Pseudo Realism

Ann Hornaday liked the new Hulk film a good bit better than I did, but I do think she’s onto something with this passage:

And how are the special effects? It’s always difficult to judge whether the computer-generated images in these movies are supposed to look seamless or fake when seamlessness itself looks fake. For example, a scene where the Hulk hides in a cave during a rainstorm looks patently false but it also looks, appropriately enough, like a page that’s been ripped out of a comic book.

Even the best CGI rarely manages to be indistinguishable from reality (Spielberg’s effects work occasionally comes close), but maybe that’s too high an expectation. After all, there are plenty of master painters whose work isn’t quite photorealistic — but it’s incredibly convincing and moving all the same. In a review of the last Superman film a few years back, I pointed out that large sections of the film were essentially animated paintings. That seems to be the case with more and more of our summer blockbusters, and while I sometimes miss the physical heft of good old-fashioned model work, I’m increasingly growing used to — and even appreciative of — the glossy, pseudo-realistic digital wonderlands the world’s most expensive effects teams are cooking up.