When computer-generated imagery gets incorporated into a movie, it can take it to a whole new, awesome level. On the other hand, a lot of film buffs believe that CGI tears the soul right out of a film and deprives it of any true artistic merit. Either way, there are a few films out there that would’ve been much better if they gave their computers a little time off.
7. Godzilla (1998)
There are not a lot of things that could’ve saved the 1998 American version of Godzilla from turning out a trainwreck. Mixing a clichéd, all-star cast with summer blockbuster director Roland Emmerich was an instant recipe for disaster. In all the trailers, the “new and improved” Godzilla was nowhere to be found. All they would show us on posters was either a giant lizard-like foot in the middle of New York City, or a huge fiery eyeball. It was instantly obvious that the studio wanted us all to pay for our ticket before we got to feast our eyes on the new face the legendary Japanese monster. I guess this was a brilliant move cause the film went on to gross ever $379 million worldwide. Now we all know it was a pile of whale vomit, but what was the true reason behind all of the hate on Godzilla? Answer: CGI Godzilla.
In my opinion, this movie could’ve been instantly saved if they would have at least tried to stay close to the original roots of the franchise and threw most of the Independence Day-style CG out the window. I understand updating things with technology is the main reason why people get excited about a remake, but turning the entire look of the classic creature into a more lifelike lizard was the wrong way to go. Stay true to your roots. Giving ‘Zilla a little personality is one thing, but besides his classic battle cry, the 1998 Godzilla was nothing even remotely close to the creature that made the franchise popular in the first place.
6. The Mummy Returns
When this film came out, people were wrapped up in all the hype that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (at the time better known as a wrestler) was gonna be the next Schwarzenegger, and The Mummy Returns was going to be the Conan-like role that would blast him into superstardom. This was yet another highly-anticipated sequel that dropped the ball when it came to giving audiences what they expected.
Instead of having raw, barbaric action like the first Conan, they gave us slapstick computer-generated images that would even make my nana laugh. It did put The Rock on the map in Hollywood, but it wasn’t anywhere near Schwarzenegger-like material. The Scorpion King scenes near the end of the film ruined everything. How in the hell can you let one of the main characters be CG’d in such a horrible fashion?
5. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
For a film released in 2009, X-Men Origins: Wolverine has some of the worst CGI effects I’ve ever seen. The helicopter chase scene, in particular, was so utterly over the top, I can’t even begin to explain it. I know audiences want a legitimate eyeball buffet when they go to the cinema, but it really seemed that the makers of this movie relied too heavily on trying to give us some of the most unrealistic action images ever created.
The story of how Wolverine came to be is enough to keep audiences captivated for two hours. They also had a great cast starring one of the last true action stars. Also, Will.ia.m’s portrayal of John Wraith was actually one of the real highlights of the film. His chemistry with Jackman was great, and this alone could have made the movie that much better if they didn’t hit us in the face with another ridiculous green-screened action sequence every two seconds. The only remotely fun scene with CGI is when Deadpool cuts the room to bits with his bullet-slicing skills.
4. Spider-Man 3
Sam Raimi is hands down one of the most creative and gifted directors around, and you really can’t blame him for dropping the ball and using an endless string of visual effects to mend the gaping holes in Spider-Man 3.
To me, the biggest flaw of the film is that there are far too many things going on story-wise. The film gives us three bad guys, drama with Mary Jane, Harry beefing with Peter, and two separate Spider-Mans (or Spider-Men, if you will). This stacked card gave viewers a wide range of amazing special effects to feast on.
The issue here isn’t even the quality of the effects – the CGI in the film was stellar. The Sandman scenes, in particular, were a thrill for any vintage Spidey fan. However, this comes at a cost – with all of this visual madness, Spider-Man 3 ended up lacking the true heart and soul of the first two films. CGI made this movie fail because the makers simply depended on it far too much.
3. I Am Legend
I actually thought that Will Smith was amazing in I Am Legend. It’s no easy task to lead a film Cast Away-style all by yourself. This is why the questionable special effects annoyed me, and why this movie would have been so much better if they just hired someone like Rob Bottin or Rick Baker to do some legit make-up and special effects work.
The humanoid zombies in I Am Legend were simply horrendous as well as straight up laughable. Older films with less technical tools can get away with having crappy effects because they could only work with what they had. I Am Legend, on the other hand, had a $150 million budget and still managed to turn out some thoroughly underwhelming effects. Using CGI to create a post-apocalyptic New York City is one thing, but using it to poorly create the alpha zombie is just plain wrong.
Will Smith does all his hard work in the film for nothing. The villain has no soul and zero charisma. All they needed to do was get a great actor like Gary Oldman in some Rick Baker makeup, and things would’ve been all good. Instead, the director thought it would be neater for Will to battle a hollow, computer-generated mess.
2. Ang Lee’s Hulk
Where to start with this one? How about the sight of a CG Hulk prancing around the desert in purple shorts?
Films like Hulk seem to rely on keeping all images of their main character under wraps until moviegoers are at the theatre buying their tickets. A movie like this can be marketed purely on knowing that fans of the series just want to see Bruce Banner Hulk out and cause destruction. That said, the 2003 live-action version of Hulk was as bad as people make it out to be.
The comic book-like editing is any geek’s dream, but the weak CG Hulk deflated things instantly. The fight sequences with the army seemed to go on forever, and each sequence was more mind-numbing than the next. I know we all want to see Hulk smash, but like many action films, it overdid it.
1. The Matrix Reloaded/The Matrix Revolutions
The first Matrix film seemed to have the perfect mix of jaw-dropping CGI and a legit storyline that kept you hooked from beginning to end. But when it comes to the sequels, it’s a different story.
The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions are two of the best examples of the issues in trying to follow up a successful first film. Why? Well, because the Wachowskis seemed to pour all their time into eye-popping stunts, fight scenes, and special effects, instead of focusing a little more on the story that made the film a box office smash in the first place. I’m not saying that as a hungry moviegoer I didn’t want some serious optical junk food when going to the theatre, but endless fight scenes like Neo brawling with an endless supply of Agent Smiths became dangerously stupid after the second minute.
The movies themselves weren’t all that horrible in the end. Had the filmmakers spent a tad bit more time using some of the basic foundations of filmmaking instead of relying on a computer during post-production, things would’ve turned out much better for us all.