Infinity War’s Thanos proves CGI supervillains are a terrible idea

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The final trailer of Infinity War presents a terrifying and monumental threat to the earth. Armies collide. The corpses are scattered across the screen. Music explodes An impressive percussion awakens emotions. Lightning cracks And in the center of all this is … Thanos! The terrifying destroyer of the universe! Who, unfortunately, looks like a purple and bald plastic mannequin with strange furrows on his chin to compensate for the fact that he can not leave a beard.
There is no kind way to say it: Thanos is not impressive; he is ridiculous A villain named after death must seem frightening, perhaps with some kind of visual reference to death. Instead, Thanos introduces himself as a too-inflated cousin of Grimace's McDonald's marketing. Except that Grimace is really a little scary.

What went wrong in the Disney special effects store? It is not a mystery in particular. The superhero's madness has been facilitated by the amazing advances in computer graphics. CGI makes it possible to show the body of Reed Richards by stretching like candy or to portray Dr. Strange by throwing mystical bolts of supernatural energy. Superheroes can be portrayed in the film in a way they could never be. In 1978, the Superman posters promised "You will believe that a man can fly". Now, the cinema can make you believe that a raccoon can shoot blaster weapons and that Thomas the Tank Engine can have a terrifying size. Everything is possible.
But to be more precise, everything is possible as long as that "anything" has clean and polished lines. This works pretty well for the heroes. It makes sense that the suit financed by Iron Man's high-tech billionaires has hard edges and shiny surfaces. Even the monstrous Hulk works well in CGI; the clarity of their features makes them more expressive and understanding, which is good since spectators are supposed to sympathize with him. And the fact that CGI makes it seem a bit unreal, and therefore less frightening than it could be, is fine, since it is not supposed to scare you. He is one of the good guys.
But villains are a problem. Superhero antagonists are destined to be terrifying, not generic or absentmindedly dumb. The ingenious definition of CGI makes Ultron look like a toy, not a threat. The CGI alien invaders in The Avengers are drawn so smoothly that it's hard to remember what they are like, five minutes after leaving the screen. And that does not even go into disasters, like Batman v Superman's Doomsday, where the effort to portray a crispy and rocky horror in CGI makes it look like Henry Cavill's Steel Man is involved in a life or death fight with a caricature Poorly rendered Or Ares in Wonder Woman's final battle, where a face-to-face confrontation between enemies suddenly turned into a lightweight, weightless video game scene.

Image: Warner Bros.

Traditionally, the designs of the most visually stunning villains have involved more neglected traditional methods: makeup, prosthetics, costumes and a good deal of ingenuity. The orcs and monsters in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy would have been much less impressive if WETA had tried to build them digitally. The original Jabba the Hutt from the Star Wars trilogy is so wonderful, viscerally unpleasant by the genius of the film's puppeteers: a genius brought painfully home when George Lucas inserted a poorly conceived and rubbery CGI Jabba in later editions of the movies . And one of the most fearsome villains of the last 50 years, Darth Vader, is just a man with a mask.
And the best villains are often just talented actors who are evil, without any digital help at all. For Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin or Heath Ledger as Joker, special effects are superfluous. Michael Keaton has just been Michael Keaton in Spider-Man: The return was much more terrifying than Michael Keaton's Vulture suit because the visibly human version of the character was much more nuanced, personal and specific. It is no coincidence that the most visually successful villain of superheroes in recent years is Hela de Thor: Ragnarok, a character where the CGI complements were all external and did not interfere with the central design, which was basically just "Cate Blanchett". in gothic makeup. "Hela's extravagant and threatening CGI horns are undoubtedly an inspired flourish, but they're just a flourish." Ragnarok's effects team used CGI to drive a solid design into the glorious overlapping camp, instead of relying on the computers to face the full weight of Hela's threat.

Image: Marvel Studios

The problem with CGI villains is not that CGI is bad in itself. Used in characters that must seem disturbingly unreal, like the T-1000 that changes form in Terminator 2, it's an effective way to convey a strange valley alien. The problem is that superhero filmmakers often use CGI as a shortcut for designing monsters. CGI offers many advantages and flexibility, and it is obvious that it is about creating characters like Thanos, which never really fit the normal human dimensions. But the CGI villains have a low and fast date. As the state of the art progresses, last year's CGI characters look increasingly worse in comparison. Darth Vader in Star Wars remains chilling and intimidating 40 years after he first hit the screen. The Justice League came out last year, and its villain, Steppenwolf, already looks cheap.
Computers are excellent tools, but they are not a substitute for the physicality of a human face and human expression. Nor are they a substitute for imagination, inspiration and a willingness to reevaluate when their cosmic purple threat resembles Vin Diesel's loving son and a plum. The real fight in superhero films is not for world domination, but for determining which one will dominate the future, CGI or the accessible emotions of a visible human actor. In Infinity War, in regards to Thanos, CGI won, and it seems that the audience lost.


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