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CGI effects make an impact on action genre

Like the horror genre, so much in evidence in movie theaters today, the action-adventure film has moved into a whole new realm, thanks in great part to the use of computer generated imagery (CGI).

The just released "Pathfinder" is an excellent example, as was last month's box office hit "300." Of course, these films, to include most of the slasher-horror types, get an R rating; however, it's not a mild or soft R. These films are hard R's, often with a vengeance. With each beheading in "300," blood spatters across the lens of the camera as if the audience itself can be reached by the gore. In "Pathfinder," limbs are severed, arrows penetrate skulls, throats are slit and people are impaled on broad swords. Repeatedly.

In other words, there has been a gradual shift in what R means when it comes to the depiction of violence. The envelope has been continually pushed by computer techies and directors who now have the ability to take special effects to a whole new level.

What CGI slasher-horror-action films mean to our culture, to include the desensitization of our young people to gratuitous carnage, is a whole other discussion. But one thing is clear, a new age of filmmaking has arrived.

One of the consequences of CGI dominated action-horror-slasher movies is that the screen narrative has become all but inconsequential. It's as if the World Federation of Wrestling has taken control of the scripts, insisting that fans are in attendance not to be told a story, but to see intense, no-holds barred, decapitating violence. And that's exactly what they're getting. Listen for the ominous sound of the sword coming out of the scabbard and you know heads will roll, and the camera will be there to show you the spurting arteries and severed vertebrae. Good writing, even passable writing, has become window dressing.

Hence, in "Pathfinder" the plot is so thin as to be almost irrelevant. Marauding Vikings visit the new world in the 10th century, 500 years before Columbus came to America. They pillage, kill, maim, and take the Native Americans hostage by the boat load. On one such journey, heading home, they leave behind a boy (Karl Urban). He is raised by a coastal tribe, and it is he who must save his new found people. That's it. The rest is one battle after another with the locals being decimated in countless ways by the psychopaths wearing strange helmets, lots of animal skins, mail, and wielding immense swords. Men from the iron age riding their stallions through villages still locked in the stone age. It's no contest. And it's brutal.

The question remains for these new films is: how wide is the envelope? How far will the techies and Hollywood filmmakers take these films before even the Motion Picture Association of America, who is charged with rating movies, blinks and a new rating system is devised that gives moviegoers a far better way of judging what they are about to see than simply a letter. The MPAA might also revisit its attitudes toward smoking in films, as well as the depiction of sexual congress between consenting adults, which generally never involves limb loss.