It’s been more than a decade since Robert Zemekis, creator of some of my all time favourite films, last directed actual real people. Starting with The Polar Express in 2004, all his films have been CGI productions created using 3D motion capture technology.
In some ways, his commitment to technical advancements in film is commendable. He is very much at the forefront of this new technology, funding cutting-edge facilities at the University of California, encouraging the development of new technologies and often acting as a spokesman when these technologies are not readily accepted by the industry (he was an vocal advocate for digital film-making when even Spielberg was voicing concerns).
I rather liked both Beowulf and A Christmas Carol, but in no way do either of these films live up to my expectations of what one of my favourite directors is capable of. Over the years he has given us a number of classics including Back to the Future, Forest Gump, Contact (that’s right, I think Contact is a classic) and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Ultimately, I think that a total commitment to computer-generated film-making is a restriction of his considerable talent.
Now the good news: Zemekis recently back-peddled on his earlier commitment to 3D motion capture, saying that the decision will be made on a film-by-film basis. He still has two CG films in development, but for the first time in more than ten years, Zemekis has decided to direct a live-action film.
Starring Denzel Washington, Flight will focus on a heroic pilot who safely lands a badly-damaged plane full of people. The film will focus on the aftermath – how the pilot deals with his new fame and how he reacts when his ‘hero status’ is called into question.
I for one am excited to see what Zemekis will do with real actors in front of the camera once again. Whatever happens, his first live action film since Castaway will be essential viewing.