Motion Capture and the "Uncanny Valley"

Since its technological and artistic breakthrough in the character of Gollum from Lord of the Rings, filmmakers have experimented with the possibilities and limits of the technology, with varying success. From single characters (like King Kong) to whole races and worlds (like Avatar and several Robert Zemekis films), motion capture elicits anything from wonder in the face of its breathtaking realism, to criticisms that overuse of the technology dumps the audience smack dab in the center of "Uncanny Valley." Why does motion capture draw from critics and audiences such polarizing responses? What films use the technology wisely, and which overuse it to the extent of alienating its audience? Look at both the original instances, like Gollum, and more recent instances, such as Alita in Alita: Battle Angel, and analyse how the different instances work and how they avoid or encapsulate "Uncanny Valley" in their films and characters.

  • I wonder if this is an issue with veracity, a sense of truth in what we're seeing. One of the most unerring examples I remember was 2001's Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, a film with such weirdly photo-realistic animation it made little sense that real actors were not simply used. It's different with physical creatures or aliens, or say Caesar in the Planet of the Apes trilogy, as they can benefit from strong motion capture, but humans? I suspect it feels like a blurred line. – A J. Black 5 years ago
  • Interesting topic. It would be topical to tie it into the upcoming "Cats" adaptation. I suggest you check out Patrick Willems' recent YouTube video essay on the topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1nQoWnFBSw&t=1264s – Matt Hampton 5 years ago
  • I think it's important to define a "wise" use of technology. How much is too much? Is it possible to draw a line applicable to all films or do we have to take it on a case by case basis? We rush to embrace technology for all of its spectacle and newness, but do how often do filmmakers ask themselves, "Is this really necessary?" I'm of the opinion (for what it's worth) that technology should be used as sparingly as possible. As an audience member, too much technology overwhelms me and creates an emotional distance from the narrative. – fspinelli 4 years ago

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