Tag Archives: cgi movies

Saberspark’s History of Pixar and DreamWorks

I have a tendency to lump all CGI children’s and family movies into one category. These videos reminded me, “Oh yeah, Pixar and Disney make consistently decent movies compared to DreamWorks, Illumination, Blue Sky, and Sony.” I think I have such a negative outlook on these movies because I forget that. O.o

Advertisements

Unsolicited Comment: SuperButterBuns’ Kingsglaive Reviews

In these video, SuperButterBuns reviews Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV. She discusses its poor characters, strange pacing, inconsistent themes, lack of explanation, and general nonsense. Ultimately, however, she gives the film a 7/10 for its pretty graphics, fun action, and relation to Final Fantasy XV.

While I agree with (her love of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children and) the 75% of her reviews in which she discusses Kingsglaive’s many problems, I’m not sure how she arrived at her conclusion. One of her favorite scenes is Regis’ tense conversation with Niflheim’s ambassador right before the Crystal is stolen, which I agree is the best scene in the movie but don’t think excuses it from everything else it does wrong. She claims that Noctis and the gang tied up the movie by introducing the game post-credits. She also appears to take it on faith that the game will explain the elements of the movie that the movie didn’t, which makes it a good film for fans. Basically, it got her excited for the game and provides empty action and visual entertainment. Therefore, it’s a good movie…?

It’s interesting what fans who’ve followed Final Fantasy XV since the Versus XIII days bring to this movie. From ButterBuns’ perspective, Luna and Regis were automatically cool characters from how they were portrayed in the game’s promotional materials. She admits that Luna mostly just looks like an idiot in the movie but continues to believe that she is a cool character. Buns has an affection for Regis’ character and found scenes with him the most interesting. This I find shocking because, to me, all I see in Regis in the movie is a heartless, selfish king of a kingdom no better than Niflheim’s.

ButterBuns also had an interesting interpretation of the scene where Luna jumps out of the airship. To Buns, “Not all miracles are made by magic,” was a major theme in the movie. Luna jumping out of the airship could have illustrated this theme if only Nyx hadn’t “rescued” her with magic. Luna’s confidence in her ability to reach the ledge would have demonstrated that magic isn’t everything. What I focused on in this scene was Luna saying, “I do not fear death,” and then throwing herself out of an airship, which contradicts her supposed importance to the Noctis and the future. While the theme ButterBuns perceived would make this movie interesting, she herself admits that it isn’t shown very well in general. If it were, then Nyx wouldn’t have used magic at the end of the movie. Instead, he only spends a brief time in the middle of it without magic. Then, miracles are made by fancy cars. 🙂

There are a few other minor points I disagree with. I also went to college for film and animation, but I completely disagree with Buns’ assessment that this film, in general, is well edited. The realistic graphics don’t make up for the poor cinematography or hyperactive video editing in my opinion. And Kingsglaive is a giant step backwards in terms of storytelling from both Advent Children and The Spirits Within.

Overall though, SuperButterBuns is entertaining and makes a lot of good or at least interesting points about what makes this movie good and bad. I DEMAND AN ADVENT CHILDREN REVIEW!

Unsolicited Comment: Antz – AniMat’s Classic Reviews

Another AniMat video response? I found some of his theories interesting and wanted to comment on them. So sue me!

In this video, AniMat reviews Antz. Having spent some time with Antz’s story and themes for The Philosophy of Antz video, I found it strange that AniMat proclaimed its story as barely present. He describes Z’s life as a worker ant who falls in love with a princess as a separate story from Z’s desire to leave his colony and travel to Insectopia. These sound less like separate stories and more like Act 1 and Act 2 of the movie. Act 1 introduces Z, the colony, and his feelings of not belonging. Z falls in love with Bala because it appears to him that she’s rebelling against her position in society, too. In Act 2, Z rejects the colony’s collectivist ideas and travels to Insectopia where he and Bala can be their own ants. The overall story is about Z finding his place in a society of overwhelming conformity. The film ends with Z proving the value of individualism in society. He finds his place here, in between the militaristic conformity of the colony at the beginning of the film and the complete independence and solitude in Insectopia.

