10 Movies with the Worst Uncanny Valley Effects

10 Movies with the Worst Uncanny Valley Effects

12.11.2021 Off By manager_1

Mad Hatter costume photography

It is not necessarily have to be an extravagant special effects show for a movie to be worthwhile to watch. However, it seems that we are less inclined to go to the cinema to see them if they aren’t. We want the special effects to be special if we are going to spend a lot of money. Over the last few decades, the focus on practical effects has led to new vistas for the imagination. However, it also opens the doors to some very ugly and unconvincing computer generated imagery. These images don’t inspire our imaginations but leave us scratching our minds (or laughing at them).

Bad effects can cause disbelief and cause us to be reminded that what we are seeing is not real. The “uncanny valley” is when attempts to reproduce living beings are made close but not close enough. This can create an effect that can be either intentionally or unintentionally disturbing. The new Clifford the Big Red Dog movie reminds us of the uncanny effect even though what we see isn’t realistic. (Though Clifford’s appearance is significantly less alarming than that of 1994 Martin Short.)

Bad effects don’t always have to be a deal breaker. Even though movies can be shaky at times, they are still enjoyable. Even though it’s been decades since the original CGI was created, poor CGI can still be charming! The movies on this list are all good-to-great–despite some dodgy special effects that take you right out of the action.

Rogue One: Star Wars Story (2016)

It’s enjoyable to see the return visit of Peter Cushing’s Grand Mooff Tarkin. His presence is also a plus in this Star Wars movie. We have not yet developed the technology to resurrect all the dead. Tarkin’s role as co-starring actor places him in the uncanny valley, particularly when he is acting alongside actors who don’t use CGI. The film’s final scene features a particularly touching cameo, but it’s short enough to be forgiven.

Where to stream: Disney+

Black Panther (2018)

Black Panther is a top-tier Marvel movie, and one of the most expensive movies made by a studio that doesn’t skimp on special effects (say what you will, they don’t look cheap). Although there are many good elements to this movie, the war rhinos, while making an impressive entrance, don’t move as well as real, living animals. (we should add that we are thrilled to see fewer real animals used in movie productions. We would rather have a slightly hampered CGI rhino than an actual one.) The final fight sequence at the futuristic train station is a bit too animated.

Where to stream: Disney+

The Mist (2007)

Although it is a little too complicated, it stands out as one of Stephen King’s darkest and most nihilistic adaptations. However, it is also one of his best works, exploring how people react to disasters, heroically and horrifically. Although the Lovecraftian creatures living in the mist are barely seen, they are often animated in a videogame-style animation that is more likely to make you giggle than gasp (a common theme with these films). The film features many great practical monsters that contrast with the CGI tentacles. This makes them even more distracting.

Where to stream: AMC+, fuboTV

I Am Legend (2007)

I Am Legend combines the heartfelt story and isolation of Richard Matheson’s original novel with great action-movie set pieces. However, the film’s Infected clearly came from a nearby video game. They look rubbery and floppy with Will Smith’s acting as their only motivation to intimidate us. They aren’t terrible as special effects but don’t always fit in with the environment they are placed in, especially during daytime scenes. Worse, the original plan was to create zombies using makeup effects. However, CGI was added at the last moment. It’s a bummer.

Where to stream: Max

The Call of the Wild (2020)

 Even though technology is still a long way off, real animals are being used in movies. CGI was an excellent choice for Jack London’s dog. The poor dog sometimes feels like he is in a different movie than his real-life human costars.

Where to stream: Max

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Although we don’t like the new Tim Burton, we enjoyed his version of Alice in Wonderland. Even though it has been criticized by many, it was still a box office success. It’s one big, ugly, uncanny valley trip for us. Each character is off by design in ways both obvious, and subtle. This was mostly due to the use of computer effects that create characters impossible in real life. This is what Burton meant, and we have no doubt it is. The utter strangeness of the entire thing is, if any, part of its appeal. But it is definitely a matter for taste.

Where to stream: Disney+

The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

Matrix Reloaded is the one we feel most inclined to credit for the technical excellence of its action sequences, especially the “Burly Brawl”. This was an innovative piece of special effects wizardry in 2003. The scene doesn’t have any sense of gravity. It’s cool to see, but it never gives the illusion that you’re actually looking at people with real weight. It’s an unfortunate contrast to the film’s well-respected wire-fu performance.

Where to stream: Hulu, HBO Max

The Polar Express (2004)

Robert Zemeckis is not a fool. We have no doubt that he received exactly what he desired from the animators who created his holiday classic. The movie can be seen as either a storybook brought to life or as an uncanny journey into the most uncanny of valleys. We are in the latter camp. You probably are, too.

Where to stream: Max

Beowulf (2007)

Although it wasn’t a big hit at the box office but Robert Zemeckis’ motion capture epic Beowulf is much better than its reputation. This film also makes use of similar animation techniques to make The Polar Express. The movie’s characters have a storybook-like look and feel. It’s quite disturbing to see the movie’s PG-13 scenes that show them being bloodied and battered, or engaging in some rather risky activities. It’s hard to tell if this disconnect is a positive or a negative, but it feels stranger as the years go by.

Where to stream: Paramount+

Star Wars (1977)

Star Wars was a pioneering film that featured groundbreaking (mostly practical) effects. If you were alive before 1997, it is possible you have seen it. You might also have seen the post-Special Edition version which adds some unneeded and outdated CGI. While we understand that the Special Editions have been an obsession for many decades, some tweaks work. But bits such as the Jabba/Han sequence are unacceptable.

Where to stream: Disney+