Is CGI Getting Worse?

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

Marvel Studios

You’ve been there. We’ve all been there: settled down in our overpriced, understuffed seats with our even more overpriced, understuffed snacks. All we wanted was to be entertained… but after a little while, it became clear that wherever that $200million dollar budget went, it wasn’t on the screen.

This is the 21st century, though. Not that long ago, 2019 was science fiction. You’d think in this day and age we’d be able to rely on the special effects… but lately it seems that computer generated imagery has been getting worse, not better. What’s up with that?

5. The First Rule Of Narrative

The Hobbit The Battle Of The Five Armies1
Warner Bros. Pictures

The first requirement of narrative - any narrative - is suspension of disbelief. What you’re watching doesn’t need to be real, but it does need to seem real within the confines of the narrative being presented on screen. Ironically people come to blockbuster cinema and genre television as an escape from their own reality, yet require the special effects to pass muster before they’ll accept the reality on screen.

However, it’s not just about the quality of the effects - context is everything. Every genre has its tropes - the little rules, quirks and cliches in the toolbox that will be accepted in one genre but not in another. The Lone Ranger can ride all over the wild west, but try racing a horse across the mean streets of Harlem and your story will need to do the heavy lifting required to get it over. Similarly, a flying man in a naturalistic Ken Loach movie will never work. It doesn’t matter how perfect the effect looks, you’ll never pull it off.

And the audience has to play by the rules too. We’ve all met people who sat and sneered their way through a quality film just because ‘horror movies suck’, 'superhero movies suck’ or ‘Max Landis sucks’ (okay, that last one is fair enough). On the other hand, there are people in fandom who’ll gloss over any amount of crappy special effects and ropy storytelling as long as they get a moment or two that they can fap over on social media.

Suspension of disbelief is a contract between the text and the reader. The crowd has to allow a sensible bar for whatever they’re watching to clear. That’s reasonable - but what if you’re playing fair and the entertainment’s not living up to its end of the bargain? And what on earth is the excuse for bad CGI in 2019?

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Professional writer, punk werewolf and nesting place for starfish. Obsessed with squid, spirals and story. I publish short weird fiction online at, and tweet nonsense under the name Jack The Bodiless. You can follow me all you like, just don't touch my stuff.