The Effect of CGI within Films

Trailer for the new film Everest from Universal Pictures Youtube

With the film Everest coming to theaters next weekend and its stunning visuals seen from the trailer I'd like to take the time for a discussion on the use of CGI in films today which create amazing visuals. Everest is based on events that happened in the 1996 Mt. Everest avalanche but not everything in the film is practical shooting with a few being CGI to improve the illusion of being on top of the world.

 CGI effects are an innovation in this new age of Cinema, but have both negative and positive consequences on the film industry. The use of CGI effects has unlocked various ways for stories to be told in a manner that would have never been possible by previous technology. The negative results are some lazy filmmaking, shortcuts that harm the wider archive of film substituting, good stories with flashy effects and confusing action.

Transformers from
The negative aspect has been more apparent in larger blockbuster films, showcasing full CGI characters that get to be visually confusing. The greatest perpetrator is the Transformer franchise, which have entertainment value but the action is confusing to people like myself that cannot separate one giant robot from another. This type of CGI isn't effective at telling a story within fight sequences. As a fight sequence should be a logical progression of action that viewers can follow, giving the viewer a more visceral sense coming from the film rather then just visual overload.

The Expendables photo from
There is a number one worst use of CGI in my own opinion which are squibs. Squibs were used in films where there was a person being shot a small blood pack and the squib, a small explosive, is detonated, the explosive device has been phased out for compressed air. However even the compressed air has been used less and less due to CGI. The reason why CGI squibs are worse is because of the loss of the illusion of film. The Expendables franchise with its shoot'em up mentality is exciting but the CGI squib detracts from the experience of the action.

A look at Zoe Saldana making Avatar from
CGI is not the worst thing to happen to cinema because it has spawned truly awe inspiring visuals.  The pinnacle of CGI is Avatar, Directed by James Cameron, released in 2009, cost $280,000,000, and was the first movie to make $2 billion dollars worldwide. Avatar is the best example of how CGI can create worlds that otherwise would not exist, due to the constraints of practical effects. The largest fight sequence in the film has an aerial fight between the Na'vi and the military. The sequence is excellent because it demonstrates how fluid CGI effects can allow for a fight sequence to tell a story. In practical fight sequences fight choreographers need to have a logical progression of action rather than just rapid movements on the screen.

CGI has created some of the most incredible films of our generation. In the wrong hands CGI effects hinder the broader story of the film. A film is not just supposed to be visually appealing. A truly great film reflects aspects of the human experience through storytelling. Without a compelling story a film will never reach that level of emotional weight which offers the reflection of humanity. I am not saying to never use CGI, but to use caution so that we can have truly great films with exciting visuals that suit the story.