motion capture moviemaking and the horror it reveals

Almost, but not quite, as hot as the real version.

Today the National Evil does not take a bold stand. Instead he reaffirms his agreement with something most of you probably feel: motion capture movies freak him the fuck out.

OK, so this isn’t a hot topic. Anyone who has gazed into the glassy, lifeless eyes of a mustachioed Tom Hanks in The Polar Express knows the terror of which the Evil speaks. The fact that those lifeless eyes, those herky-jerky movements, and the raw-chicken flesh don’t send small children screaming into fetal balls amazes the Evil.

Again: not news. So why bring it up now? Because Evil just saw Beowulf.

Anyone see Beowulf? Evil didn’t have a burning desire to, mostly because of the reviews he’d read noting the continuing motion capture freakishness. But hey, he likes Norse paganism, there’s a naked Angelina Jolie simulacrum strutting about . . . a few monsters . . . why not Netflix the sumbitch?

Well—if you haven’t—Evil will tell you why you shouldn’t: because Beowulf exponentially ratcheted up the freakiness quotient in a way that shocked and appalled him. In a way for which the reviewers hadn’t prepared him.

Oh, the characters have the same vacant, soulless eyes. And their Nordic skin still looks like raw chicken—with no hint of veins pumping blood underneath. But that’s not the issue. You know how most motion-capture characters move like marionettes? Not the characters in Beowulf. Oh no: they move like humans, all right—real humans . . . who’ve suffered blunt physical trauma.

It looked lifelike enough. And it was ghastly—like watching patients stagger from an emergency ward because the hospital caught fire. Imagine that every character in Beowulf owed the mob money, and just before filming, the muscle showed up to break everyone’s knees. That’s it: a pantomime of human misery.

So it’s come to this: motion capture has succeeded in replicating the movements of real people—real people who’ve suffered industrial accidents. Despite their armor and swords, the warriors of Beowulf most closely resembled the workers at a 19th century food processing plant . . . which would be fine if one was filming an adaptation of The Jungle, but doesn’t quite serve the epic genre.

As such, Evil is proposing a moratorium on further motion capture flicks until the eggheads devise a way to make the characters’ movements less vicariously excruciating to watch. Or else just spin the dial back and return to the Frankenstein’s monster shamble we’ve all come to know and fear.


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