The abundance of CGI in movies has been a contentious topic for years, and it's clear that computer-generated imagery isn't going anywhere. With the advent of the MCU (Marvel Computer-generated Universe), practical stunts and effects can feel like a thing of the past – as can ageing (see: the most recent Indiana Jones film).
Unless you're literally watching an animated movie, CGI arguably shouldn't announce itself. But as you've no doubt experienced, crappy effects can immediately spoil the illusion of a thrilling action scene. But a recent Twitter thread has revealed that CGI isn't all about explosions – sometimes a shot as seemingly simple as a person sitting in a chair can be littered with effects. (Looking for VFX inspiration? Check out the best 3D modelling software.)
It’s pathetic studios rely on CGI this much pic.twitter.com/1HCc7B5D83July 15, 2023
Sharing a before-and-after shot from 2019's Spider-man: Far Way Home, Twitter user TheDiscFather calls modern studios' reliance on CGI "pathetic". The finished shot features Nick Fury sitting down in a house holding a comically large gun. But the greenscreen-heavy 'before' shot, taken from a behind-the-scenes features, reveals that the entire background, and the gun itself, are fake – leading many to ask: why?
"What is the purpose?! it's a fucking wall chair and table with a lamp. It would cost so much less than having a CGI person waste time on this," one user comments, while another adds, "A simple house scene and a digital pistol instead of a prop? I‘m seriously asking—why would you use CGI for these mundane things?"
Modern practical effects is a dead art in Hollywood. CGI should be supplemental and a last resort when a shot is otherwise impossible. If you are using CGI in lieu of masterfully crafted props and even simple set design, you have done something incredibly wrong. https://t.co/2ejHB2fUZAJuly 16, 2023
But while it certainly seems strange (and a little depressing) to see so much CGI in such an innocuous scene, some users have also rushed to the studio's defence, claiming that Covid made reshoots involving various cast members logistically difficult. And then there's the fact that it arguably looks pretty real. "If you didn't notice it until this it's good, actually," another users comments. "This is how you save money on reshoots without flying actors back out and refitting a whole set to get exactly one shot, and dozens of movies you'd never notice do exactly this to fix minor issues."
The less reshoots you do, the more time and resources you save. The weapon, for instance, has to match up to what the character was using beforehand to avoid continuity errors. When there's no discernable visual downgrade, criticizing CGI of this kind is irrelevant. https://t.co/2Td0b63tAcJuly 17, 2023
Indeed, it's hardly the worst piece of CGI we've ever seen (and we've seen some shockers), and the practical considerations do make sense. But the issue seems symptomatic of a larger and more insidious trend in Hollywood – a total lack of imagination. Our cinema screens are littered with sequels, which are littered with mushy-looking CGI action scenes. But hey, perhaps we have something to look forward to this week.