T Nation

Movie CG

I remember the first time I saw Jurassic Park in the movie theaters. I was blown away by the computer CG. I thought it was incredible. Nowadays CG is pretty run-of-the-mill, and it’s strange not to see it in a movie.

On the one hand you could say that movies depend too much on CG lately, and not enough on story, directing, or acting. Take MIB2 for example... great special effects, but I could have waited for it to come out on video. On the other hand, CG is making possible what was impossible 10 years ago. Just look at Spider Man - you just couldn't have made the way he moves seem believable a few years ago.

So what's your opinion? Is CG helping or hurting the movie industry?

Good question, Spanky.

I believe that CG has not hurt the film industry. James Cameron was the first director to really use CG in a film (The Abyss and then T2), BTW. What CG enabled a film like Spider-Man to do was make the film resemble, as close as possible, a comic book. Could not have been done without CG.

You have to really consider the skills of the director when it comes to CG and film. Now, we have the likes of Michael Bay, Simon West, Paul Anderson - these are guys who would NOT have been given a huge blockbuster project BEFORE CG. Then you have Jan DeBont, George Lucas. Granted, Jan DeBont was a Master of Cinematography before he became a director. But he and Lucas have, recently, relied too much on CG rather than on plain good old storytelling.

James Cameron: a man who can tell a good story and will use CG/FX as a way to "enhance" the story. And Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi will often opt for wild camera angles over CG/FX to enhance a shot.

Then we come to the virtuoso, the master: Steven Spielberg. Well, after Minority Report, I believe Spielberg is a definite technical wizard. Let me explain: Let's say you create a CG rock. Well, this CG rock will not reflect or absorb light like a real rock. So, if you were to place this CG rock in a live setting - it'll just look "out of place". So, you have to create a setting out of CG to place the rock in. Well, in Minority Report, the FX wonders, along with Spielberg and his wondrous Cinematographer, Januzs Kiminski were able to film scenes with CG elements IN live settings. Absolutely stunning. And few directors can pull it off. We'll be able to see if Peter Jackson and WETA studios can pull it off in The Two Towers. But we've seen glimpses of Spielbergs brilliance in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jurassic Park. BUT, JAWS really captured it, IMO. Especially ONE scene that is really a great study on how to maintain a audience's interest in simple dialogue between characters.

*sigh* SO - it really depends on how CG is handled in a film and who is the handler (director). I think we'll be seeing some good stuff being done. How CG is used will be dependent on the film. Comic book-like films are gonna be heavy in CG, while other films will need CG to enhance the visual quality. And of course, the director and how good of a director he/she is.

I hear you! If you’re sick of CG, like how I get sometimes, but want some action that’s all about “keeping it real”, go down to your video rental store and check out some Jackie Chan flicks. Except for his Hollywood films, he is ALL about keeping it real and is his own special effect.

CG is just another creative tool from a director. Those great tracking shots in Fight Club/ Panic Room wouldn’t be possible without it. I don’t agree that certain projects would be impossible without CG, but I would say they wouldn’t be near as effective. On a sidenote, CG is all over the place and you never even realize it. Best Visual Effects of last year? 102 Dalmations, but it wasn’t nominated or even noticed because Disney never advertised the use of CG dogs. The dog is the second most difficult thing to computer generate (next to humans) and the dogs in that flick look damn real.

To be honest I am a getting a little sick of CG appearing in many films - most notably its overuse (abuse?) in the latest Star Wars movies. In the “older” trilogy, the use of models, puppets and people in rubber costumes at least conferred a tangible realism to an otherwise unreal situation. In its present state, the distinction between the actors and the CGI effects/characters is so obvious that it renders it a somewhat ineffective tool. Just my opinion -

Don’t some CG, as long as it fits in the story. But you know what hacks me off? All the “wire work” that’s appearing in martial arts flicks lately. I go to see someone kick ass in a realistic (assuming one were highly trained and the bad guys were really that stupid) way. Having people leap 35 feet in the air or balance on a toe when their center of gravity is four feet off to the side ruins it for me. It works occasionally - a fantasy like “Crouching Dragon, Hidden Tiger” for instance - but Steven Seagal, Jet Li et al should leave it alone.

