Rogue One: the CGI resurrection of Peter Cushing is thrilling but is it right?
The late Star Wars villains return to the space franchise isnt the first time a star has been digitally brought back to life, but could represent a tipping point for Hollywood
We want to scan you, all of you, your body, your face, your emotions, your laughter, your tears. We want to sample you, preserve you. We want to own this thing called Robin Wright. These are the unnerving words from Danny Hustons Jeff Green in sci-fi film The Congress, as he discusses the idea of digitally capturing the actor for generations to come. Once her image is handed over, she will lose all creative control of how it is used the studio owns her for all time.
Its hard not to think of these words when watching Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, in which the late Hammer legend Peter Cushing returns to the screen for the latest instalment of the franchise.
With the aid of advanced CGI, a walking, talking Cushing once again reprises his role as the sneering Imperial Officer Grand Moff Tarkin from the 1977 original Star Wars: A New Hope, even though the actor has been dead for more than 20 years.
The news that Cushing would feature in Rogue One broke last year, with sources reporting that it would be one of the most complex and costly CGI re-creations ever. Since the release of the film, critics have noted how remarkable yet slightly creepythe digital resurrection of Cushing is.
The effect is remarkable, if uncanny, and the technology is breathtaking. How the trick was pulled off remains a mystery as the wizards at Lucas Film and Disney remaining tight-lipped about their achievement. Since the start of cinema, its technical magic has always made us gasp, and seeing Cushing interacting, near seamlessly, with new characters brings a smile to the face.
Then come the questions about this necromantic cinematic feat and what it means for the industry. When the effects can be so spookily lifelike, you start to wonder can you copyright and package an actor after death? It would seem so.
This isnt the first time that the dead have graced the silver screen. Brandon Lee was tragically shot while filming Alex Proyass goth classic The Crow. The film was completed by digitally lifting Lee from previously captured footage and superimposing it on later scenes. After Oliver Reed died in the middle of shooting Gladiator, Ridley Scott similarly used digital renderings of the actors face to complete the missing scenes. Both were remarkably effective, with audiences barely aware of the digital trickery.
More recently, theres been a trend of actors being given digital facelifts to restore them to their younger selves, as was the case for Robert Downey Jr in Captain America: Civil War and Anthony Hopkins in Westworld.