For all the razzle-dazzle of current CGI, there are still a few areas where we’re left wanting. New York Metro details four things movies still can’t convincingly pull off.
My own additions to this list would include some creature effects, as only top end digital beasties like Gollum or…well, Gollum seem to be utterly convincing. Creature animation has always been the toughest part of VFX animation and that won’t change no matter how many petaflops you throw at the problem. Andy Serkis is the reason Gollum works..or at least he’s a component of the hard work everyone puts in to make you forget Gollum isn’t there.
But even when effects are utterly convincing, as they are in Man of Steel or Avatar, you still check out a little bit. It’s all just so “big” that you brain slides into apathy. Alien jungle? Check. Entire city collapsing? Meh. You don’t want to, or at least I don’t, but you care a little bit less about the goings-on because it’s all stunningly common-place.
I think it might also have something to do with the overriding subject. Gravity has two characters and a very simple goal; survive. It also employs stunning effects that you don’t question, because you care more about the characters than you do about pixels flying around. It’s a very thin tightrope, and to maintain that tension the effects have to be both invisible and impeccable, but Gravity pulls it off. Minus an Alfonso Cuaron at the helm, the likelihood of that combination declines sharply.