Dec 16 2016

Uncanny Valley

While I try to keep up I was unaware until recently that a disturbing trend I had noticed actually had a name and I was not alone in my perceptions.

It is almost possible (but not quite) using Computer-generated Imagery (CGI) to duplicate human actors’ performances in ways that are not immediately apparent. Consider the mass combat scenes of Battle of Five Armies (frequently derided because it is as obvious and egregious as the replicants of the Total War series of games).

The dead tell is the inhuman synchronization of multitudes, you can observe the same phenomena on a smaller scale in the dance moves of the animated Descendants shorts on Disney Channel (what do you not get about the fact I watch TV all the time and it’s ‘Tween Comedies and Cartoons, never “news”). They are always exact duplicates and perfectly in step.

Well, welcome to Uncanny Valley, home of Max Headroom, Gollum, and Hulk (the great big green rage monster one, not Mark Ruffalo having tender moments with Scarlett Johannson which btw caused me to sweat from my eyes a little). The funny thing is that while many would consider Max seminal, because it was low budget TV almost all the effects from the background to Matt Frewer in prosthetic makeup (which he hated) were practical. Computers were too damn expensive.

“Uncanny Valley” as a term is shorthand and the “Uncanny” part is that computers, while capable of stunning effects, are not really so good at mimicking humans. This is why Andy “Gollum” Serkis gets a lot of work. Most of the really convincing stuff is done by “motion capture” which is basically just an upgraded version of Rotoscope that had been used for decades before Disney did it in Snow White (1937).

It’s kind of a different and more complicated thing to use it to substitute for an actor that is dead. A prominent example is Furious 7 where Paul Walker died (ironically) in a car crash with his scenes half unfilmed.

Of course they wrote around it and used body doubles and back shots, but parts were Zombie CGI. Did you notice?

I didn’t because I’ve never seen Furious 7, it’s not the kind of movie I like (certainly not enough to blow $15 on). It does raise the question, why not do a Casablanca sequel with Zombie Humphrey Bogart and Zombie Ingrid Bergman (frankly if that’s what you want watch To Have and Have Not, it’s excellent).

The reason this comes up is because of Zombie Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One. Admittedly it is difficult to deal with the Deathstar without including his character, but it is kind of creepy since he died in 1994.

James Earl Jones is still alive last time I checked.

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