When will CGI humans actually fool us? Effects icon Dennis Muren sets the date

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

If you’re holding out for a time when you absolutely cannot tell the difference between a CGI human in a film and an actor, special effects guru Dennis Muren believes you won’t have long to wait. 

TechRadar caught up with Muren - the legendary figure behind some of the most memorable effects in films - to mark Terminator 2’s release in December on 4K Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray. 

Muren, who still finds the effects he did for Steven Spielberg and James Cameron’s hits more interesting, thinks it’s only a matter of time before the industry cracks its thorniest issue. 

Although mainstream films are increasingly using CGI to resurrect movie stars or make them younger, think Carrie Fisher and Peter Cushing in Rogue One, Jeff Bridges in Tron: Legacy and Arnie in Terminator Resurrection, audiences are quick to criticise the efforts and the eeriness of the results 

Experts call this the ‘Uncanny Valley’ effect, with people attuned to picking up and incredible level of nuance in a human face, but Hollywood is working hard to fix it, and Muren thinks they are getting close. 

"It’s got to act like a real person so it’s extremely difficult."

“You know people are working on it all the time, there may be a show [movie] out next year that’s going to do that or maybe not - you just don’t know because it’s just so hard to do it,” he tells us.  

“It’s not only the look but the performance,” he explains. “It’s got to act like a real person so it’s extremely difficult. 

“We’re doing some shows trying it and other people too, so that seems to be what a lot of people consider to be the holy grail.” 

Muren’s work on landmark effects, like the Jurassic Park dinosaurs and the groundbreaking computer work on the T-1000 in James Cameron’s Terminator 2, remain iconic movie moments, and he admits creating a CGI human perfectly is not front and centre in his own ambitions. 

“I’m not, to be honest, terribly interested in that. I think what Jim did with the T2 and Stephen with Jurassic, I’m much more interested in stuff like that. That’s the stuff that’s fun. It doesn't have to be real it has to be imaginative.” 

Muren is gracious enough to give us his best guess as to when we will get an indistinguishable CGI human, although he jokingly asks us not to hold him to it. 

“Everyone says three or four more years, so that’s what I’ll go with.” 

We’ve set a 2021 return call in our calendar.   

Terminator 2 Judgment Day is released on 4k UHD (incl: Blu-Ray), 3D BLU-RAY (incl: Blu-Ray), BLU-RAY, DVD & DIGITAL DOWNLOAD on December 4th.


Muren led the team behind Terminator 2's special effects -including the astounding T-1000

Patrick Goss

Patrick Goss is the ex-Editor in Chief of TechRadar. Patrick was a passionate and experienced journalist, and he has been lucky enough to work on some of the finest online properties on the planet, building audiences everywhere and establishing himself at the forefront of digital content.  After a long stint as the boss at TechRadar, Patrick has now moved on to a role with Apple, where he is the Managing Editor for the App Store in the UK.