Top 5 CGI Characters

Ben Atwater

In the modern age, visual effects often drive the allure of films to transcend normal fare to spectacle. Now, any visual effects artist can animate a green screen background. This is often done too much, as a matter of fact, and lends to sloppy film making. What makes visual effects truly impressive is when they are able to render complete characters. So, as listing top categories in film is always fun, let us count down the top five digitally created characters in live action films.

Gollum from the Lord of the Rings  (AP photo)
Gollum from the Lord of the Rings (AP photo)

5) King Kong (2005)
The oldest entry on this list, credit must be given to what director Peter Jackson was able to do with renowned green screen veteran Andy Serkis in the 2005 remake. The ape lived and breathed thanks to the motion capture technology. The three hour plus epic gave us plenty of screen time with the digitally created King Kong, allowing for the proper amount of time to flesh out Kong as a character, from his labored breathing to his striking ape like walk. Vastly underrated as a film, 2005’s King Kong gave us one of the best representations of what visual effects could do in creating an alternate universe, the focus of which being King Kong himself.

4) Godzilla (2014)
Many were skeptical about the new incarnation of Godzilla in the 2014 American reboot. Traditionally portrayed by costumed actors in the original Japanese monster films leading up to the reboot, the visual effects artists did a masterful job in rendering the beast for a new generation. While his screen time is lacking in the scheme of things, the scenes featuring Godzilla fully illustrates his size and power.

3) King Louie (2016)
In all honesty, almost any character from The Jungle Book, which premiered last weekend, would qualify for, and likely fill up, this list. Every single animal is impressive, but if I had to pick one, King Louie is the most convincing character. Portrayed as a gigantopithicus, the fur and facial features are simply beautiful, and when Louie rises from his throne, true terror strikes the audience’s hearts, something which was never achieved in the 1967 animated The Jungle Book. Some of the best CGI animation in film, King Louie is topped ionly by the next two entries.

2) Gollum (2012)
It would be unfair to mention the phrase “best CGI character” and not put Gollum on the list. Again played by Andy Serkis in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Serkis brought the tortured character of Sméagol to life through the innovative motion capture technology used, which even allowed Serkis’ facial expressions to translate onto Gollum’s face. Characterized as a frail, thin, and pale spider-like creature, Gollum is even more beautifully rendered in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which came out in 2012. One scene of note is the riddle scene in the cave, which shows just how much technology can do when used correctly. Gollum steals every scene he is in, thanks to both great acting by Serkis as well as the innovative motion capture technology.

1) Smaug (2013)
Middle Earth tops the list with the top two most convincing CGI characters, but what Weta Digital did with Smaug in The Desolation of Smaug, the second Hobbit film, has yet to be topped by any other CGI creature I have seen. Every scale on this dragon’s back is rendered with great attention to detail. With some motion capture by Benedict Cumberbatch, Smaug’s nostril flare with every word spoken while his eyes change in depth and shade lends to the best film dragon ever conceived. Even Smaug’s mouth is animated perfectly to formulate the vicious words accompanied by his booming voice. While also great in the third Hobbit film, the second film is all Smaug’s, although it takes ninety minutes to get to him. However, once he’s onscreen, every move he makes is captivating.