasing in beats with each passing year with more and more terrible CGI.