- CGI can enhance a movie when used correctly, but unnecessary or poorly executed CGI can detract from the overall quality.
- Some movies have made questionable CGI choices, such as adding tears to Jennifer Connelly’s face in Blood Diamond or removing Darth Vader’s eyebrows in the 2004 re-release of Star Wars: Episode VI.
- Use of CGI can sometimes be a result of practical limitations or technical issues, like CGI-ing Henry Cavill’s mustache off in Justice League or creating CGI poop for the beagle character in John Wick.
CGI can be a useful tool in movie making, but sometimes it’s completely pointless, and hurts the movie instead of helping. The use of CGI is an art form, and when used correctly can add a lot to a production. Unfortunately, there are some cases where there was no good reason to add, or tweak, CGI on screen. Just because the technology exists, doesn’t mean it should be used. An expensive and time-consuming commitment for everyone involved, from the studio to the VFX editor, less CGI is often becoming more.
Using CGI to “fix” something in post is easier said than done. Sometimes, this solution goes off without a hitch, and audiences are shocked to learn something they thought was all too real was actually CGI. On the other hand, CGI faux pas have created many scenes that are the laughingstock of a movie or franchise. More than one film has been pulled and re-released due to immediate backlash about the quality of the CGI. Whether a waste of time, money, or talent, there was no good reason for the CGI use in these movies.
10 Jennifer Connelly’s Tears In Blood Diamond (2006)
There’s nothing worse than having to fake emotion for the camera. When Jennifer Connelly, apparently, couldn’t cry on command for her role in Blood Diamond, the emotions were faked for her. A few CGI tear drops were added to her face in post-production, but were they worth it? Tears carry a lot of significance, especially when asked of the female characters on-screen. As one of the few women in the movie it doesn’t feel wholly necessary to add the tears to make her more vulnerable. Even the VFX team admitted that the addition felt a little wrong when it was all said and done.
9 Darth Vader’s (Lack of) Eyebrows In The 2004 Re-Release Of Star Wars: Episode VI (1983/2004)
The 2004 re-release of the original Star Wars trilogy is rife was questionable CGI choices. Lucas wanted to utilize the technology of the time, but this didn’t always go as planned. Recent additions include wider aspect ratios, title changes, Hayden Christensen’s ghost, and the removal of Darth Vader’s eyebrows. In the first release of Return Of The Jedi in 1983, Darth Vader has intact eyebrows. In 2004, they were taken away to match Anakin’s scars from Revenge Of The Sith. While this could be considered dedication to continuity, it feels less than important and is hardly noticeable. After so many additions and changes fans are left wondering if and when Disney will release the unaltered original Star Wars trilogy.
8 Henry Cavill’s “Clean” Shave In Justice League (2017)
If audience members had a feeling Henry Cavill’s mouth doesn’t usually look like that, they would be right. When filming on Mission: Impossible – Fallout overlapped with re-shoots for Justice League, Cavill, contractually, could not shave his face. His iconic character in Fallout needed that mustache, and Superman is classically clean-shaven. Instead of pushing back shoot dates a few weeks and allowing time for the mustache to grow back, which WB offered to pay for, Paramount refused and decided to CGI the mustache off Cavill in Justice League. The result is an issue the audience can absolutely put their finger on. Cavill’s face just looks wrong.
7 Daisy The Beagle’s Poop In John Wick (2014)
Daisy, the beagle, plays an important role in the first John Wick movie, as with all of John Wick’s dogs. Thankfully, in order to save the doggy actor from any harm, unlike her character, the production couldn’t give her laxatives. Instead of waiting around for nature to call, the movie used CGI to create her poop. This effect reportedly cost $5000. A pretty penny to spend on a small portion of the film, and begs the question of why they couldn’t have just used fake poop.
6 Jake Gyllenhaal’s Arm Hair in Zodiac (2007)
Jake Gyllenhaal’s crime movies are a staple of his career. In Zodiac, however, director David Fincher thought Gyllenhaal’s arms and hands were “too hairless and pretty”. What this means is unclear, but it did lead Fincher to add excess hair to his arms and knuckles in post-production. The connection between arm hair, beauty, and the importance of this for Gyllenhaal’s character are dots that can’t seem to be connected. Few, if any, noticed, and most were much more focused on the mystery surrounding the infamous serial killer that the film’s plot revolved around. The film itself was unaffected, and a change like this probably wouldn’t fly today.
5 The Fake Kiss in You People (2023)
You People, the recent Netflix romantic comedy starring Lauren London and Jonah Hill, faced outcry when the final kiss between the two leads was faked using CGI. The official reason is that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the stars would have had to risk exposure by kissing for real. There have been rumors that the real reason was a lack of chemistry between the two leads, but none of that is founded in fact. However, since the cast was already filming in close proximity it seems that using CGI to avoid exposure was redundant. Regardless, the fake was easy to spot, even behind the falling rose petals.
4 Wolverine’s Claws In X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is a staple of the X-Men franchise, and in 2009 he finally got his own origin story. There are rights and wrongs in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which is a polarizing movie without the CGI drama. All prior installments used practical effects to create Wolverine’s trademark claws, but this was dropped for CGI in the 2009 film. The result is a let-down after so many years of the audience feeling a sense of realism and grounding in an otherwise fantastical world.
3 Axl’s Floating Head In Thor: Love And Thunder (2022)
Thor: Love And Thunder was rumored to have started filming before the script was finished. This meant that almost nothing on the set was practical, and there are many moments in Love and Thunder that don’t land. Of course, a floating child’s head was always going to be CGI, but that doesn’t mean it had to look the way it did. A new version of the film was sent to theaters after the original got a vitriolic reaction about the VFX, especially Axl’s head. Unfortunately, the re-release was hardly better, and was a waste of time and money more than anything.
2 Renesmee In Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (2012)
A child that ages at an impossible rate is a tall order for any film or franchise. Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 just had the bad judgment to create a CGI baby in the final installment instead of using a sequence of different child actors. Bella and Edward’s daughter, Renesmee, changed a lot in the movie, but will be most remembered for unsettling viewers expecting to see a real human child. The franchise already had a less than prestigious reputation, and this unprecedented use of CGI has become a meme for more than one generation of internet users.
1 False Fur Suits In Cats (2019)
Perhaps the most infamous use of CGI in the twenty-first century, Cats will go down in history as not only unsettling, but also totally avoidable. Based on the 1981 musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber, Cats already has a concept that raises eyebrows, with the entire cast performing in catsuits. Film adaptations of musicals are dicey to begin with, but it’s often better to lean into practical effects rather than movie magic. Instead of creating physical costumes for the actors, they made fur and feline faces out of CGI. Not only did it look terrible, but the treatment of Cats VFX artists was appalling. Re-released with very slightly better effects in theaters after catastrophic reviews at its premiere, Cats leaves a CGI legacy that can’t be forgotten.