Digital de-aging has become the hot new trend in Tinsel Town over the last few years. As digital effects grow increasingly sophisticated, the line between what is and is not possible for films to accomplish has become practically nonexistent.
Where once a young and lucky River Phoenix was catapulted to stardom by landing the coveted role of a young Indiana Jones in a flashback at the start of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, studios now opt to simply de-age the actor playing the role and allow them to fill the part. On the one hand, this offers greater consistency between portrayals. But on the other hand, the effect has to not be jarringly noticeable in order for the scene to work.
With the recent news that both Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Greg will spend the entirety of the '90s-set Captain Marvel being de-aged by a couple of decades, audiences can expect to be seeing a lot more of this effect in the future.
So let's take a look at the history of digitally de-aging actors; the good, the bad, and whatever that atrocity was in the opening of X-Men: The Last Stand.
13. Jeff Bridges (Tron: Legacy)
Released in 2010, Tron: Legacy was touted as a blockbuster sequel to the cult classic that was destined to change the way people viewed digital cinema. And granted, seeing the incredibly aged effects of the original film updated for a new generation was thrilling. However, one particular effect stood out like a sore thumb.
Bridge's de-aged face looks about as convincing as a rubber mask on top of a mannequin, with ever emote or movement causing cringe-inducing CGI motion.
The film begins with a scene set in the eighties, of a young Jeff Bridges telling bedtime stories to his son. Here, Bridges de-aged face is shrouded in enough shadow that the shoddy effect isn't all that noticeable. Even later on, when the evil clone of the younger Bridges, Clu, is introduced the movie can kind of get away with it because he's a program so his funky-looking facial features are somewhat excusable.
But then the movie gets high on its own effect and doubles down. In a flashback midway through the film, we see the real Flynn forming Clu for the first time, and the movie shows us not one but two attempts at de-aged Jeff Bridges in full on lighting. Gone are the well-placed shadows or the convenient narrative excuse, and all that's left is a piss poor attempt at de-aging the Dude.
How could anyone have abided by this?