Wes Anderson: models or CGI?

The Life Aquatic has received double-DVD treatment (as it well deserves), and it has something very wonderful included as a bonus feature that goes a long way to further the model cause.

It’s a 15 min documentary (way too short, but truly fascinating) that discusses the creatures used in the film, and Wes Anderson’s vehemence against rendering any of them in CGI.

He makes a pretty good case for his choice of using models (which look amazing in the finished film, to be honest), and also makes it clear that though models both cost much more and consume so much more time, they’re really the only way to go.

There’s also some interesting trivia about building / filming models that applies to the practice in general rather than just to the film…such as why the massive Jaguar Shark model was filmed upside-down (see, the foam on the creature had to sag upward, so that it looked like it was swimming…if it sagged downward it would have looked like it was flying. Hm!)

The Dwarf connection is tenuous at best, I know, but since model / CGI is a recurring theme here I thought I’d point people in the direction of a successful, big-budget film that purposefully eschewed the computer fad in favor of the older standard.

6 Responses to Wes Anderson: models or CGI?

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  1. They were models!

    I thought they were very very very very crap CGI. They look like it! (Finds DVD, watches featurette)

  2. Note: Those of us who have the Region 2 DVD – the feature is only 8 minutes long.

  3. I did The Life Aquatic as my sample review when I was at Empire. This is what I said about the effects :

    “A strong case for the continued employment of stop-motion in this CGI-obsessed world is made by the fantastically-realised underwater creations, which enchant in an endearingly lo-tech way.”

    I really thought the visuals, and in particular the creature shots, were one of the best things about the film. No, they didn’t look “realistic” – but they weren’t meant to be. The film took place in a slightly skewed reality and for that reason the quirky visuals and unique look that only stop-motion can provide worked absolutely perfectly. The brief shot of the seahorse in the bag, and the entire scene with the jaguar shark, were absolutely enchanting, and would not have had the same effect as CGI. Nor would they have had the same effect if they were trying to make them look as “real” as possible.

    Indeed, the only thing I liked more about the film than those visuals was the soundtrack. Sadly, I found the script and characterisation to be somewhat lacking by Anderson’s usual standards, and as I wrote to sum up : “Superb execution, shame about the material. A great cast, a one-of-a-kind soundtrack and some beautiful visuals just fall short of masking the fact that this is lacking that special something that made Anderson’s earlier films so good. Had there just been slightly more to engage with, in the plot or the characters, we could have been looking at a bona fide classic.”

    >I thought they were very very very very crap CGI.

    Tut tut, Kirk. You’re supposed to be the one who knows about film and you couldn’t spot stop-motion? ;-)

  4. No! And I looked at it again – it looks like CGI! Well, I suppose if anything, the movement would give away the stop motion.

    It’s glassy. It must have been very very poorly lit – it doesn’t look like stop motion at all to me – the models in the documentary look brilliant, but something went wrong in putting them in the film…

    Yes, I know they’re not meant to look realistic, but these just don’t look that good.

    But overall, it’s still an excellent movie, especially the soundtrack as you say.

    Oh, and I’m not sure I’m meant to know about film – I just make a few random observations from time to time :)

  5. Actually, I think most of the creatures in the film look very, very good. Not all, but most. The Jaguar Shark is beautiful, and there’s a very, very brief scene with an eel that is just amazingly well done…but the sugar crabs and some kind of underwater lizard thing…I agree with Kirk that they looked better in the featurette than in the film.

    Although, Seb, I’ve gotta disagree about the characterization. He takles these characters much differently than he does in Rushmore or The Royal Tenenbaums, but I think he does it just as well. We don’t get any “sit back and feel what’s happening” scenes like we do in his other films (Richie Tenenbaum in the bathroom, Herman Blume hiding at the bottom of a swimming pool)…instead we get an adventure film that just happens to amount to much more.

    Also, I have a very strong case to make regarding the literary aspect of the film, which is actually handled better than in any of Anderson’s previous films. I just have yet to…make it. Ahem.

  6. Oh, and…er…I also thought it was CGI when I first saw the film.

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