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The beauty of a well-made special effect is that, even though we know it's fake, we're happy to let ourselves be tricked into believing otherwise -- as jaded as we may be, there's still a part of our brain that thinks Michael Fassbender really controls metal, or Henry Cavill can really fly, or Robert Downey Jr. really looks 40. That is the magic of the movies.

Well, let us now murder that magic by showing you how damn dumb every big-screen badass looks before the effects kick in:

Actors Doing "Magic" Look Like Total Dorks

Warner Bros.

Since its debut in 1997, the Harry Potter franchise has gone from some silly wizard books your little sister made fun of you for reading to an epic saga for the ages. That's partly thanks to the fact that, in the movies, the magical battles between good and evil look like thrilling, tense affairs where something cool or horrible could happen at any moment.

That said, if you ever feel like taking a trip back to the time when Harry Potter was the dorkiest thing ever, simply look at the DVD extras. The making of a battle scene in these movies is indistinguishable from a bunch of kids running around a playground pointing their fingers and yelling, "Bang, I shot you!" and, "Nuh-uh, you missed!"

Warner Bros.
The birthday party entertainers union is striking again.

The eight movies collectively cost over a billion dollars to make, but if you went behind the scenes it looked like your local community theater choreographing an interpretative dance about eating an avocado covered in hot sauce for dinner (because magic doesn't exist and everything alive is slowly putrefying).

Warner Bros.
Except the confused guy in the sweater, who thinks this is the worst orgy he's been to.

Even the one-on-one duels look like outtakes from a gritty remake of West Side Story:

Warner Bros.
In the script, Sirius Black kept saying, "Shamona!" and grabbing his crotch, suggesting
that Gary Oldman wasn't the first casting choice.

It's not just Harry Potter, of course -- the magical members of The Avengers, for example, look so dopey behind the scenes that we fully expect a pack of high school bullies to burst in at any moment and give them wedgies. Thor shooting lightning to devastate his opposition resembles a dude pulling off a move he saw at his amateur MMA gym, then feeling sad because no one saw it ...

Marvel Studios
Mostly because he's alone, in his bathroom.

... while Scarlet Witch looks like your aunt performing her one-woman show about the Wiccan dating scene in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Marvel Studios
This looks more like a Mary-Kate and Ashley joint.

CGI Animals Are Actually Crazy People

Walt Disney

Probably the most intense movie scene of the past year was in The Revenant, when Golden Globe winner Leonardo DiCaprio is brutally ravaged by a mama bear. However, the filmmakers couldn't sic a real bear on DiCaprio, since his contract has a strict "no make-out scenes with women over 25 and no being mauled by savage animals" clause. As a result, the bear is CG, but they still needed something for Leo to initially interact with -- so they hired someone who looks like he plays in the National Furry Football League.

20th Century Fox
"Brian Grrrlacher, linebacker, Chicago Humans."

Please imagine DiCaprio trying to look all intense while rolling around with that guy in the forest (the production has wisely not allowed any photos of that moment to be released). He deserved that Golden Globe just for not cracking up on camera.

Speaking of CG animals, the ones on the new Jungle Book movie have been widely praised for being incredibly convincing and expressive. The behind-the-scenes footage, however, makes it look like the Cookie Monster's sex offender cousin was trying to sneak up on Mowgli.

Walt Disney
"Hey, bears aren't the only ones with necessities."

And here's Mowgli being threatened by one of nature's fiercest animals: the majestic, elusive Jon Favreau.

Walt Disney
If you see a cast member from Swingers in the wild, stand still and do not make eye contact.

Meanwhile, Jurassic World made kids ride around on beleaguered adults. It's a great example of merging effects with acting, because the kids look more thrilled that grown-ups are doing their bidding than they would be on actual dinosaurs.

Universal Pictures
And the production cloned this man for a fraction of what it would have taken them to clone a dinosaur.

Getting the movement of the raptors just right required a troupe of actors wearing what looked like novelty hats that got handed out at a kid's dinosaur-themed birthday party.

Universal Pictures
Someone spent 10 years becoming a paleontologist just to be the guy on set
who goes, "No, no, his butt should be higher."

Seriously, is this what happened to all the dance majors we went to school with? They all became dinosaurs and wizards? Even the original Jurassic Park made their animators run around like lunatics to teach them how dinosaurs move.

Universal Pictures
This was around the same time crystal meth really hit big in California.

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Motion Capture Leads To Brain-Melting Insanity

New Line Cinema

One of the most baffling things about John Carter is that they had Willem Dafoe, someone who already looks like a sci-fi villain, play an adorable four-armed good guy through motion capture, which involved- AHHHHHHHHHHH!

Walt Disney

Sorry, that was more Dafoe than we were prepared for. In addition to getting blackheads all over his face and yelling at the camera, Dafoe and other actors playing Martians had to walk around the set on stilts. If nothing else, it's really inspiring to see an actor go the extra mile for a movie that absolutely no one gives a shit about.

Walt Disney
He stands tall and confident, then stumbles badly. Symbolism!

On the other hand, we have Twilight, which people give countless shits about but for all the wrong reasons. Say what you will about Kristen Stewart's performance, but you try to emote convincingly when the target of your affections is one of the henchmen from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

Summit Entertainment

Now pet the Putty. Yes, Kristen. Yes.

Summit Entertainment
We feel like they could release this movie in Japan without any CG
and it would be an even bigger hit.

