Sep 7, 2004

Living Cartoons

I'm old enough to remember a time when computer-animated creations weren't prominent in feature films. I'm not talking about 3D animated films, there are plenty of those, and I don't want to give them any more press time than they already get (I'll come back to that around the time The Incredibles gets ready to premiere). Plus, Square Pictures' Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within could have did a lot better if it wasn't called Final Fantasy, especially since there was little connection to the familiar elements in the film, but that's a whole other conversation. It's been many moons since Young Sherlock Holmes, The Abyss, and T2, and CGI heroes, antiheroes, and villians are as commonplace as an unoriginal idea in films.

I'm kidding about the unoriginal idea joke (to a point).

If it wasn't for CGI, the Lord of the Rings trilogy couldn't possibly be made. Okay, that's a lie, it could have been made, but it would have been a dramatically different film. It would have looked and felt like the original Star Wars trilogy. In short, a cinematic masterpiece that has a huge, loyal fanbase . . . kind of like now.

Strangely, the original Star Wars trilogy will never be seen again. Oh, you'll see A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, but you'll never see the film as it was originally shown in 1977, 1980, and 1983, respectedly. The upcoming DVDs will not bring the much-ballyhooed and much-criticized "Special Editions" to the masses that already have them on tape. In fact, these releases will be the "ultimate vision until George Lucas finds fault with these in about ten years" special edition with many of the same tweaks made in earlier editions as well as introducing reshot and reanimated scenes. Funny thing that George Lucas has created the perfect science-fiction trilogy that has amassed billions in box office receipts and merchandising and countless devoted fans, and yet, he treats the original films as if they were the worst thing he ever produced. He spliced out many of the elements that made the original films real and basically churned out a lot of animated sequences. They're not shoddy by any means (the Sy Snootles sequence was probably my favorite of the Special Edition), but the fact that he'd rather see pixelated characters rather than flesh and blood people in costumes is a wee bit disturbing.

When Lucas made his prequel trilogy, he decided to utilize the latest technology making perhaps the first live-action animated movies. The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones could have been better films if they had a little more flesh-and-blood characters and less of the animated ones.

Oh, and if they had better scripts.

The strange part is that the animated Clone Wars, which will be airing on September 25 during Cartoon Network's Toonami lineup, felt more real than the last two live-action films, and probably because of Clone Wars (and the March mini-series that'll show the scrolling dialogue of Revenge of the Sith in action), I'm actually thinking of plunking down my $6.25 (I'm guessing that's what the price will be at the MacArthur Center Regal Cinema in 2005) for a Saturday matinee of Revenge of the Sith.

The upcoming film Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow intrigues and frightens me a little bit (see, if you stayed a while, you knew I'd get to something a little more current than thrashing the cartooniness of the first two Star Wars prequel movies). The trailers looks like a living anime film, which really facinates the pseudootaku within. Seriously, there are planes with flapping wings and robots that look like distant cousins to The Iron Giant roaming the skies. As an animation fan, this really facinates me. However, the film fanatic fears that the animation might overtake a really good story. Perhaps Sky Captain would be the first film to make CGI animation that looks like animation on purpose rather than trying to fool the viewers into thinking that it's real like the first two Star Wars prequel films (let's face it, as cool as that Yoda/Count Dooku fight was, it really looked cheesy and fake) and the Spider-Man films (as much as SM2 outdid the first film in plot and character development, the animation sequences still felt a little too rubbery).

Who knows? Perhaps it'll make a realistic CGI fan out of me yet.

1 comment:

Cody S. said...

Man I've caught Sky Captain hype and I've caught it bad.

Ever since I saw that teaser trailer earlier this year I was hooked. When I learned it was shot ENTIRELY on blue Screen, with everything the characters didn't physically touch I became nervous. I suddenly was made aware of the tales of woe from the actors working on the Star Wars prequels and how much they apparently hated working with Blue Screen because it didn't allow them to act.

But the more and more I read up on Sky Captain...the less I felt the need to worry.

Perhaps I'm putting too much faith on no-name director Kerry Conran, and Producer Jude Law...but I really feel like I've got nothing to worry about.

Visually the film looks fantastic. I will probably wind up liking the movie because of it's obvious CGI mastery...after all, I am a CGI buff. Gwenith signed up without even reading a script. Jolie (Who..uh...looks rather strapping in that...aqua outfit and eyepatch =P) is just as excited about the film as producer Law, and none of them have a single thing bad to say about Director Conran.

In fact, all of the actors have said working with blue screen has been "Fun," and "slightly liberating". The people participating in the making of this film actually seem to like the improvision/freedom which the Blue Screen allows. Conran is EXTREMELY well prepared since apparently he's been tossing the idea for the movie around forever (it was his 15 (?) minute CGI piece for the movie that he whipped up on his own Mac that got the movie it's actors and a distributer in the first place).

I've been wrong before...but there's something about this movie that's just reeling me in...and I'm not fighting it. I even went to Best Buy with my Sister earlier today just so I could nab the free 'Behind the Scenes of Sky Captain' CD that you get with a DVD purchase from her. The entire film looks extremely unique homage to Early Superman Cartoons, Buck Rodgers, Metropolis, and a bunch others. The whole Futuristic past stories always get me for some reason...perhaps it's because they're underdone in today's need to constant action with no substance movies.

The only thing about the film I worry about, is the mainstream appeal. Anime, Cartoons,'s all wonderous to me and a bunch other animation-type fanboys across the net...but I'm not convinced mainstream audiences will buy into it...or realize it's supposed to look quasi-fake. I mean, even my Step-father told me he had no interest in seeing it because he thought it 'looked fake', when in all actuallity that's what the film makers were going for.

Most mainstream audiences won't go into the film knowing it's essentially an animated film with live action characters. They won't know that at one point the film was going to be in black and white, but they decided to 'colorize' it to give it a whole new dimension. And most won't even understand that the whole story and any campyness attributed to it will be intentional throwbacks to old serial series.

But atleast I'm thrilled it's opening is finally here...I'll definetly be seeing it as soon as I possibly can.