Thursday 24 September 2009

Undead Checkout Operators

Robert Zemeckis is parping out another of his motion-capture films this Christmas. A Christmas Carol doesn’t star Jim Carrey, it stars Jim Carrey’s performance and voice. Here’s a trailer to clarify my ramblings:

I really don’t get all this motion capture stuff. It’s too close to looking photo-real to be animation but it’s not close enough to actually look real. As a result “mo-capped” (ugh) people just look like dead-eyed dolls moving in a manner unnervingly similar to humans, in much the same way as Shia LaBeouf approaches acting.

In films like The Polar Express and Beowulf, mo-cap (eurgh) has been used to capture the movements and facial features of actors like Tom Hanks, Angelina Jolie and Ray Winstone, in order to create an animated character that looks a bit like Tom Hanks, Angelina Jolie or Ray Winstone and stick them in an animated world. Am I missing something here? Why not just film these guys against a green screen and make the effort to put a realistic-looking world around them? That’s what happened in the Lord Of The Rings and Star Wars prequel trilogies, and their actors didn’t look like undead checkout operators at the end of a 10-hour shift. Well, except maybe Hayden Christensen.

As it happens Peter Jackson did use mo-cap (bleurgh) to create Gollum and King Kong from the performances of the inhumanly awesome Andy Serkis, so I suppose it does have its place, and its place is creating non-human characters, not vague approximations of humans just peculiar enough to give you nightmares. Of course Jackson has now blown his winnings by teaming up with Steven Spielberg to waste years of quality movie-making time on the Tintin films, to be filmed entirely in, yes, motion capture.

So sorry, I love Robert Zemeckis for giving us the Back To The Future trilogy, but I wish he’d stop mucking about with mo-cap (hrrreeuurrrrgghh) and get back to making proper films. You know, ones that use actual film? If he’s unsure, here’s a handy cut-out and keep guide to the difference between success and failure:

To comment on this post, click here


  1. Interesting trailer... Jim Stare-y's dialogue seems to consist entirely of variations on the following:
    "Get awaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!"

    They don't write lines like that anymore...

  2. The only good lines being written these days are to be found in the songs of Sitting Target's talented artist(e)s. Innit.