« Animals, Limbs, and Memory | Main | "A Kind of Cockamamie Sincerity" »

The Next Big Thing in Movies?

From a story on 3-D in feature films in the New York Times last week:

"Whenever Hollywood is at a point where things are getting desperate, 3-D seems to be the first rabbit they try to pull out of the hat," said Robert Thompson, professor of media and culture at Syracuse University.

Perhaps desperation is too harsh a word for the nervousness now spreading through the studios, but it's not far off.

The big-budget franchise films -- the sequels, prequels, remakes and the like -- that have proved to be the most reliable bets for studio executives in recent years are suddenly not performing as the marketers and the numbers-crunchers expected, from "The Hulk" to "Charlie's Angels 2: Full Throttle." Both box office revenue and attendance are down significantly this summer, despite a steady churn of these movies.

The computer animation that created a revolution in special effects, allowing directors to recreate ancient Rome or insert an army of 10,000 at the click of a button, had been helping to keep franchise fever alive. But now there is a growing sense that audiences have seen what this new technology can do, and nothing deflates Hollywood hype faster than "been there, done that."

A result is that the heavily courted under-25 audience has become apathetic, some might even say discerning. So perhaps 3-D will do the trick. "Three-D has always been something we, in the audience, have been particularly interested in," said Jeanine Basinger, chairwoman of the film studies department at Wesleyan University. "Let's face it, those of us who are film nuts want to get up there in the picture."

This isn't going to happen. As long as 3-D requires distracting glasses and causes headaches, it's going to be a novelty at best. IMAX would be a better choice to provide enjoyable immersion, but of course would require completely new theaters be built, which also won't happen.

My theory is that the next big thing in movies will to make them without any computer graphics at all. As the article above points out, "there is a growing sense that audiences have seen what [computer animation] can do, and nothing deflates Hollywood hype faster than 'been there, done that.'" Imagine, though, going to see an action movie where you knew that everything in it was real. Imagine directors working to create amazing shots without any help from 3ds max or Maya. Imagine looking at someone apparently risking his or her life in a shot and knowing that he or she really did so. Though this approach would only be possible for certain types of movies, when used, it could bring back a sense of exhilaration that's quickly fading as we watch movies knowing exactly how artificial they are.


TrackBack URL for this entry:


I've held that opinion for years. While digital effects can be appreciated for the technology and vision that created them (and some movies could not be made without them), there is still nothing like watching Yakima Canutt (stuntman for John Wayne) doing the stagecoach stunt in the 1939 movie "Stagecoach". You knew he was actually doing it. Apparently it must have impressed Steven Spielberg enough that he paid homage to it in
"Raiders of the Lost Ark."
And Fred Astaire was really dancing, and Errol Flynn was really fencing and those thousands of people in "The Ten Commandments" were really there.
Of course, it's probably a lot less expensive to have "fake people" and "fake stunts" then using real people, but sometimes it's not as much fun!
But that's just the opinion of a long-time movie-phile.

it just always surprises me that film makers think that their cgi characters look good. i've yet to see a movie where i couldn't tell when the character or backdrop was fake.

Really? That's amazing.

So when Tom Hanks looked out over the ocean from atop the cliff in Cast Away, you knew that was CGI? When the distant mountains appeared in the Viet Nam scenes in Forrest Gump, you knew they were digitally inserted? When Obi-Wan Kenobi was talking with the Kaminoan leader in his meeting room in Star Wars Episode II, you knew that not only was the leader CGI, but the room itself was a model? When Jack and Rose were running down the corridor to escape the oncoming water in Titanic, you knew that the faces of the actors were digitally superimposed on stunt doubles?

If so, you have much better eyes than I do.

Post a comment