New movie uses AI to rejuvenate Tom Hanks and Robin Wright to their '90s looks

Applications of AI

Oh boy.

Back to the Future

Beloved Hollywood director Robert Zemeckis is trying to remind us of the good ol' days when his movies weren't panned by critics and made hundreds of millions at the box office, so in his new time-spanning film “Here,” the director reteams his “Forrest Gump” co-stars Tom Hanks and Robin Wright as if they were in the '90s, and both actors look younger than ever.

Well, maybe in a way. This heartwarming movie actually has one controversial quirk: To make its stars look younger, Zemeckis used AI-assisted de-aging technology. The results have been, at best, polarizing, but they come at a time when the use of AI in entertainment has become a hot button issue.

You can see it in action in the just-released trailer: the AI ​​de-aging looks convincing enough in some scenes, but in others, as audiences have come to expect from this technology, it comes off as creepy, like someone ran Hanks and Wright through a FaceApp setup and called it a day.

Throughout all generations

“Here” marks a major turning point for Zemeckis (though he has made many turning points this century, most of which have unfortunately been flops). Based on the graphic novel of the same name, the film begins at least in the age of the dinosaurs and takes place in the exact same locations and views throughout the entire film, right up to the living room of the couple played by Hanks and Wright. It's a kind of pretentious response to Terrence Malick's “The Tree of Life.”

“A single point of view never changes, but everything around it changes,” Zemeckis said. Vanity Fair “The truth is, I've never done this before,” he said in a recent interview.

Hanks and Wright's characters first appear as a young couple. The production used an AI-driven generative tool called Metaphysic Live, which the company describes as “a real-time hyper-realistic face swap” to age actors. Wright, for example, was made younger using footage of himself from when he was 19 years old. IndieWire.

Questionable Experiments

Zemeckis has always pushed the boundaries of technology within the medium – his '80s classic “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” which combined hand-drawn comics with live-action noir caricatures, is proof of this – and at the turn of the century he pushed for the use of CGI, but its effectiveness was questioned and many saw it as the director's downfall, so few were surprised when “Here” was announced in early 2023 to feature a de-aging AI.

CGI efforts like “Beowulf” and “Pinocchio” were labor-intensive and received little love, perhaps a precursor to Zemeckis' foray into AI with “Here.” Rejuvenation, AI-powered or not, has always been a controversial topic, and it has come under heavy criticism in recent blockbusters from “Indiana Jones” to serious films like “The Irishman.”

It's not just that it looks bad: Many creatives are opposed to AI on principle, especially in the film industry, where Hollywood screenwriters have fought tooth and nail for groundbreaking protections against AI technology, so Zemeckis' latest film is sure to be controversial, no matter how good or bad it turns out to be.

More about AI: John Scalzi discovers one of his book covers was created by AI

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