Peter Cushing sadly passed away in 1994, however, his character from 1977's, 'A New Hope', Grand Moff Tarkin, was deemed so essential to the plot of Rogue One, that they used groundbreaking technology to resurrect the character, and in doing so, Peter Cushing himself. Using British actor Guy Henry, the special effects team digitally imposed Peter Cushing’s character on top of his performance. The result has been met with a mixed reception. Some have been impressed by the technological breakthrough, whilst others believe it was a distracting element to the film, which has raised all sorts of ethical questions, and potentially set us on a dangerous path. Rogue One is a film full of brave decisions, but the decision to attempt this effect, and to make Grand Moff Tarkin so central to the plot, is perhaps the bravest of them all. This technology is still in its infancy, and to bank so heavily on it, risked derailing the audience’s investment, suspension of disbelief, and even goodwill towards the film. With this much riding on it, the effect needed to be flawless, and in my opinion it is. Almost.
I was initially blown away by how lifelike he looked, and if you didn’t know that Peter Cushing was dead, and that they’d used CGI to bring his character back, you would be forgiven for not noticing the artificiality of his presence. Whilst there is something not quite right about him, many of those ignorant to the history have the initial response of attributing it to, ‘dodgy make-up’. However, arguably, that’s exactly what this special effect constitutes. A real actor performed those lines, and participated in those scenes, the act of then digitally placing another face over his performance, is akin to placing an actor under prosthetics. How is it different from the motion-capture technology used to create Gollum in Lord of the Rings or Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes? The answer is obvious; it is because in those instances the effect is done in service of imaginary characters, rather than to recreate a deceased human being. This was of course done with Paul Walker, in order to complete Fast & Furious 7, as he tragically died midway through filming. However, in that instance, he had already committed to the film whilst alive, in a way that was impossible for Peter Cushing to do with Rogue One.
What makes this development all the more fascinating, is it happening in a year where Hollywood seems to have perfected the art of digitally de-aging actors. In Captain America: Civil War, Robert Downey Jr. is returned to his younger self in a scarily realistic manner, as was Anthony Hopkins on HBO’s, ‘Westworld’. In 2009 this technology was tried with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator Salvation, and again with Jeff Bridges in 2010’s Tron Legacy. However, in both instances, it was obviously computer generated. In Civil War, although we knew it was fake because of our prior knowledge, it didn't look fake in the reality of the movie, and that's because it partly wasn't. Now, we are getting to the point where actors can be forever young. Martin Scorsese has said that for his next film with Robert De Niro, ‘The Irishman’ they will use de-aging technology, rather than different actors or make-up, to portray the different time periods in the lead character’s life. The technology has reached such a point, that even directors like Martin Scorsese are embracing it. If The Godfather Part II were made today, Robert De Niro wouldn't be in it, they'd have just digitally de-aged Marlon Brando.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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