AniMat also criticizes the characters for being avatars for the actors who portray them. This isn’t so much a criticism as it is pointing out that the actors were cast into roles that they are good at playing. People who don’t know the actors certainly wouldn’t think better or worse of the film because of them. I can’t see Daniel Radcliffe as anyone but Harry Potter, but I’m not about to criticize Horns for that. Similarly, Sean Bean and Lena Headey make Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV reminiscent of Game of Thrones, but I’d sooner criticize the movie for having morally reprehensible characters. Someone who’s very familiar with Woody Allen or the other actors in Antz might have trouble seeing past them, but that isn’t a mark against the script, the characters, or even the film. For someone like me, who recognizes only the actors’ names for the most part, I only hear the characters in Antz, and I thought they all worked well in carrying the film’s story.

Unsolicited Comment: Why Do People Think Animation is for Kids?

In another video from AniMat, he poses a theory about why people have misconceptions that animation is just for kids. He claims that everyone has a desire to be independent. Because the majority of animated films target children and families to maximize their profits, adults want to distance themselves from them to reinforce the image of their independence. It’s like virtue signaling except you’re showing people you’re an adult.

He claims that CGI films target kids and families to make up for the cost of making these expensive films. I’d actually never thought of this explanation for why we don’t see more adult-oriented CGI movies. It seems obvious, but thinking about it more, I’m not sure how true this claim is, at least for CGI-animated films. Just looking up some random movies (e.g. Madagascar, Star Wars: Rogue One, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Matrix, Frozen, Inside Out, Despicable Me, The Polar Express, Gravity), the cost of making 3D-animated films seems about the same as it is for making films that are mostly live action. Smaller studio animated films are in the $30-$75,000,000 range. Pixar, Disney, Robert Zemeckis, and Square Enix films are in the $100-$200,000,000 range. The Matrix is in the high eight-digit range. Marvel movies are in the $100-$200,000,000 range…

I suppose you could argue that you can buy a camera, get volunteers together, and make a decent live-action film for next to nothing, but it’d be much more difficult to create a high-quality CGI-animated film in the same way. Live-action films that don’t use CGI can also be much less expensive (e.g. The Fault in Our Stars – $12,000,000, Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind – $20,000,000). This doesn’t explain how today’s most popular, nine-figure-budget, live-action films are comedies, dramas, or action films and target everyone from children to specifically adults when mid-eight-figure-budget animated films have been almost exclusively children’s/family comedies from the start.

The common story, as depicted in documentaries like Life After Pi and horror stories from former Sausage Party animators, is that animators are grossly underpaid, so these numbers probably don’t reflect the actual time and effort people spend to make these films. The point is, however, that I don’t think the case can be made so easily that animated movies aren’t as diverse in content as live-action movies because they’re expensive to make. They probably should be expensive, but they’re not.

I’m not sold on the idea that adult signaling is the reason animated films are perceived as children’s entertainment either. With the popularity of cartoons like modern My Little Pony, Steven Universe, and Gravity Falls; adult-oriented comedies like Family Guy, The Simpsons, and almost everything on Adult Swim; and movies like Despicable Me, the idea that cartoons are only for children seems like an outdated one. People in their 20s-30s and older willingly discuss their love of these films. I’ve certainly heard people express outrage at discovering, say, the R-rated Starship Troopers: Invasion movie is a CGI animated “children’s” cartoon, but acceptance of adults watching animated films seems more common.

