If you haven’t seen Rogue One yet, chances are you’ve missed one of the greatest feats in character animation and CGI yet when the late great Peter Cushing AKA Grand Moff Tarkin, was magically brought back to life, sneer and all, via some next level technology which involved using previous footage of the actor, motion capture technology and a character stand-in. The ethics, of course, of bringing back deceased actors and reusing their likeness to give their characters more roles and screen time - well, let’s just say that’s a discussion for another day. However, it wasn’t the first time a character has been de-aged and it certainly won’t be the last. Here we have our top picks for the best CGI re-created characters we’ve seen on screen, in no particular order.
1. Jeff Bridges as CLU – Tron: Legacy
TRON: Legacy was one of the first instances I can remember of a substantial role being portrayed by a CGI character in the case CLU, the now evil program created by Kevin Flynn, the human protagonist of the original movie. Though the movie ended up being mostly a serious journey and ditching the fun.exe patch of the original, the highlights of the feature apart from the action and killer score by Daft Punk, was watching two Jeff Bridges interact with each other. The facial feature were realistic enough in the CGI world of TRON and this scene particularly delivered in feels.
2. Michael Douglas as Dr. Hank Pym – Ant-Man
In a surprising prologue to Marvel’s Ant-Man, we see a flashback to 1989 where, without warning, a young Michael Douglas walks into S.H.I.E.L.D headquarters Triskelion (yes, the one that Cap destroyed in The Winter Soldier) and fights to keep the formula of the Pym Particles out of their HYDRA-smellin’ hands, looking not a day older than he did in Wall Street. Considering the rich history that Marvel has built ever since Captain America during the World War up till now, it was funny that we only saw their first de-aged character so many movies down their order. In another strange turn, we see older Howard Stark played by John Slattery as opposed to young Howard Stark played by Dominic Cooper; the latter whom could have been aged as well, since the other character in the scene is a middle-aged Peggy Carter played by the young Hayley Atwell! Marvel really do own the Time gem, don’t they?
3. Marlon Brando as Jor-El- Superman Returns
In what can only be remembered as a forgettable film, the one standout moment while watching Superman Returns was seeing the late Marlon Brando ‘reprise’ his role as Jor-El, or Superman’s OG dad. Director Bryan Singer wanted this movie to be the spiritual sequel to Richard Donner’s original series so badly that instead of casting a new actor, he got an effects team to repurpose old footage from the original movie and create new dialogue for him to say to Brandon Routh’s Superman. The effect was limited in use and thus perfectly eerie and effective. It is always going to be chilling to see a deceased actor deliver a new performance posthumously and this did the job to perfection. Watch the creepily awesome video below to see the precise process taken by Rhythm and Hues to #BringBackBrando.
4. Paul Walker as Brian O'Conner – Fast and Furious 7
Say what you will about this franchise, but one of the most heartbreaking moments came from the seventh instalment of the Fast and Furious franchise when lead actor Paul Walker tragically died in a car accident before filming had been completed. The crew were forced to complete the film using CGI and his own brothers as stand-ins, with 350 CGI shots of the Walker finally being used in the film. What was really special though was the extremely tactful send off they give his character, and the final scene is truly moving, even for the testosterone heavy series. This is definitely the strongest use of the technology, in keeping the memory of Walker alive and dignified in its usage. This scene still brings me to tears :(
5. Robert Downey Jr. As Tony Stark – Captain America: Civil War
The next film to follow Ant-Man was this year’s Captain America: Civil War. The title of the film was somewhat misleading as this movie included almost 2/3rds of the entire cast of Avengers and especially for Robert Downey Jr. who plays a pivotal role as Iron Man and on the side of an international contract that would keep the Avengers under government supervision. His first appearance in the film has everyone scratching their heads for a moment as we a young Tony Stark interacting with his parents for the last time before their untimely demise. The coolest part of this scene is that the recreation is part of Stark’s own technology that allows people to gain closure from moments in their own past. After seeing a few people on this list get de-aged or even resurrected from the dead, will we ever have to gain closure after retiring our favourite actors from their iconic roles?
Well that’s our list! I would have to include a notable mention of Oliver Reed in 2001’s Gladiator who tragically died during filming and had the rest of his scenes completed via CGI, a grand feat considering when the movie came out at the time and how nascent the technology must have been. Also the fact that I had no clue until doing a bit of research about the same! And finally without spoiling much, the final scene of Rogue One has a character reprise a role that genuinely made our jaws drop and remain so as the credits rolled. But what did you guys think? Let us know if your favourite is missing from this list!
Scribe: Tejas Menon