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I've played some superhero games like the Batman: Arkham series and I've noticed that the pre-rendered cutscenes (to be distinguished from real-time cutscenes) are really good. So much good that I've wondered:
"Why don't they make an animated movie with the same level of graphics?"

The game just plays a pre-recorded video file during a pre-rendered cutscene. Why not string them together and make a movie?

Here are some YouTube clips of pre-rendered (cut)scenes from popular superhero games that will hopefully convey what I'm talking about:

Compare the videos I've shown above with some of the latest animated superhero movies:

I certainly do enjoy such superhero animated movies but I simply wonder why they don't turn up the level of graphics to the level that's present in pre-rendered videogame cutscenes.

I understand that there must be reason(s) that explain why making a movie that has the same level of graphics as those that can be witnessed in pre-rendered video game cutscenes is a bad idea. I wish to know some of those reasons.

Although my question brings up video games, my main query deals with the decision taken by the movie industry, and hence, I believe my question falls within the domain of Movies&TV StackExchange.

Additional Comments

It's not just me as I've seen several comments on YouTube that go something like:
"I want to see a CGI Batman Movie like this trailer! That would be amazing!"

I've also seen one response to such a comment that says it's extremely expensive and needs "200+ million" animators to make it into a movie. At this point, another user enters the discussion and says that the estimate of "200+ million" animators is just plain wrong. And so continues the back-and-forth argument.

I would like a credible answer.

  • I don't find that video game attractive at all. It feels like it tries to do something but fails to do so, and ends up here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_valley . Netflix has a series where some episodes are animated like this and I found those hardest to get in to, in part precisely because they look like they were animated by entering parameters into a video game engine which makes them feel cheap and lazy. – BCdotWEB Jan 25 at 8:38
  • @BCdotWEB I suspected that many superhero-animation-movie fans might not be into the kind of animation I've shown. So, "The majority of animation-movie lovers don't like this idea" could very well be one of the reasons why the movie industry has chosen not to go with this idea. – Ajay Mohan Jan 25 at 9:21
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There are multiple reasons here.


Money

Simply put, cartoony graphics are considerably cheaper to develop than the high realism 3D cinematics.

Animated cartoons don't have the biggest audience (compared to live action movies). The smaller the profits, the smaller the development budget.

Without having seen the numbers (I can't find any reasonably trustworthy source), I will gladly bet that the budget for the Arkham games was considerably larger than for the movies you linked.


Stylistic choices

Some animated 3D movies opt for a cartoony vibe that avoids excessive graphical realism. This can be done for many reasons. It's very prevalent in (but by no means limited to) children's movies. Let's use Shrek, Inside Out and Bee Movie as example, but I'm sure you know the list is quite extensive.

A great example here of stylistic choice are the Animatrix movies. This is a collection of short films related to the Matrix universe, with varying graphical styles, from realism to anime. Each movie stands on its own, and there's no reason why they should all have used the exact same graphics, let alone all needing to try for as much graphical realism as possible (which is what your question is trying to assert).


Nostalgia

This is arguably a subset of the stylistic choice category.

Movies like the linked Batman movies very much herald back to the age of the comic book. The graphics retain that thematic connection. There's also the connection to older animated series (e.g. Batman: The Animated Series) on top of the comic book connection.

The comparison is easily made here. The Arkham Origins trailer seems much less related to Batman comic book ancestry than both Hush and Gothan By Gaslight do.


They actually do, sometimes

For their time of release, some movies and shows do heavily lean on realistic graphics:

This list is merely from recollection, i.e. movies that astonished me with their graphical fidelity (relative to the year of release, of course!). The list is much longer.


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    Tying back in to your point about money, The Spirits Within was (at the time) one of the most expensive animated films ever made, and lost so much money at the box office that the production company went bankrupt. – F1Krazy Jan 26 at 14:57
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    As an addition to your point about stylistic choices. There is an argument that if you want to make a movie that looks super-realistic, you should be making a live action film. The very fact that they've chosen to use animation suggests that photo-realism isn't their primary goal. – Princess Ada Jan 27 at 9:21
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    Also Time. FF had to be remade because it took so much time to render scenes that when they were near the end the computing power has advanced so much the renders of first scenes were "below average" due to limiting power. – SZCZERZO KŁY Jan 27 at 10:27
  • nvm, I think I skipped it when I read... – Luciano Jan 27 at 12:10
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In addition to Flater's answer, I feel it's worth emphasizing that Batman: Hush and Batman: Gotham by Gaslight are both direct-to-video productions - they are not intended for theatrical release, but are instead sold as DVDs or Blu-Rays. Direct-to-video productions don't make anywhere near as much money as theatrical releases: as of 4 January 2020, Gotham by Gaslight has made $4.6 million, and Hush has made $3.6 million.

Because of this, direct-to-video animations have to be made very cheaply in order to turn a profit. This means using traditional 2D animation, as cutting-edge 3D animation like in the Arkham games is extremely expensive, and anything less than cutting-edge will just look terrible.

2D animation is also far quicker to produce, and as a result, multiple productions can be released in a single year. DC have released at least 3 direct-to-video animations every year since 2009, and at least 5 every year since 2015. I don't know of any 3D animation studios that have that kind of production rate.

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  • As a counterexample, Spiderman: Into the Spider-verse did have a theatrical release while still using traditional 2D animation (and not particularly high framerate) – Flater Jan 27 at 11:12

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