Story by Kelsey Rogers | staff reporter
The apes in Rise of the Planet of the Apes were far from the best CGI Ever, but to be fair, nor were they the worst. It’s surprising the apes don’t look as good as they should, especially considering the special effects studio behind the movie.
There are two tests for any good CGI: it shouldn’t draw attention to itself and it needs to be appropriate. Here are some of the very best CGI creatures that are above and beyond impressive.
Note: The list is the best CGI creatures done in live-action movies. This is not a list of the best CGI animated movies. Pixar would dominate the list if that were true.
5. Prawns from District 9
Made on a mere fraction of a normal blockbuster, District 9’s prawns outperform a lot of even the best CGI creatures. Highly individualized, the prawns are appropriately alien and foreign in appearance so much to even be put off a bit by their unattractiveness. Yet there is also “humanity” to them in their eyes that are full of vivid expressions which is unusual for CGI. It’s done in such a low-key way that the CGI is barely noticeable. Aside from a few quick shots when the prawns are scurrying through the garbage, you never get slapped in the face with over pixilation that plagues most other CGI creatures.
4. Gollum from Lord of Rings
One of the first fully realized CGI creations, Gollum was brought to life in no small part to Andy Serkis, who later motion captured King Kong and Caesar from Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Schizophrenic, unstable, often unreliable and neither human, elf, dwarf, nor hobbit, Gollum was a creature with a deeply tragic history that tied with the Ring and Frodo’s personal quest to be rid of it. The CGI does show its age in a few places but it never gets overly ridiculous or over the top like in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Gollum is a very human character whose relationship with Frodo and Sam is crucial to the whole series.
3. Dragons from Reign of Fire
This rarely talked about movie sports some incredibly cool dragons.
Serpentine and very much the dragons of old with a modern touch, these nasty monsters pack a terrifying fiery punch. Only a few rubber models were made for close-ups such as the dragon carcass, but otherwise, these are pure and vividly detailed CGI creations.
2. King Kong from King Kong 2005
Another fully realized creature courtesy of Andy Serkis. Kong was a 200 foot behemoth, a rampaging unstoppable ape, but still had a genuine “humanity” to him. Unlike Caesar, Kong is very well designed.
Every fur strand realized, every inch of his weight accounted for, a perfect hybrid of an ape with an almost human-like intelligence. Unlike Caesar, even with being a 200 foot ape in New York City, Kong was never out of place.
1. Dinosaurs from Jurassic Park
The one that started it all and arguably still the best, the Jurassic Park dinosaurs were realized with a seamless combination of animatronics and CGI, resulting in very fluid, very realistic, and very nasty, unpredictable dinosaurs. Who could ever forget the T-Rex and the thudding, puddle quaking devastation it unleashed or the savage velociraptors, the cruel predators that would hunt down and pursue its targets no matter what the cost? And who could forget the scene where the T-Rex breaks out of the cage and lets out a huge victory roar, frightening the people trapped in the cars and the whole movie audience? You have to look very carefully with these dinosaurs but they are, amazingly, CGI creatures.