A MoCap Christmas Carol - Bah Humbug!
Ok, my main bone of contention: it is a Motion Capture production. They call it Performance Capture, but if this is the state of the art, I will still call it Motion Capture. Scrooge was captured from Jim Carrey, an actor who is not my personal favorite, but then I also do not enjoy much of Jerry Lewis.
The exhibit in the train showed clearly how this film was produced - pretty much like Polar Express. Now they do claim that "the eye problem is fixed." This only means that the characters seem to look at each other now - but their gaze is just as dead as before.
WHY do the characters need to be so ugly and unappealing? I doubt if we can ever feel anything for them. My favorite Christmas Carol adaptation is the 1971 musical film Scrooge with Albert Finney in the title role. Actually, the stage version with Tommy Steele I liked even better! Animated, I enjoyed Richard Williams' grand opus. Anyway, in Scrooge, you are really set up to like everyone, Scrooge, Marley, Fred, Ghosts - except maybe the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, but that is a small point.
Let me give an example: in Scrooge, we find in Bob Cratchit a vulnerable man who does his best to support his family - he is likable - we WANT him to have a better life. In Zemekis' film, Bob Cratchit seems quite unlikable - Tiny Tim might even be ashamed to have such a wimp as a father! And Tiny Tim? To me he reeks of some young designer saying "hey guys, look how strange I can make this guy?" instead of finding the heart in the story. The models as displayed in the train show a lot of good intentions, but they seem to have a hard time pulling these things off on film!
Good day to you, Sir!
If that is what I feel about the LIKEABLE characters, what will I think of the scary ones, or the ones I need to dislike?
The bit with Marley in the clip above shows that I will feel very little. There is hardly any expression. Scrooge seems to have one expression in this sequence, as well. None of the characters is actually THINKING! Why is Marley nodding mechanically as he says "you will be haunted by three spirits?" Now mind you, the music was REALLY LOUD in the theater. Maybe they think that that will make it all more scary?
Here is what *I* think they should have done, if they wanted to keep the MoCap: first get a performance that is based on really acting the part as needed to tell the story well, instead of just action, the moving of dots under the MoCap cameras. Then do as Milt Kahl did: use the live action input as a guide, not as a crutch. Look at it, look at what makes things special, throw stuff out that is superfluous (this part is standard MoCap practice, "cleaning" the data) and then CARICATURE the actions. Change them until they work. Do not just use what you have left after cleaning, because then you have what looks like rotoscoped live-action. Just a copy of a live performance is still and always will be just a copy. It can not, given the current conditions, give you all the nuances of a real live performance - for this you need to add the life back into it. Of course, you can only do this if you have animators doing this work, not data-moving technicians. I have seen Audio-Animatronic figures with more "soul" than the clips I have seen from "A Christmas Carol: An IMAX 3D Experience," and that is saying something. I am quite certain that The Illusion of Life is still in print!
The film will show the building of Big Ben, the landmark London campanile that celebrates its 150th birthday right now.
A program about Big Ben might turn out to be more interesting...
Go see UP! You will see a heartwarming, exciting story with stunning yet simplified backgrounds and above all great characters, well animated, appealing and full of heart! Without MoCap!