Computer generated imagery (CGI) is at the root of a battle being waged in Hollywood as filmmakers are more and more often opting to use practical effects when possible. It’s easy to see why — even good CGI can sometimes pull us out of a film. For every movie like Jurassic Park, which still has CGI holding up 20 years later, there are dozens of films where the CGI never worked at all. Here are nine movies with big budgets and no excuses for their fake-looking CGI.
1. The Mummy Returns
No, that’s not an image from a video game from the 2000s. That’s an image from 2001’s Mummy Returns, a $98 million blockbuster from Warner Bros. where The Rock appears as an absurdly fake-looking CGI man-scorpion. Having been blessed to see this film in theaters, we can confidently tell you that the effects were just as atrocious at the time, with The Rock’s reveal causing laughter throughout the audience.
2. I Am Legend
I Am Legend was a film with tons of potential, but ultimately became just another mediocre blockbuster action film. One of the biggest blunders was its distractingly fake-looking CGI, which is fairly inexcusable for a film that cost $150 million and starred Will Smith at the height of his popularity. What makes it even worse is what we learned in recent years; the film nearly went with practical, non-CG monsters that not only look great, but are way more terrifying.
3. Deep Blue Sea
Still images don’t do Deep Blue Sea’s CGI justice, but trust us when we say that when a shark leaps out of the water to take a chomp out of Samuel L. Jackson it’s just about the most ridiculous-looking thing you’ll ever see.
It’s also important to note that given the spate of knock-off, terrible shark movies over the years it seems like shark CGI has not progressed much since. It wouldn’t be surprising to find out that every bad shark movie since Deep Blue Sea has used the same awful CGI blueprints. Oh, and don’t forget this movie cost $60 million to make.
4. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull had a lot of fake-looking CGI, which is strange considering the fact that Steven Spielberg is responsible for some of the best uses of CGI in recent memory. But of all the problematic effects in the film, it’s the CGI gophers at the start of the film that are the most ridiculous.
Besides being distractingly fake, it was just a silly tonal moment that didn’t seem to fit into the often gritty world of Indiana Jones. That being said, at least it was in the beginning so we weren’t exactly surprised when the $185 million movie disappointed.
5. The Matrix Reloaded
After The Matrix came out of nowhere to become the most talked-about film of 1999, the anticipation for its follow-up, The Matrix Reloaded, was electric. Unfortunately, The Matrix Reloaded and the third film, The Matrix Revolutions, were ultimately huge letdowns and the bad CGI definitely didn’t help.
In another example that more money doesn’t necessarily mean better effects (the budget was upwards of $150 million versus The Matrix’s $60 million), The Matrix Reloaded featured some eye-rolling uses of CGI, including a scene in which Neo fights an army of Agent Smiths with a combination of choreographed kung-fu and fake-looking CGI straight out of a video game.
6. Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone
The early Harry Potter films had some CGI problems throughout, but there’s no excuse for the $125 million Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to have a scene in which a fight with a troll looks this terrible. Everything from the animation to the design is embarrassing in retrospect, and it does a good job of reminding fans that the series wasn’t always in good hands.
Luckily the latter films found their footing on the CGI front with some impressive effects, including trolls that don’t look like they’re coming from a bad animated movie.
7. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation
Okay, so maybe the Mortal Kombat sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, didn’t quite have a huge budget, but $30 million isn’t exactly chump-change. At a certain point there should have been a discussion about nixing the CGI effects, rather than including these abominations.
While the film is full of horribly fake-looking CGI effects, the worst of the bunch has to be the above dragon-monster-thing, which probably looks worse in action than anything you’ve ever seen on the SyFy Channel. In all honesty, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation is a special kind of bad film; one that garners somewhat of a cult-classic reputation and is probably worth a watch for the laughs.
Catwoman is an impressively bad movie by all accounts. The $100 million blockbuster starring Halle Berry holds a 9% on Rotten Tomatoes and the beloved antihero Catwoman has never been so carelessly portrayed in any format. But the CGI is the true affront to anyone who’s seen the movie.
Rather than deal with practical stunt work, someone thought it would be a better idea to have Catwoman’s action scenes portrayed by a clearly fake CGI stand-in that hops and crawls around the frame like something out of a bad video game. That being said, Catwoman probably deserves a look for its ability to make audiences everywhere laugh out loud.
9. A Sound of Thunder
Ray Bradbury’s short story A Sound of Thunder is a beloved sci-fi classic about a future where hunters can travel to the past to hunt dinosaurs. But if you thought that a movie dealing with dinosaurs couldn’t look too bad considering the fact that it was released 10 years after Jurassic Park, think again.
The CGI effects in A Sound of Thunder are likely among the worst you’ll see in any movie. In fact, if you were flipping through channels and stumbled upon the movie, you would probably think it was one of the lower-rung movies made for the SyFy Channel and not an $80 million film distributed by Warner Bros.
If you don’t remember this film at all, you’re not the only one — it earned only $11.7 million at the box office, making it one of the worst box office flops of all time.
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