James Cameron, my personal nemesis

Image from "Fantastic Voyage"

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Editor’s Note: This post has been written by Lucas Sifuentes, a film minor at Lewis University. He will be posting each week about something that is film-related.

Since none of my blog posts thus far have had anything nice to say about technological advancement, and this post itself is will be mainly comprised of me shaking my old-man-cane vigorously at my now official nemesis, James Cameron and his merry band of CGI experts, I thought I would begin in an uncharacteristically optimistic note:  the advent of Blu-ray discs, yes!  Now I don’t technically have a Blu-ray player, or even a television with HD capabilities for that matter, but because of those magic blue little circles and their supposed superiority, regular-ol’ DVD’s  (the kind I like) have become dirt cheap! Also to celebrate their 75th anniversary 20th Century Fox has been selling these four pack DVD bundles of similarly themed movies for only ten dollars. The one I was most excited to pick up was their 60’s adventure package, which contained among other films the classic 1966 surgical adventure film Fantastic Voyage.

Fantastic Voyage is a great film to just stare and gaze at, as it is almost entirely exhibition propelled by a ridiculous story line: in order to save a political dignitary a team of surgeons must be shrunk down and injected into the human body where they pilot a miniaturized sub through various arteries and veins until they reach the point in the body which they need to operate on, and of course shenanigans ensue. The special effects in the film are amazingly creative, as they employ various techniques to capture the illusion of a sub swimming through the human body. A lava lamp is used to create various types of blood cells, hand painted sets act as veins, and thin sheets act as membranes in this whimsically frightful world that lies within us all. So imagine the sheer seething rage that erupted inside me when I heard the news that James Cameron was producing a CGI remake of this film.

Why I’m so angry isn’t because the movie is being remade, I’m angry because they are remaking the film without the best part of the original. In the 1966 version, when the sub is first shot into the body and we see the sleek and modern looking sub swimming among the goopy innards of the body; we are very easily able to tell that the sub is a model and the innards are a lava lamp, but we imagine they’re not and engage in a special make-believe relationship with the film that allows us to be an active participant rather than a passive observer. The main issue I have with CGI is that it lacks the same timeless quality that other special effects bring to the silver screen. For instance if we consider Master Yoda the puppet, versus Master Yoda the CGI alien, I think we could agree that the puppet will age better as puppetry is a skill that has already been mastered and we can look at the puppet used in the films as a marker for great artistic achievement. On the other hand the CGI Master Yoda looks cheap and primitive, because compared to the same technology today he simply looks fake.

I’d love to see a remake of Fantastic Voyage where all of the sets were handmade and utilized outrageous representations to try and show the human body as we conceive it rather than it actually is, but more than likely it is not going to happen and the CGI steam roller will power forward creating more disposable dreck. What are your thoughts on CGI? Have you ever seen a remake that you though did a disservice to the original? Please leave some comments below so that we can further discuss exploration of the human body from the inside out, and how James Cameron keeps ruining my day.

— Lucas Sifuentes

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