APPARENTLY, IT'S REALLY HARD to find wannabe actors in Los Angeles—for the past decade, Hollywood's been scrambling to see who can invent a CG actor that doesn't creep the fuck out of everyone. With Robert Zemeckis' latest CG nightmare, A Christmas Carol, hitting theaters this week, let's revisit the creepy, dead-eyed automatons who've invaded our multiplexes.
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)—This movie is about giant monsters who come out of the ground and eat things! So it's kinda like Tremors, but all Japanese and filled with hippie-talk about "Gaia" and crap. It was also the first attempt at a photo-realistic CG feature, and all of the zombie-like characters stare blankly into the middle distance. Hey, speaking of Tremors, Tremors was pretty sweet.
The Polar Express (2004)—Think CG grownups are creepy? WAIT UNTIL YOU SEE CG CHILDREN! Robert Zemeckis' first venture into motion capture resulted in the single most terrifying film ever, in which a trainload of soulless, murderous children collide with an army of soulless, murderous midgets at the top of the world.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)—Motion capture works best when it's done with aliens and freaks, like our pals Jar Jar and Gollum. Bill Nighy's performance as mopey fish-man Davy Jones is the best thing about the Pirates sequels, in no small part because the filmmakers use everything disconcerting about CG and motion capture to great effect. Plus, Davy Jones has TENTACLES. FOR A BEARD.
Beowulf (2007)—Apparently missing the memo that everyone hated The Polar Express, Zemeckis went on to make Beowulf, a CG action flick with all the nuance of a painting on a metalhead's van. Cruelly, Zemeckis also included a near-naked Angelina Jolie—except it wasn't even Angelina Jolie, it was just some CG thing that kind of looked like Angelina Jolie. Try explaining that to my boner.
Avatar (2009)—James Cameron vows his decade-in-the-making sci-fi flick will boast motion-capture performances so lifelike that audiences will believe Avatar's blue, 10-foot-tall aliens actually exist. If one dude can cross the Uncanny Valley, it's effects pioneer Cameron. But don't get too excited—even if Cameron succeeds, Zemeckis is threatening a CG remake of the Beatles' Yellow Submarine. Man. That guy's a dick.