For better or worse, the internet has become our echo chamber for everything good or bad in fandom. Sometimes we go on tears for some of the smallest things because ‘they just aren’t right’. Part of the problem that arises within fandoms is that we create such a fervor over these things that we completely forget about larger issues which may also affect our corners of fandom.
Thus, I was not surprised that within the past few weeks, people who were already kicking the Justice League movie down found a new reason to do so: Henry Cavill’s face had been CGI’ed because of his contractual obligation with the new Mission: Impossible movie saying that he could not shave. There were others that complained about the decision to make Steppenwolf a CGI character vs using a real actor. Right behind that, new complaints regarding Thanos’ CGI rendering in the new Avengers movie are surfacing. I think there has been more talk about Thanos’ appearance than any other part of the trailer.
With the exception of the early look of Apocalypse from the last X-men movie (which was certainly awful), I am thankful that the internet didn’t exist 30 to 40 years ago when some of the greatest movies of my generation came about. I could only imagine how some of you would criticize the ‘crude’ work of Robocop fighting ED-209, Jeff Goldblum’s transformation into a human insect, or if you want to go way back, Jason fighting skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts.
It may sound a bit of ‘get off my lawn-ish’ of me to say, but a lot of critics (both armchair and otherwise) have become so spoiled over what CGI wizardry has bestowed upon us these last few years. Let’s face it, without the strides that CGI has taken, we would not have gotten a Justice League movie or any of the big budget movies that we have gotten over the past 2 decades, especially with the quality most expect. I think many people forget that a lot of big budget movies grew from special effects wizardry, practical effects and ingenuity of times gone by.
Before I go any further, I will say I totally missed Superman’s CGI’ed lip. I didn’t read anything about it until it started popping up in various forums and I am one of the few that doesn’t see it as a big deal. You know why? Because I wasn’t looking for it. I spent more time trying to enjoy Justice League as a whole than trying to identify that one flaw which may or may not have ruined the entire movie for a lot of people. With that said, there was a time when I really enjoyed buying special editions of certain DVDs and Blu-rays not because of the movie itself, but for the behind the scenes look at how they were made. If you ever wanted to hear how Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder felt while making the flying scenes for the original Superman, it was on the disk. If you wanted to know how hard it was to get the mechanical shark to not break down in Jaws, you could get the full documentary on DVD. How did those faces melt in Raiders of the Lost Ark? You get the idea. The point is, a lot of what made these effects work was reliance on hard work and ingenuity – and a lot less on computers. Many of these effects are now crude by today’s standards, but no less effective. Many of us spent a lot less time criticizing the effects of these big budget films back then because we knew the limitations.
But I am curious to know: those who hated Superman’s CGI ‘stache, did you enjoy the rest of the movie? Can you tell others, in detail, exactly how was it a movie-breaking issue? What about those who criticized Star Wars: Rogue One in its usage of Peter Cushing’s and Carrie Fisher’s likeness? But did the story add value to the Star Wars universe or did those effect ruin everything else about the movie? What about the Hulk’s appearance in the latest Thor movie? Did he look more or less ‘Hulkier’ and did it affect the overall movie for you?
We can go on and on, but the problem is that (as one of my colleagues pointed out) it’s not that CGI for some of these movies is bad, it’s just overdone. Too often we let that one issue affect the movie we are watching more than anything else. Then we go throw those complaints about special effects back into the echo chamber to see who else hated that one issue as well. This is what happened with a lot of fans with JL and Superman’s mustache. The problem weighs so heavily that, in many instances, fandoms forget whether or not they enjoyed the rest of the movie – and this is what we need to get back to; simply enjoying the experience of what we have now.
Conversely, over-reliance on CGI has given some of the best in the business a shortcut for wasting tons of money making movies at the expense of telling a good story (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, we are all looking at you) and killing franchises (again, X-men: Apocalypse). This issue can still be blamed on fans. Fans are still responsible by voting with their dollars for some movies that they will hate on because of CGI. This is especially true when you know the track record of the people producing the movie. There is a reason why Michael Bay has made so much money off of Transformers. There is a reason why we keep running back to see franchises like The Fast and Furious, (And let’s be honest, most of us don’t go to see the F&F movies for the story.) The Lord of the Rings, many of the Marvel movies and so on. Love it or hate it, there is a reason why Star Wars and Star Trek movies are still being made, considering the effects used 40 years ago are crude when compared to today’s standards. Remeber, there are fans who hate what George Lucas has done with the CGI added to the original movies that they quit that fandom altogether. It’s up to us to determine whether or not the story-telling has improved. If it didn’t and you just liked it just because the CGI is great,then in a sense, your enjoyment or lack there of is on you, the viewer.
CGI is just a tool; and that tool has now helped create worlds in movies that are more credible now than what we have gotten in decades past. Sometimes it’s overused and other times, that right balance is struck in its believability and story telling. While many reserve the right to criticize how well that tool is being used, let us not forget to factor in everything else that went into some of our favorite films. Sometimes fans need to not be so overeager to complain about the one little part of a special effect that supposedly ruined everything else so much. Be honest with yourself, if you thought Justice League was a bad movie, it wasn’t just because of the mustache…some of us are just so nit-picky that we just can’t let ourselves have fun despite small issues.