10 Once-Great CGI Scenes That Haven’t Aged Well

Badly Aged CGI Cover Image The Hobbit and Tron

After producer Jon Landeau shared the progress for James Cameron’s Avatar 2, fans are just a few steps closer to the highly awaited release on December 16. Fans and critics are on the edge of their seats in anticipation and curiosity about whether the sequel will have the same phenomenal CGI as the original film. For 2009’s CGI standards, Avatar broke the mold with the development of in-camera green screen technology, which still holds up in the present day.

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Computer generation has proven to be an enhancing technique for any production, but what may have seemed progressive at the time might not have the same visual impact today as it did upon introduction. Lots of CGI scenes in films have aged wonderfully, still retaining the debut impression, but other films haven’t been so lucky.

Destroying San Francisco – Hulk (2003)

Hulk destroying a city in the 2003 movie

One of Marvel’s most intriguing characters is The Incredible Hulk, Dr. Bruce Banner’s green giant alter-ego. While earlier adaptations from the 1970s series used more feasible ways to visualize the character, Ang Lee’s 2003 film Hulk would be the first feature movie for the brute superhero, using visual effects to deliver Hulk’s comic accurate imagery and strength on the big screen.

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In one riveting scene, Hulk (Eric Bana) smashes up San Francisco, with the action visibly executed by clean CGI. But, considering today’s technological advances of practical effects, Hulk is a prominent example of appearing outdated as it has aged. Due to the lack of synchronization between the live-action and computer-generated segments, the once fascinating CGI looks very obvious.

Swingin’ Around – Spider-Man (2002)

2002 Spider-Man Ending.jpg

Saim Raimi’s Spider-Man would be the first live-action film adaptation of Stan Lee’s beloved titular superhero. And to capture the friendly neighborhood superhero, visual effects were required for action scenes, whether fighting against the Green Goblin or swinging through the city. The final scene shows Spider-Man slinging webs as he swings through New York City, and at the time, the CGI perfectly complimented the quick-paced intensity to provide a realistic feel.

Two decades later, Spider-Man’s ending doesn’t fully retain the triumph and thrill it once possessed. Upon re-watching, the scene has reduced the wow factor, stemming from the poorly aged CGI that comes as more animated than realistic. Nevertheless, the ending’s impact is still very much appreciated by fans old and new.

Pentanaki Arena Scene – Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)

Anakin against the creature in Star Wars Attack of the Clones

Star Wars ranks among the most popular franchises of all time, always producing some of the best lightsaber duels or Jedi battles since its inception. But whereas the original trilogy was limited with the effect of magic, the prequels started to use more CGI for bigger, monumental scenes that manifested the scale of the Star Wars universe.

For example, Episode II has the film’s three protagonists in a desperate attempt to escape the Pentanaki arena, one of Attack of the Clones’ best scenes. At the time, the CGI was impressive and innovative, making the beasts of Geonosis look like authentic space creatures. However, twenty years after it was released, CGI has aged terribly. Specifically, when Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) is riding one of the creatures, the animal now looks comical due to the over-usage of CGI. Luckily, Episode III learned from the mistakes of its predecessor.

Brachiosaurus Scene – Jurassic Park (1993)

The first glimpse at a CG brachiosaurus in Jurassic Park

Debuting in 1993, Jurassic Park is the best dinosaur movie. Even for its time, it was groundbreaking for the intense implementation of CGI, breathing life into a creative interpretation of prehistoric dinosaurs. From the Tyrannosaurus to the Brachiosaurus, viewers were just as amazed at seeing the beautiful creatures as were the characters Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler.

However, opinions changed with the recent Jurassic World trilogy implementing more modern effects, and people started to notice the CGI imperfections in the classic dinosaur film. Compared to the recent sequels, the Brachiosaurus looks almost clay-like in its presentation, creating a disconnect from the scene. Nevertheless, the badly aged CGI has done nothing to deter the beloved fan base of the Jurassic Park franchise, and if anything, the amazing spectacle paved the way for visual effects that have continued to improve today.

