CGI in “The Call of the Wild”

I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I was unaware that the animals in The Call of the Wild are CGI until I was a few minutes into the film. Computer-Generated Images.

Had I known, I doubt that I would have gone to see The Call of the Wild yesterday. I like my animals living and breathing. This turned to be a good thing because, had I known, I would have missed out on a very good (not great) film.

I had read nothing in advance of going to the theater. I watched the trailer. Looked pretty good. I checked the Rotten Tomatoes ratings. 72% from the critics. 90% from the audience. The critics’ rating has since dropped to 65%.

My two reasons to see it:

I never got around to reading Jack London’s book and I have always loved wild places.

The prospect of a couple hours near horizontal in a heavily-upholstered Dad-chair before a mammoth curved screen seemed like the way to go.

A few minutes into the film, I began thinking “This is weird”, followed by “This dog doesn’t seem normal”, followed by “Wait. This is very odd.” As more animals joined the scenes, I realized they were definitely not normal.

It wasn’t just a matter of imaging. It was the animals’ ability to respond in a human manner. Buck the dog is beyond smart-dog-intelligent, and it was unsettling. The animals interact with each other in the same way that animated animals do. Think Bambi.

It was obvious that no animals were harmed in the making of this film. CGI enabled its animal cruelty and dog fights. Animals with evil intent. Animals with loving interactions. CGI makes personification possible on every level.

Which leads me to the “Kid-Friendly” label. I certainly wouldn’t take a child to see The Call of the Wild without making it very clear to the child that these are not real animals, even though they are physically perfect.

As the film progressed, I wanted very much to Google “making of Call of the Wild 2020”. I waited until I was in the car, waiting for the ferry home.

CGI has been used for lots of films. The difference is that we know the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park were not real.

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