I think there is a stigma around children’s/family CGI animation though. As much as I love CGI, I have no interest in watching most of them specifically because they look like generic children’s/family films. Though I enjoy them for their rarity, experimentation, and occasional ridiculousness, most adult-oriented CGI films have badly told or outright terrible stories. CGI is such a young medium that filmmakers still don’t seem to know what it’s for and how to use it. You’d think taking filmmaking techniques from 2D animation and live-action films and applying them to CGI would translate easily, but they don’t. The result has been many terrible and generic films and failed experiments and perhaps even this false perception that, in general, CGI movies are mindless films that only a child or an idiot could enjoy.

Then again, when I was little, I preferred A Bug’s Life to Antz. Now, as an adult, I prefer Antz (a film I suspect would be rated PG-13 if it were released today) to A Bug’s Life. So maybe something about the content of these films just tends to appeal to children more than adults.

Kingsglaive vs Advent Children: The Consequence of Pointless Action

Transcript:

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV and Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children feature epic battles with giant monsters, magic, high-flying sword fights, high-speed vehicle chases, and overall ridiculous levels of action. Are they really comparable films though? I’ve pointed out in previous videos that these movies have big differences from one another in terms of how they communicate information visually. As action movies, Kingsglaive and Advent Children make their action scenes a spectacle, but what separates a bad action movie from a good one is how well they communicate why each battle matters in addition to making them look awesome. How well do Kingsglaive and Advent Children show the characters’ locations, goals, and thoughts during a fight? Let’s compare the final third of Kingsglaive to three scenes it resembles from Advent Children.

The final third of Kingsglaive features the protagonist Nyx fighting the antagonist General Glauca, the enemy empire Niflheim’s daemons fighting other monsters, Nyx’s friends Libertus and Princess Luna escaping the city of Insomnia, and a parallel scene featuring Niflheim’s chancellor and emperor. The monsters the daemons fight are referred to as the Old Wall, brought to life as a last resort to defend the kingdom of Lucis from its enemies. In the process, they destroy Lucis’ capital Insomnia. Don’t worry. Lucis’ future doesn’t depend on its citizens’ survival. What kind of kingdom needs people?

Libertus and Luna escaping from the city has similarities to the final motorcycle chase in Advent Children. In Kingsglaive, Libertus must escort Luna out of the city so she can deliver a magical ring to Prince Noctis to save Lucis’ future. Their escape is actually pretty uneventful compared to everything else going on in this section of the movie, which is odd considering that Luna and the ring are the only things that matter in it. General Glauca breaks off from his fight with Nyx once to try to stop them, but when a section of missing highway dislodges him, he returns to killing Nyx rather than continuing his pursuit of the most important items in the movie. In Advent Children’s motorcycle chase, the protagonist Cloud must stop the antagonist Kadaj from using Jenova’s cells to reincarnate Cloud’s greatest enemy Sephiroth. Kadaj also has a mostly carefree escape, but that’s because his brothers forcefully separate Cloud from him. This whole scene is about Cloud fighting through Loz and Yazoo to get to Kadaj rather than two guys just killing each other because they forgot their purpose for fighting.

Actually, Nyx and Glauca do have a reason to fight, but it’s not what you think. Glauca says that he wants the ring, but he and Nyx move ever farther away from it, which suggests he has another goal. This final battle actually symbolizes an ethical debate. Is it better to surrender to your enemy to save the people who haven’t died yet, or should you continue fighting for what you believe no matter the consequences? Glauca wants Lucis to surrender to Niflheim to end the war while Nyx believes that Niflheim could never rule a just future. Neither of them are wrong. Both choices are awful, and either choice could lead to a terrible future. Let’s not kid ourselves. Nyx and Glauca are equally terrible people, considering how little they care about the wanton destruction and death surrounding them, and Lucis is just as bad as Niflheim. Lucis’ King Regis hoards his son and magical objects behind a wall while forcing his people to fight a losing war to protect them. The final scenes show this blatantly; his own magic kills his own people. Meanwhile, Niflheim murders thousands of civilians whenever it has the chance.

