Van Helsing and the Death of American Filmmaking

Okay, maybe that headline is extreme, but I left VAN HELSING pondering the current state of American movie-making. Most of the movie… and most of the characters…are CGI. Essentially, they are cartoons… lousy, unconvincing cartoons at that. And the big, climactic confrontation in the movie doesn’t happen between two actors, but between two lousy, unconvincing CGI characters (not to mention the mostly CGI and digital matte locations and backgrounds). In essense, the movie was a bloated cartoon with a few living actors inserted. The live-action characters weren’t much more convincing than their CGI counterparts. I never got invested in the characters, the story, or the big action set pieces. None of it seemed real… because it wasn’t. There was nothing engaging about the movie at all. When did studios start believing audiences were more interested in CGI than characters, story, and genuine emotion? Is this what movie-makers think audiences want? Are they right?

7 thoughts on “Van Helsing and the Death of American Filmmaking”

  1. I don’t pay for first-run movies anymore. The next one I’ll see is Harry Potter. Then the last Star Wars movie (because, hell, I saw the first five in the theatre), but that’s it. I can get my intelligence insulted in the privacy of my own home with a Netflix subscription, and it doesn’t cost me $9 a pop or force me to sit in front of some obnoxious kid (unless it’s my nephew.)

  2. We’re facing the end of narrative coherence in any studio movie with a budget over $75 million. (Unless said movie is directed by Peter Weir, Peter Jackson or someone else from Down Under.) What’s crushing is that these big movies are the only kind the studios make any more.

  3. My wife turned to me during “Broken Arrow” and said “This movie is a cartoon without animation.” And that describes many movies I’ve seen since then.

  4. To me, MASTER AND COMMANDER and PERFECT STORM are examples of CGI used right… in service of story and character. CGI is fine when used as a tool…not when it becomes the movie…or worse, when it actively damages a film.
    I was aghast when I saw the CGI “Tidal wave” sequence in DIE ANOTHER DAY. James Bond was reduced to a poorly drawn computer game character. I’m sure there was a lot of other CGI in the film…but this sequence was 100% CGI and 100% unbelievable. It pulled you out of the movie… and out of the fantasy. The CGI didn’t serve the movie, the story or the characters… it undermined them all.
    CGI is like a perscription drug…fine when used as directed, deadly when you overdose.

  5. Well said, Lee. I had wanted to watch VAN HELSING as pure escapist fun, but bad CGI leads to the opposite. It makes me aware that these creatures/effects are manmade.
    I also hated the tidal wave sequence in DAD. A bad special effect just so we could see Brosnan’s face? Compare this to Dalton’s two realistic Bond movies, in which he did some of his own stunts. It’s no contest.

  6. I think with CGI it is just like with cholesterol, there is good stuff and there is bad stuff. Take movies like “Pearl Harbor” and “Titanic” and subtract the computers and all you’re left with is Ben Affleck in an Hawaiian print shirt and and a giant blue plastic dangle necklace with a French name that I can’t spell. The old Titanic movie was pretty good, but honestly, if you have a lousy love story you need at least one big loud ship/boat that crashes.
    As for huge monsters, they crack me up, every single time. Anyone remember “The Mummy Returns”? I thought the Scorpion King was hilarious (though I believe I was the only one in the whole movie theater who did…). It’s got its good sides and bad sides…we got rid of the plastic boat in bath tub close-up and got…Rack Attack.
    I don’t think character-interaction is going to die, somewhere between the huge spiders it will always exist. 🙂


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