Climbing The Empire State Building – King Kong (2005)

King Kong Climbing the Empire State Building 2005

King Kong, a giant gorilla, has cemented his place as an iconic cinematic monster, originating in the eponymous 1933 film. Peter Jackson was one of the recent directors to give his take on the story, especially re-imagining King Kong’s famous climbing of the Empire State Building. A landmark scene in film history, the 2005 version is a vast improvement from the original, elevating the black and white moment with warmer tones and breathtaking CGI.

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What was once a spectacular and chill-inducing scene has lost its visual appeal, as the years have not been kind to King Kong’s CGI. Kong’s once sharp lines now look blurred by today’s standards, lacking the background alignment it previously held. Regardless of the time, Jackson still holds up as a CGI king.

Gollum’s Introduction – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Gollum's Introduction in The Hobbot An Unexpected Journey

Peter Jackson’s long-awaited LOTR prequel series, The Hobbit, was made and released from 2012-2014. Considering the original trilogy received near unanimous praise for its beautiful cinematography and depiction of Tolkien’s world, Jackson upped the visual effects in the prequel series. For instance, Gollum’s (Andy Serkis) introduction upon first encountering Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) in An Unexpected Journey was innovative for its lifelike appearance, perfectly integrated with cooler tones.

A decade later, Gollum’s skin texture diminishes the overall quality of the cave scene, which now looks less than pragmatic. This greatly contrasted with the CGI used to create the malevolent dragon Smaug, played by Benedict Cumberbatch before his Marvel introduction. The trilogy proves that CGI is susceptible to regressing in appearance, despite a progression in technological methods.

Enter The Dragon – Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1995)

The dragon in Mortal Kombat_ Annihilation

Following the success of 1995’s Mortal Kombat, the sequel Mortal Kombat: Annihilation was released in 1997. In the film, Liu Kang (Robin Shou) is able to possess Animality, which is the power of shape-shifting. After passing three tests, his first form of Animality is that of a ginormous, fire-breathing dragon.

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As an adaptation of the video game, the sequel relied on more visual effects to capture the grim setting and scary monsters. The dragon’s CGI was terrifying in the late 90s for its alarming realness, with darker colors highlighting the animal’s frightening features. Today, the dragon is now considered terrifyingly bad for the CGI, looking extremely low-budget and almost cartoonish in effect.

First Quidditch Match – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)

Harry about to catch the golden Snitch in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

One of the highest-grossing YA movie franchises, Harry Potter originates from J.K. Rowling’s equally successful book series. Hence, visual effects and CGI were the best means to show the incredible Wizarding World at its full display of extensive magic. In particular, Harry’s (Daniel Radcliffe) first Quidditch match in Sorcerer’s Stone has become an iconic scene for fans.

Loaded with major ferocity, the scene provides a fantastical feel with its sharp color rendering, deporting the audience into The Wizarding World. But, in comparison to the CGI in the following films, Harry grabbing the golden snitch no longer packs the same punch for viewers. The scene gives way to distinct green screen usage, creating fuzzy silhouettes of the actors.

Light Speed – Tron (1982)

Tron 1982 Video Game Race

Since its 1982 inception, Tron revolutionized science-fiction and adventure genres. The CGI was ahead of its time, combining live-action sequences and different animation methods. Forty years later, the first effects now look quite dated.

The video game world’s introductory scene looked flawed in recent years due to the lighting and color rendering clashes. Nonetheless, the film still developed a cult following and spawned a sequel, 2010s Tron Legacy. The sequel may not have possessed the emotional depth within the story as its predecessor, but the computer-generated segments were even more spectacular.

Car Debut – I, Robot (2004)

I Robot Audi RSQ Product Placement

Will Smith’s 2004 film, I, Robot, was a chance to see a dark take within the sci-fi and action categories. The film had a product placement deal with Audi to showcase their Audi RSQ 2004 concept car, visualizing a more technology-based future. This presentation was an auto lover’s dream, with fine lines and sleek features making viewers wish the Audi RSQ 2004 was a reality.

The movie was a box office success (via Box Office Mojo), but the CGI is not as polished as it once premiered. After re-watching, the car’s first shot in the movie doesn’t look fully developed by today’s CGI standards.

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