CGI Friday’s

November 25, 2009

Roland Emmerich’s disaster flick 2012 is a traumatic experience. The earth surface cracks; hot lava explodes into the air; merciless tidal waves flood entire cities; the North and South Poles reverse; the earth’s crust shifts as the core bubbles. It’s fire and brimstone, people! Now, as I lounge in front of the fireplace in the quiet, rural town of Staunton, Virginia, the wall clock ticking peacefully in the background, I can imagine the waters of the Atlantic ocean hurtling over the Blue Ridge mountains in the distance into our fair valley washing me away in an instant. According to the Mayans, this exact scenario will occur in two years. Nowhere is safe. Not Virginia. Not even Wisconsin. There’s nothing we can do but repent and meet our maker. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m storing up my lethal dose of morphine now.

How is all this death and destruction depicted on the silver screen? CGI, of course. I may be old-fashioned, but, to me, computer generated images are cartoon-like and unrealistic. Watching a video game that you can’t control really isn’t that fun. This movie isn’t a lot of fun either, even with addition of real live actors like John Cusack and Woody Harrelson. The fantastic, intricate models of vintage George Lucas made films more realistic–not to mention better for the economy. Think about all the sets and costumes that had to be manufactured! 2012 could have been a public works project for the recession. At least it would have had more impact that way.

I think people are getting tired of CGI, and low-budget, box-office surprises like Paranormal Activity are a testament to that. There are a few scenes at the end of 2012 that are shot tight and close in digital video with a handheld camera, and these are the most frightening and compelling. Computer images are merely crude simulations of reality. Reality is much, much scarier.