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Has Mars Killed Yellow Submarine And All Mo-Cap Movies?

by  in Comic News, Movie News Comment
Has <i>Mars</i> Killed <i>Yellow Submarine</i> And All Mo-Cap Movies?

The news that Disney has pulled the plug on Robert Zemeckis’ planned CGI motion capture reboot of Yellow Submarine is, for me, good news; I don’t necessarily completely love the original, despite my Beatles fan status, but I dislike Zemeckis’ CGI mo-cap movies so much that the idea of a dead-eyed approximation of John, Paul, George and Ringo strumming along to “Nowhere Man” terrified me. And, apparently, Disney may not be the only ones agreeing with me. Is motion capture madness over?

It’s not just Disney’s dropping Submarine that makes me wonder whether the push for motion capture animation is over; the failure of this weekend’s Mars Needs Moms, which only made $6.8 million in its opening weekend and was called “about as bad of an animated miss as possible” is also a major contributor to my thoughts, as well. But, let’s face it: Outside of The Polar Express, no mo-cap animated movies have really been a success. People just don’t seem to like the format.

It’s actually pretty easy to understand why, and not just because I’m one of those people. Mo-cap movies like Mars Needs Moms, The Polar Express, A Christmas Carol and Beowulf are this weird, uncomfortable mix of live-action and animation, but without the benefits of either; yes, you get the actor’s mannerisms and vocal performance, but not their actual performance – all the small details and large moments that truly make or break a role. Similarly, such movie’s reliance on photo-realism removes the… the cartoonishness, the ability to exaggerate and take animation outside of, above, reality when necessary to achieve the desired effect. It’s like the worst of both worlds, and I think audiences can recognize that, and stay away in droves as a result.

(That said, motion capture can work – Look at Avatar and Lord of The Rings – but only in places where it’s additive, not replacing, the experience elsewhere in the work. Weirdly enough, a live-action Yellow Submarine remake with CGI mo-capped Jeremy and Blue Meanies actually doesn’t seem as heretical as what Zemeckis was pitching, to me.)

So, will these two recent developments mean that we won’t see any more mo-cap CGI movies anytime soon? Well, that remains to be seen: It’s unlikely that any already in the pipeline will suddenly find themselves killed if there’s any chance of seeing the money back on them without significantly more spend needed, and any one of those could, miraculously, suddenly find an audience and magically everything will be forgiven. But as it stands, Mars Needs Moms might have failed so badly – It’s the movie ever 3D couldn’t save! – that all may be lost. Hopefully this means that someone will come in and work out how to make the genre work, when no-one is looking, and be hailed as a visionary genius as a result.

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