The journey towards believable digital de-ageing has been a bumpy one, that’s for sure.
From the variable results in David Fincher’s pioneering The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, to the uncanny valley creepiness of Jeff Bridges in Tron: Legacy and the weird rubbery Patrick Stewart in X-Men: The Last Stand, the outcomes haven’t always been fantastic. But Marvel Studios has consistently shown that they’re aiming to perfect the technology, with the young Tony Stark in Civil War working fine and Michael Douglas in Ant-Man practically perfect.
Now, it seems that Captain Marvel is set to take a big leap forward, with its younger Nick Fury looking completely believable (at least in the photo below). Possibly working in the studio’s favor is that there’s a wealth of source material to show what Samuel L. Jackson looked like in the 1990s and that he’s aged really well (it’s difficult to believe he’ll be 70 this year).
I’m no technical expert in CGI, but I’d assume they’ve gone the route of mo-capping his real-life performance here, creating a digital mask and then superimposing it upon his performance. It’s actually not a million miles away from a Snapchat filter, albeit an insanely expensive and complicated one, but it certainly looks like it’s worked out well.
Of course, the proof will be in the pudding, meaning we’ll need to see some actual footage before making a final judgement. The human mind is exceptionally good at analyzing faces and the slightest hint of artificiality is a real turn off, so expect every frame of the eventual Captain Marvel trailer to be pored over to see if this effect passes muster. Having so much 1990s Samuel L. Jackson to work with could prove to be a double-edged sword, too, as audiences know precisely what to expect from the actor in this time period and if it feels slightly off, it could make his scenes a bit uncomfortable.
Still, it’s nice to see the technology taking another step forward. In 5-10 years, stuff like this could be commonplace and you’ll see all sorts of performances from the younger selves of actors. So, if you’re an up and coming babyfaced talent, beware, you could soon be competing for roles with aged A-listers in digital makeup.