Thursday, October 2, 2014

Computer Generated Imagery: The Movie of Tomorrow

In movies today, special effects are not only common, but also expected. As the average attention span of the human being decreases, the need for greater intrigue is continuing to rise. CGI (computer generated imagery) is one special effect that movies use to successfully capture the attention of the audience. I have chosen to review The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, a 2012 fantasy adventure film directed by Peter Jackson, in which computer CGI contributes to the success of the film.

Computer generated imagery is the application of 3D computer graphics to special effects. Essentially, a character is designed on a computer and is then brought to life in the movie. While humans are used to imitate realistic movements for the characters, the visual perception of the character is completely animated. The Hobbit, while not completely animated, does use a high amount of CGI in its characters. “If William Shakespeare were alive today, he would be enthralled by the ability of computer generated imagery to create fantastic, brave new worlds, where the magical is commonplace”(Gianetti 33).

The primary reason for using CGI in the hobbit is simple: the desired character could not be achieved by using real humans or animals. A variety of characters are created using CGI in The Hobbit, including many of the dwarves, the wolves, Smaug the dragon, and Azog. Azog, for example, the main antagonist of the hobbit, is a seven-foot tall, vicious looking orc. His body shape is generally similar to that of a human, but he is much larger and contains monster-like features. It would be very difficult to find someone to play the role of Azog, simply based off of his physical appearance. CGI is a logical solution to develop a believable alternative for a character. Smaug, the dragon, could only be created by CGI because there are not real dragons. These aspects of CGI appeal to logos because they are logical decisions.

Pathos is also an appeal affected by the use of GCI. CGI allows for the creation of believable characters and landscapes that would otherwise be unbelievable or impossible to make. Azog and other CGI characters affect our emotions because of how realistic they appear. Characters are created that look and act real. Azog evokes a fear within viewers that a person in a costume and makeup could not generate. His ogre like head combined with his massive size and giant scars are terrifying to a viewer. The same is true for many of the dwarves in a different sense. Had a human as opposed to CGI played their character, they would have lost some comedic value.

There is, however, a setback to the heavy application of CGI. While it does appeal to logos and pathos, it appeals much less so to ethos as the characters are not real. It is difficult for the viewer to establish a connection with a character who is not even a real person. The only way that ethos could be effective for a character created with CGI is if the role is well known or there was a previous movie with the character.

In my opinion, The Hobbit was certainly enhanced by the use of CGI. Peter Jackson was able to create characters that would otherwise have been ineffective or impossible to convey with human actors. It is important to establish characters that successfully filled their purpose. Azog needed to be an intimidating character, and the dwarves needed to be little, physically humorous characters. With CGI, these characters successfully appealed to pathos, as they were able to create strong emotions within the audience. Logos was also an appeal affected by CGI. It was logical to create characters that would appeal to the viewers. The only downside to CGI in The Hobbit was a lack of ethos. It is difficult for the viewer to connect and value a character that is not a human. For these reasons, I believe this movie should receive four out of five pickles for CGI.

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