The use of de-aging technology is continuing to pop up in more and more movies. Particularly, Marvel ones. In fact, they just did it to the late great Stan Lee.
The first time I can remember seeing it though was in X-Men: The Last Stand when Professor X and Magneto’s faces looked considerably shiny and smooth. Creepy would be another word to describe it. Then, four years later, we got a younger Jeff Bridges in Tron: Legacy. And again, it didn’t look great. It looked like they ported a video game version of Bridges into a live-action movie. Perhaps that was the whole point though since the plot of the movie is Bridges’ character becoming stuck inside his own game. Wait…does that mean the filmmakers intentionally made him look like that? Did I just completely miss that in the film? Moving on.
It wasn’t until Ant-Man in 2015 did this technology finally get it right. The opening scene features a young Michael Douglas and to be honest, it’s jaw-dropping. They then did it to Robert Downey Jr. in Captain America: Civil War the next year and have since done it again and again in other Marvel movies, but that scene in Ant-Man still looks the best to me. I saw that and thought, “actors can live forever in film.”
But what about after they die? Then it becomes an interesting conversation. A moral conversation. In 2016, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story featured Peter Cushing. Despite dying in 1994, the actor was able to reprise his role as Grand Moff Tarkin in the prequel. Another example of bad de-aging, by the way.
Marvel Studios though, which is under the Disney umbrella too, has no plans to resurrect the dead for future movies. Victoria Alonso, executive vice president of production, says their focus is on continuing to blend the advancing technology with current actors, telling Yahoo that they haven’t ever considered using CGI to recreate anyone for the MCU. She then went on to explain the following:
“The experience of doing Thanos and Hulk brought it into very clear view that you need the live performance of Josh Brolin and Mark Ruffalo. That’s the magic that’s onscreen; we do everything we can to put them in a position with their counterparts so that we’re getting as much of their brilliance was we possibly can in the final imagery.”
Of course, making movies still comes down to the performances by the actors. A $200 million blockbuster can have all the resources at its disposal, but if the audience can’t connect with the characters because they’re digital creations, it becomes another example of the uncanny valley theory. Robert De Niro thinks it’s getting out of hand and even people within the visual effects community agree, as evidenced below:
“It’s a little bit of a philosophical and moral decision that is always going to be a studio level decision,” said Industrial Light & Magic VFX supervisor Craig Hammack, who worked on Captain Marvel. “It is something that we’re all aware of, because the possibilities are coming and our hope is that it doesn’t happen in an irresponsible way. Personally, I don’t want to see something that’s not the performance of the person represented as the person.”
If you ask me, great actors from the past had their day and we can go back and watch their work at anytime. Let’s not put Marlon Brando in a Marvel movie just because we can.