Technology is something the film industry can never be grateful enough for. From being able to reanimate long gone actors in movies, show robots transforming into cars and have humans display super powered strength, all this just adds onto the cinematic experience.
When I went to watch the retelling of Disney’s timeless classic, the Lion King, I tried not to judge it in comparison with its predecessor and to see how it was as a standalone film. The one thing that immediately caught my eye was the impressive visual s: from the landscape to the animals, everything looked so real that it felt…off. The reactions on the animals’ faces was so devoid of any human emotion(maybe that was the whole point) that the gut wrenching scene of Mufasa’s death had my stomach very settled on sight. Granted, Simba’s voice actor was convincing enough to get me to look away(I still do to this day), the initial impact was lost, and the same was true with any other emotionally upheaving moment in the movie.
This got me thinking: is emphasizing on the visual style of the movies getting in the way of telling an impactful story? I believe so, and I have reasons why:
- Action scenes become the focus of the film
The first time I watched Superman returns, I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t enough action scenes in the movie, especially after that great plane rescue scene. After all, the little boy I was wanted to see him flying about, just like the comics. But when I re-watched it as I got older, I was glad that they didn’t. Otherwise I’d have missed the story, the performances of the cast and the overall tone the movie was going for.
The reliance on top-of-the-line CGI has rendered movies a cacophony of spectacle after spectacle, each movie almost trying to outdo the other in whose film has the best scene. While this may create awesome scenes, the story behind those is lost and one wonders what to do after watching it.
- Bigger and better syndrome
Ask anyone about X-Men: Days of Future Past and they’ll probably tell you about the awesome Quicksilver scene, which was actually great to watch. To me, what made it even better was the fact that he was not the sole focus of the film, rather an integral part of the overall story: to break out Magneto, who’d help in tracking and stopping Raven in her tracks.
Fast forward to X-Men: Apocalypse. He has a bit of backstory now(notwithstanding the timeline issues), and he wants to find out more about Magneto, which leads him to the even better speed sequence in the mansion. Great as it was, I couldn’t help but feel as if the filmmakers said: Let’s go over the top with this one. Why? Because that’s all people wanted to see.
If there’s one thing I liked in Dark Phoenix, aside from Hans Zimmer’s score, was how Jean wiped Quicksilver out, because it showed how vulnerable he actually is and kind of amped up just how powerful Jean was. Audiences might have wanted to see him flit about, but accidents tend to happen.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but having bigger and better might circle back to the first point: your action sequences become the main focus of the film, and the story is written around it instead of it being a part of the story.
- Sacrificing heart for spectacle
Back to the original Lion King. that movie, and a lot of animations like that at the time had one thing going for them: heart. The first time I saw Simba trying to wake Mufasa’s corpse, begging him to get up and go home, those tears flowed freely. The emotions displayed by cartoon animals were enough for me to bawl and skip that scene whenever I re-watched the movie.
The remake, like I said earlier, is an achievement in 3d imagery. It looks realistic, feels realistic, but has no heart in it. And this is the plight of every movie trying to go for over the top visuals: in focusing on the scenes and how great they’d look, the story suffers and the initial message, meant to evoke a certain emotion from the audience, may not be delivered.
- Plot and character development are stunted
Suppose you have a decent movie with one scene that many people are talking about. This will heighten audience expectations to see something similar in the sequel. Now, you may want to explore a different angle in the follow-up, but because that’s what worked the first time, one will have to be put in there, come rain or shine.
Your characters are then forced to act in such a way that they end up in this particular scene, which may work if done well, but often leads to some of them acting unexpectedly, and not in a good way. Thus, your story suffers, your initial intention is laid to rest and you’re forced to ‘give the people what they want.’
That being said, I’m super grateful that we have such technology to begin with. I just hope that going to the movies doesn’t become a show reel of what can be done with it, otherwise I might as well just watch Youtube.