The worst use of CG has to be HOLLOW MAN. The whole plot is just an excuse to use CG in different ways.

YES!! Bloody wire work - I hate it with zeal! It irks me when skilled and trained martial arts actors have their action scenes supplemented with this kind of bullshit effect. I know it is used extensively in the Chinese Martial arts movies, but now it is simply commonplace in many action flicks. It was the one element that irked me most about Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but alas it looks like it’s an effect that is here to stay. :frowning:

Okay, okay - NOW I have to say something. Wire work has been a mainstay of HK and Chinese films for YEARS. Over 25-years ago, when I useto watch the Chinese films in my mom’s theater, the use of wire work was MUCH more prevalent than today. Yes, even after Crouching Tiger. BTW: Crouching Tiger tanked in ticket sales in China and HK. Due to the fact that it wasn’t really anything new to the people there. Besides being a fantastic fight choreography, Yuen Wo Ping is known as a fantastic wire works guy. The difference between the crap wire work here, and the ones used in HK and Chinese films are that H-Town (Hollywood) has a tendency to “overuse” a trend.

The really good, HK and Chinese Martial Arts flicks (that use wire work) have wire work displays that are graceful and pretty beautiful to watch.

Patricia - Hmmm interesting. Can you recommend any watchable Asian martial arts movies that employ the effective use of wirework? I’m curious as to why CTH-Dragon tanked so bad in China considering the popularity of it’s principle actors? A snub maybe because of it’s “Western” production associations?

Hi Random: Well, it tanked not due to it’s Western associations, but HK, actually the Chinese in general didn’t consider Crouching Tiger “revolutionary” or “new” or “extraordinary” as it was seen here. As I had said before, wire works and sword fighting combined with martial arts is old news there. Plus, you have Chow Yun Fat, who is yes, a HUGE star there (and here), BUT a HUGE star when he’s carrying two guns and shootin’ them as he’s sliding down a banister. Another thing? Crouching Tiger is spoken in Mandarin. It has one star who is Cantonese (Chow Yun Fat) another who’s main language is English, but is Malaysian and speaks Cantonese (Michelle Yeoh) and the director (Ang Lee) is Taiwanese, but has lived in New York practically all his life.

As for recommendations? Well, I would have to say any of Yuen Wo Ping's earlier movies. Especially Once Upon A Time in China. I have this one on DVD. While it stars Jet Li, there is also Yuen Biao. Yuen is my favorite martial artist (in movies).

I know there is a website for old Shaw Brother movies. Shaw Brothers are a famous and very old production house in China/Hong Kong . Golden Harvest is the production house that eventually worked with Bruce Lee. I would say that any of the "old stuff" from either of these outfits would be cool.

Patricia - Thanks for the recommendations. I just finished watching Once Upon a Time In China as per your recommendation. Thought it knocked the stuffing out of CTHD. My wife (the true martial arts freak of the household) loved it so much she went out and purchased the DVD.

Thats great, Random! Isn’t the DVD really cool? You have to watch it with the commentary - it’s not bad at all. Actually pretty informative. And if you like “Old School” sword fighting/martial arts, I recommend one of John Woo’s first: Last Hurrah for Chivalry. I got the DVD last year when the video became very hard to find. The version with subtitles - don’t get the dubbed. Anywhoos - great stuff. This is “pre-Bang, Bang Shoot 'Em Up” John Woo. I think you’ll like it (and so will your wife)!

BTW: I’ll be going to the International Comic-Con, San Diego week after next (woo hoo!) and my main “supplier” for HK/Chinese action/martial arts films has a booth there and I usually add to our collection by buying a couple of DVDs’. I’ll see what else is good!

Once Upon a Time in China was a great movie. Have you seen Iron Monkey? I picked this movie up at Blockbuster almost 4 years ago, then lo-and-behold, it comes out in the theaters… Anyway, pretty good wire work in that movie in my opinion, even if the movie itself is a little campy.

As for wire work in Hollywood, yes, I definitely think it’s being overused, much like CG can be sometimes.

To add to Spanky’s recomendation: Fong Sai-Yuk or Fist of Legend.