I’ve been on a Robert Zemeckis’ CGI movie kick for the past few days (The Polar Express, Beowulf, and A Christmas Carol). I have a question. Why are these movies so hideous and disconcerting? People are quick to say that the problem is The Uncanny Valley or motion captured animations, but I’m inclined to think it’s something else. To me, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, Resident Evil: Damnation, Appleseed Alpha, and Tekken: Blood Vengeance all look fine, for example, and all of them are to some degree photorealistic, use motion capture, and have some minor problems with animation.
I’m more inclined to think that it’s butt ugly character designs and artwork combined with an unsettling and inappropriate atmosphere created through lighting, sound design, and direction. Certainly The Polar Express, Beowulf, and A Christmas Carol all have their share of dead-eyed characters, unrealistic animation, and stiff facial expressions, but I don’t think they’re the main source of their creepiness. The problem with The Polar Express begins with its disconcerting sound design and placing children in an environment that scares them. Also, if you stop believing in Santa/God/Tom Hanks, you’ll go to hell. A Christmas Carol has a similar problem in that it doesn’t evoke the Christmas spirit so much as it depicts the horrors of 18th century England with deformed and sickly character designs and cold environments. Beowulf is the most appealing to me out of the trio, but it still features excessive gore, nudity, and murder and an uncomfortable depiction of what it’s like to grow old, recieve grievous injuries, and die. So is it really The Uncanny Valley, or is everything just gross and uncomfortable?