In essence, Nyx and Glauca kill each other simply because they have different beliefs. That’s right! If someone doesn’t believe what you do, just kill them.

This battle mirrors the battle between Cloud and Sephiroth in Advent Children. (Kingsglaive, you can’t just use Advent Children physics without setting them up first!) Among their differences though, the characters have clear motivations, and we can even sympathize with one of them. [“What I want Cloud is to sail the darkness of the cosmos with this planet as my vessel.”] Cloud must save the planet. Simple! Done! Now we can watch the fight without wondering why we should care about two people murdering one another while a city and its inhabitance falls into ruin around them. Actually, no one in this scene dies. If Cloud fails, everyone on the planet will likely die, but the battle takes place in an abandoned city. Cloud doesn’t even kill Sephiroth in the end. [“I will never be a memory.”] And when Kadaj reappears, Cloud shows him sympathy. He isn’t some psychopath who can murder his colleagues while ignoring the deaths of thousands around him. He can barely handle his memories of two friends who died years ago. Advent Children doesn’t present morally gray questions to mull over, but personally, I prefer its message, “choose life,” to Kingsglaive’s morally reprehensible message, “Kill everyone who disagrees with you and also your allies.”

Finally, most of Nyx and Glauca’s battle takes place on top of a giant monster battle similar to a scene in Advent Children where Cloud and his friends fight the monster Bahamut. The problem with Kingsglaive is that the monsters only add to the visual chaos on screen. Some of the monsters of the Old Wall look and sound like General Glauca. [“Rawr!”] [“Argh! Ugh!”] The monsters on both sides destroy so much with little to no reaction from any of the characters that it all seems pointless. Additionally, Nyx and Glauca’s battle takes place on constantly moving settings: fighting monsters, collapsing buildings, flying airships, falling debris, and racing cars. They can also teleport anywhere within throwing distance at any time. Kingsglaive seems to think that because of this, it doesn’t have to show how the characters move from one area to the next. Nyx and Glauca can just appear on top of giant monsters or airships whenever it looks cool. The movie, however, often has to cut to other useless scenes just so that moving Nyx and Glauca from one place to the next makes some kind of sense. The characters can’t jump from a collapsing parking garage and reappear falling from an office building roof, so let’s see what’s going on with Libertus and Luna. [“That’s not something you see every day.”] Nothing. Great. Why are these guys still here? Didn’t they say half an hour ago that they were leaving? Why do we need to hear this information again?

The battle with Bahamut also contains many fighters, some of which fight on top of the monster. The difference from Kingsglaive is that Advent Children constantly shows the location of the fighters, including the monster, in the scene and in relation to one another. The battle takes place in one area that all looks very similar but has landmarks that even serve as an element of combat. In the middle of the battle, we briefly cut away to a scene where Kadaj discovers the location of Jenova’s cells. This scene, however, exists to break up the action and reveal new information rather than to move all the characters to new locations. When we return, the fight picks up right where it left off. Attacks from the monster also mean something to the characters, especially considering that they’re fighting to save themselves and the city. Not only do we know the characters’ locations, but also, we know their feelings through reaction shots.

Overall, Advent Children’s fight scenes show everything we need to know in an awesome way while Kingsglaive occasionally displays awesome moments in otherwise visually chaotic settings. Both films may appear to be incoherent action fests, but their similarities are only superficial. Beneath the surface, Advent Children uses visual language so masterfully that I find it shocking Square Enix went on to make Kingsglaive, a film so inept that it can barely get across that someone is stealing a crystal without multiple characters verbally pointing it out. Comparing Advent Children to Kingsglaive is like comparing Toy Story to Foodfight!, but if you still don’t believe me, go watch them. Watch them back to back. Then, come back and tell me what you think. Talk at you next time.

[“Shall we take our leave then? The sun will soon set. We need not be here to witness the terrors of the night.”] [“I will return to Niflheim.” “So soon?”]