Visual Effects have come a long way. Remember when George Lucas tried to remaster Jabba the Hutt for Star Wars? That was forgivable, it was still the early days. But when Lucas went and created that most annoying of all cinematic creatures, the evil atrocity that is Jar Jar Binks, it couldn't be ignored. For more reasons than one. Not only was he an affront to the very existence of movies, he was also the worst example of characters created entirely in computers.
The mess of 0s and 1s made a lasting impact, though. Even after all these years we look back at Jar Jar and his vaguely racist ways and shake our heads in dismay.
But the annoying Gungan wasn't the only bad CG character to emerge in an era when filmmakers didn't really know how to utilise the new technology effectively. For many, it was just an excuse to create something that couldn't be captured in camera, usually resulting in some sort of outlandish extravagance.
But there were others who cracked the code. They figured out the secret: The key wasn't going big on the spectacle (although there are good examples of that as well), but the key was implementing visual effects in a way that contributed to the film. Directors like David Fincher use VFX like a artist uses paint, while the blessed Michael Bay (although technically unmatched, falls in each and every trap laid out by the possibilities of VFX).
But, as is usually the case, there is good, there is bad, and there is ugly. Here is our rundown of the evolution of visual effects, focusing on entirely CGI characters.
James Cameron didn't rush it. He waited until the technology had caught up with him, and then he went and created some of the most convincing CGI creatures ever. Upon closer inspection, we can even see the pores on the characters' skin.
Say what you will about Andrew Stanton's box-office bomb John Carter, but there's no denying the quality of the visual effects. Utilising state-of-the-art motion capture, Stanton and co. created incredibly lifelike Tharks.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Fincher is a master of details, and his dedication to perfecting the backwards-ageing Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button convinced us all that he was wearing makeup. He wasn't.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Apes together strong! This was some of Weta Digital's best work. Look at the individual hairs.
Lord of the Rings
Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy really pushed the bar as far as effects go, and Gollum remained impressive throughout the series' run. Bet you can't guess which is the image from LOTR and which is from The Hobbit.
This is a promotional still from Duncan Jones' upcoming fantasy epic Warcraft. It was apparently released exclusively to brag about the stellar work by ILM.
Ru-Roh! There is nothing good about this, including the obnoxious product placement in the corner.
Remember all the buzz Beowulf made for Angelina Jolie's provocative appearance? The marketing department milked it for all it was worth. But those eyes. Those creepy, creepy eyes.
The Matrix Reloaded
There have been so many Agent Smith vs. Neo fights, but this one has to be the worse. What made it all the more aggravating was the fact that it was all going fine. It was a great scene. Then some misplaced sense of adventure overtook The Wachowskis and they decided to replace a perfectly fine Keanu Reeves with a rubbery puppet.
What do you do when you can't afford the real Ahnuld? You create him yourself. And mess it up.
Tron: Legacy was an innovative film. What it lacked in original storytelling, it more than made up for in striking visuals and a great score by Daft Punk. But the young Jeff Bridges couldn't overcome the problems of the uncanny valley syndrome. Yet again, we were subjected to lifeless eyes, and unmoving lips.
& The Ugly
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The turtles in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the pseudo Michael Bay version) weren't badly rendered. They were just horribly designed. In an effort to humanise them, the makers ended up making them super weird. At one point Mikey even tries calming a visibly creeped out Megan Fox.
The Mummy Returns
The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Or in this case, The Rock.
Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace
Meesa is Jack's (uncomfortably racist) anger.
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