And now, let's watch the award-winning Benedict Cumberbatch be Smaug, the ancient, cruel, and devious dragon of our collective childhood lore, and realize that we'll never be able to take the actor or the character seriously again.

New Line Cinema

New Line Cinema
He makes more facial expressions in these eight seconds than in all 5,000 hours of Sherlock.

Aw, look at him go. We don't know much about mocap, but we're 100 percent certain that all that work could have been accomplished some other way and everyone involved just wanted to see Cumberbatch scramble around on the floor like a cat who got a bunch of dollops of butter stuck on its face.

The Cost Of Playing A Superhero Is Your Dignity

Marvel Studios

Captain America, Thor, Black Panther ... on the big screen, they're larger-than-life icons of power and masculinity. During filming, on the other hand, they look like they're trying to cap off their Zumba routine with some flair but can't quite muster the energy.

Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios
Benedict Cumberbatch seen displaying the exact amount of hops you would expect
from a man named Benedict Cumberbatch.

Yeah, remember when we implied only magical superheroes look silly on set? We lied. It's all of them. Now, we've given Thor enough shit in this article already, so let's move on to someone els- JUST KIDDING, here's a behind-the-scenes shot of Goldilocks battling The Incredible Guy Who Wanted To Cosplay As A Ninja Turtle But Only Had Access To Green Pillows And Rave Pants.

Marvel Studios
"OK, you can say Kirby created this one." -Stan Lee

The villains don't have it any easier. Here's Man Of Steel's General Zod mimicking the motion of climbing up the side of a building by galloping/being dragged on all fours. At least Zack Snyder didn't make him do it in slow motion.

Warner Bros.
Sadly, they cut the part where Zod stops on a window to chat with Sammy Davis Jr.

By the by, here's one of the eight villains from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 looking like he's just loving getting humped by a robot.

Columbia Pictures
The exact moment Paul Giamatti gave up on that Oscar.

And if you think you can get more respect in another genre, well ...

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Movie Monsters Are Way Less Scary On Set

Dimension Films

Playing a murderous lunatic seems like it would be a pretty sweet gig. You get to run around with a cool weapon, maybe see some attractive young people naked if it's one of those kinds of horror movies, and, if this gag reel is anything to go by, you can have plenty of fun terrifying actors even though they know they're working on a horror movie. But then comes the part when the victims start fighting back, and suddenly people are breaking household objects on your face like you're in a Three Stooges short.

Dimension Films

Dimension Films
Sadly, Wes Craven couldn't afford the royalties of the Benny Hill theme for this scene.

Remember the bizarre, primordial terror of Pyramid Head from Silent Hill? He's somewhat less intimidating when he has to have his bare ass exposed and painted because his boss felt that having a gigantic, faceless and remorseless killer running around in a pair of CK tighty-whities would have ruined the immersion. Which, yes, means it was someone's job to paint Pyramid Head's butt on set every day.

Tri-Star Pictures
"Couldn't you just paint over my underpants?"
"Ew, no. Gross."

But both of those movies are relatively recent. Let's go back to the golden era of cinematic horror, the gory '80s ... when this Evil Dead II actor found himself stuffed in a fat suit and then swung from wires on the ceiling like a juicy ham.


OK, that actually looks kind of fun. Just because you're making a movie that features rapist trees doesn't mean you can't add a little whimsy.

Green-Screen Acting Just Makes Everyone Miserable

New Line Cinema

Look, up in the sky! It's Superman Returns, avant-garde puppet theater edition!

Warner Bros.
Only marginally cornier than the regular edition.

See those guys in Kermit-themed gimp suits? Can you feel the overwhelming sadness and desperation radiating out of their very souls? Well, they represent every actor who's ever had to work in front of a green screen.

If you paid attention to the development of the first Hobbit movie (or to Cracked), you may recall that Ian McKellen, who plays Gandalf, broke down and cried during filming because of how much time he had to spend all alone in front of green screens. And if that sounds like an actor being melodramatic, look at this septuagenarian six-time Laurence Olivier Award-winner being forced to throw artisan pine cones from fake overgrown shrubbery and try not to feel sorry for the poor man.

New Line Cinema
They actually downgraded his Oliviers to Joe Mantegnas after finding out he took part in this shitshow.

You can watch him grow more and more frustrated with this nonsense, and you can even pinpoint the exact moment when his soul is rent asunder in ways even Sauron couldn't imagine.

New Line Cinema
Meanwhile, in England, Patrick Stewart suddenly exclaimed, "He needs me," and hopped on a plane.

You all know the scene in Titanic where DiCaprio declares himself the king of the world at the bow of the ship. It's gorgeous, it's inspiring, and it looked like he wanted to stealthily rub his junk on some kid's butt in a back alley.

Paramount Pictures
Dude, you're Leonardo DiCaprio. You could probably find a legitimate volunteer.

Finally, and this might shock you, but the Star Wars prequels looked goofy. Here's Padme falling off an anime whale.


We'll leave you with this image of genuine bad-ass Sir Christopher Lee, a World War II veteran whose staggering seven-decade career spans stage, film, opera, and heavy metal, riding an intergalactic Ski-Doo with utter confusion plastered across his noble visage.

Like we said at the beginning: the magic of the movies.

Mark is on Twitter and has a book, which was written entirely in front of a green screen.

Also check out 6 Reasons Modern Movie CGI Looks Surprisingly Crappy and 4 Horrible CGI Effects That Movies Need to Stop Using.

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