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Yes, that is the best headline I could come up with. That’s Friday for you!

So have you seen the trailer for this Beowulf movie? Without knowing what I was about to see, something looked very, very wrong from the get-go. I was watching live action that had been… faked? Overly processed? What was it? Then I realized that Beowulf is another of Robert Zemeckis’ horrifying amalgam movies, combining live-action motion-capture with CG. The effect still gives me a deep-seated shiver any time I see clips or trailers of scenes from The Polar Express.

The Lifeless Eyes of Beowulf

Now the technology has advanced to a more shiverific state. Beowulf stars some great actors. But just watch them in the trailer. They have been digitized, removing any subtlety from their performances. Anthony Hopkins looks like Anthony Hopkins, and Angelina Jolie looks like Angelina Jolie… but those looks have been waxinated. Faked. Changed. Deadened. Look at Beowulf’s CG-perfect body. Creepy. Look at the unnatural CG physical movements of the characters. Creepy! Look at the Polarized deadness in everyone’s eyes. CREEPY! That last one is the worst of all.

I suppose I can go read about the technology involved in the making of this movie, but that’s okay. I will say, having not read such, that while you can motion-capture every movement of an actor’s performance, and while you can make a 3D scan of every tiny crevice of an actor’s face, you can not capture the subtlety of acting. The dead eyes are a huge indication of what’s wrong with this kind of filmmaking. CG turns good actors into bad CG characters.

Of course, CG in the right hands can create brilliant “acting.” Ratatouille is the latest and, maybe, the best example of that from a company that knows what the hell they’re doing with CG. Pixar does not use motion capture, a fact they happily call out in Ratatouille‘s credits.

Motion capture has its place. But why take very talented and expensive actors, shoot them via motion capture, digitize their faces, then scrub out any nuance though CG? It makes no sense. You’re throwing away the subtlety for which you hired those actors in the first place. Oh, unless you hired them just for their names. But no one would do that, now, would they?

Some day someone will get this technique right. But then the question can still be asked, why do it this way? Why not shoot your actors as you normally would, then use their actual faces and reactions and emotions and paint the world around them? 300 did that, and though it was a mediocre movie, at least the actors looked like people.

Pushing the envelope in this direction is a wonderful evolution of science and technology, but not of storytelling. When technology impedes or erases part of the moviemaking magic, it should not to be used.

1 Comment

The Wren Forum » Validated Beobarf Expounded Thusly:

[…] even seeing the movie, I could tell something was wrong with Beowulf. I’m glad I can latch on to someone from a major publication who, after seeing the actual […]

Thursday, November 15th, 2007 • 2:51pm • Permalink • This is a Pingback


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