Last night we half-watched a charming silent Harold Lloyd movie, Speedy, on TCM. It was filmed in 1928, a time after Babe Ruth was in New York (in one scene, Lloyd drives Babe Ruth, really Babe Ruth, to Yankee Stadium in his taxi) but where being a trolley driver meant that you drove the horses.
At one point, a series of wacky misunderstandings leads to an enormous brawl. Terri noted that to film it, they actually had to use real people.
It was interesting. Because they were trying to actually hit each other with real planks of wood and real flowerpots, they actually reacted to these objects and to the other people, who were actually in the same room. The effect was quite novel and very convincing.
Indeed, as recent as about five years ago, it was actually common to use real people in movies. When there were dangerous physical actions involved, stunt people, often expendable orphans or gypsies, were employed so that there was less chance that the more valuable actors would not be hurt. (Note that Harold Lloyd did his own stunts, living in a time where horses were used for locomotion).
My question to George Lucas is that would it really have been that hard to just hire an extra, dress him up in an outfit cleverly cobbled together from a thrift store to look futuristic? He did it before. It seemed like Revenge of the Sith used every tiny opportunity to use computer generated objects, even when real objects would have been easy and cheap to film. There should be some sort of Occam’s Razor rule here: never use CGI when real things will do.
Because of a lack of this Razor in Hollywood at the moment, I dread, dread, dread the upcoming film version of The Golden Compass. The book is so fantastic, and I just know it’s going to end up being made thin and forgettable from CGI. Please, please, send a real camera crew to somewhere really cold. Please make a real zeppelin. Please film some real animals to use as daemons. (I recently reread The Golden Compass, so there may be a fuller His Dark Materials review coming.)