Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mars Needs Box Office

The New York Times analyzes the failure of Mars Needs Moms:
“Mars Needs Moms” may lead to the end for the Zemeckis style of motion-capture filmmaking, which has proven increasingly unpopular with audiences. Unlike the digital animation used by Pixar, in which movies are created entirely by computer, the Zemeckis technique requires actors to perform on bare sets while wearing uniforms outfitted with sensors to record their movements. Those movements are then transferred into a digital model that computer animators use to create a movie.

Critics and audiences alike, with audiences voicing their opinions on Twitter, blogs and other social media, complained that the Zemeckis technique can result in character facial expressions that look unnatural. Another common criticism is that Mr. Zemeckis focuses so much on technological wizardry that he neglects storytelling.


Wade said...

I'd offer a couple of thoughts:

1) I was originally interested in taking my kids to see this movie until I noticed the other night that it's only being offered in 3D at our theaters, and quite frankly the higher price of 3D coupled with my not having ever been impressed by 3D yet, made the decision not to bother quite easy. Mind you, this was based on factors entirely separate from the quality of the film itself (truthfully, the trailer rather intrigued me a bit).

2) I find it interesting that when new tech movies do great, critics say it's only the technology that's attracting people and not the storytelling (ala Avatar), but when they do poorly the tech is all of a sudden getting in the way. My own feeling is the tech doesn't matter nearly as much as we think, and that great story and characters will attract an audience. And I give the audience a lot more credit than do the critics in determining what good storytelling actually is. So I'd guess the comment in the article on storytelling in the film to be the more "telling" critique.

As I recall Zemeckis' previous motion capture film "A Christmas Carol" flopped and everyone also blamed it on tech. But I didn't bother with it simply because I'd seen the story in dozens of different iterations in my life already and felt no real compulsion to see it yet again. Did anyone factor that element into the mix?

I guess my main point is to say I think there may be other, larger factors at play than simply tech.

Galen Fott said...

I hate where the article says "Unlike the digital animation used by Pixar, in which movies are created entirely by computer..." While trying to account for the unpopularity of motion capture films, the author makes it sound like a much more organic and "human" process than keyframed animation.

Galen Fott said...

However, I must note that I emailed the author (Brooks Barnes) after reading it yesterday, and just received an appreciative apology from him.

John Hamm said...

Amen, Galen. That was the first thing that caught my eye when I read it (while my computer was doing my animation for me).

Floyd Norman said...

Every time I see one of these movies I wonder whatever happened to Zemeckis the film maker?

It's not just the tech. These films are just plain awful.

LLOYD said...

I've heard this line from Brad Bird on the 2 disc set of the Incredibles.."Animation is about caricature" and i think this is one of the factors why Pixar's films are popular. Although some people would say that animation is just the same as a normal live action film except that it's animated (either on paper or in the computer) and the characters can do stuff freely unlike live action and the process would likely be the same but i firmly believe that animation is more than just that..and Zemeckis i would say in my opinion doesn't have a good grasp of it..an animation artist had an opinion regarding animation in general he sad. "Don't show me what a tree looks like, but rather show me how a tree looks interesting". if Zemeckis puts that line into his heart and soul then i guess there'd be a huge improvement in his next foray into the animation medium.

Vincent Lecavalier said...

In his movies "the tech" is to blame because even if the story were good the look would creep people out.

Pete Emslie said...

I agree with Vincent. I just can't get past the look of these mo-cap films, therefore the filmmaker has lost me at the trailer even if the story is well told.

Floyd Norman said...

And, I agree with Pete. The look of these film totally turn me off even before I get to the story.

Animation as a medium has a unique charm. More often than not, these live-action guys simply don't get it. They're hopelessly clueless. Robert Zemeckis' films fail, and I'm convinced he has no idea why.