Saw the film, Avengers…Ultron last night. It was awesome, silly, grand, puerile, daunting, scary, funny, scrambled… all at the same time. What is relevant to this blog-site, is its verisimilitude, the simulacrum. In this dimension, it shares these attributes with many of the most recent CGI blockbusters.
Movies today, can replicate the most preposterous events with absolute reality. Peckinpah lifted violence to the balletic in his Western films. Today violence is lifted to the operatic. The inability to discern reality from fantasy is what bends my mind when I watch these modern mash-ups. Most of them portray some form of human or earthly apocalypse. It is rendered so fully real, that my own adult hold on reality falters. There is at least one moment in each of these super-hero movies when I grow queasy and disoriented when I see the earth and its millions dissolve before my eyes. It is all too real. It fools my senses. In spite of knowing better, there is a part of me that is terrified that it IS happening. That it CAN happen.
I fear for the young that watch such films. Catastrophe is endemic. Assault from ourselves or from outer space is rendered so persuasively that its likelihood is difficult to defer in our minds and fears. Even my adult hold on reality quavers in the onslaught (2 hours +) of depictions that rob me of my foothold in reality. I know that children, particularly boys, as young as 5 or 6 begin to see these movies. By the time they are 9 or 10 it is regular diet.
With their, as yet, stable relationship with reality still forming, I wonder of the consequence. Isn’t such verisimilitude, such a perfect simulacrum completely terrifying? There is little standing between abject terror and the movie screen. I have some years of reality connection. They have little. I know most parents say, “it’s only a movie”. I know we all come back out into the fresh air and reality. But I have the tools and history to shake off the terrors, certain they are fiction. But even then it takes some time to shake the discomfort. The young have lesser tools and experience. We have yet to see the consequences.
This phenomenon of perfected simulacra is of very recent vintage. By today’s standards even Star Wars, the series, seems fake. Whether it’s Transformers, Avengers, terror, horror or car chases, the perfect rendering has become routine. Add Oculus to the home screen version of videogames, and discerning real from dreams, sanity from insanity becomes ever more difficult. And that is, in fact, the thrill of it!
Only cost keeps this perfect CGI reality at bay…. into expensive feature films. As its costs come down, as they surely will, CGI perfect simulacra will invade every part of our media existence. Combine that with AI, and we will all become schizophrenics that cannot tell reality from unreality. A kind of comfortable madness will become a way of life. We will finally live inside the perfect simulacrum, not knowing, and perhaps not caring. And whoever writes that simulacrum’s script………will rule!!!