Last night, I went to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and it got me thinking about the CGI that was used. Not just in The Hobbit, but in the previews as well. There was a preview for The Amazing Spiderman 2, and almost the entire trailer was CGI clips. Now don’t get me wrong, CGI can be used to do some great shots. However, the problem as I see it is that it can be greatly over-used.
On some movies, this can be an intentional choice. Such as in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, where pretty much the entire movie was CGI – this works in my opinion. However, when you need to mix CGI and live-action seamlessly, there can be a tendency more to be lazy with the live-action. Before CGI, miniatures had to be made for everything, and miniatures almost always look better than CGI. Granted, these shots probably used CGI to cut two shots together, but in my mind this is an acceptable use of CGI. Creating an entire scene seems lazy.
The reason that I found The Hobbit to have a lot of CGI is because most of the movie that was inside the lonely mountain was CGI. Everything just seemed too perfect. The gold coins seemed all flat, Smaug was sitting on a ridiculously large pile of gold, among other things. I will paraphrase The Hobbit book here, from memory:
A constant stream of smoke came out of the gate.
I never got this feeling from the movie; everything still seemed as though the dwarves had left the lonely mountain and nothing had really changed.
To conclude, I think that this video shows what I’m talking about well; there are CGI elements, but it’s used more to tie two real shots together. Because of this, it really shows better what is going on, and everything seems more realistic. One of the problems with CGI as I see it is that everything seems too perfect; this is partly because of how the light is reflecting off of objects. Most of the time, everything seems too bright. The rest of the time, it generally feels off because the laws of physics seem to be broken; miniatures still have to follow the laws of physics.