I recently checked out “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” Even though the studio spent months and months reassuring us that Chadwick Boseman would not be brought back in CG form, I still went into the movies hesitant seeing how Hollywood seemingly cannot get enough of this practice. Taking either a recently deceased or long-since dead actor or actress and bringing them back to life through visual effects is, frankly, disgusting.
It is important to note there are two reasons why studios do this, and while one is slightly better than the other, they are both still despicable. The lesser of two evils is when an actor dies during the production of a film. The most notable example in recent years came with the death of Paul Walker, who died midway through the production of “Furious 7.” Since Walker had shot a large portion of the movie already, it was virtually impossible to write around this tragic development.
To complete the film, they used a combination of Walker’s brothers as stand-ins or a CGI replacement. On the one hand, it’s clear that the cast of the “Fast and Furious” franchise were greatly hurt by Paul Walker’s passing and it is okay that they wanted to pay tribute to their friend. However, the post credit scene of the latest film teased the return of Walker’s character, and rumor has it the studio is contemplating the continued use of a CG double.
The line between a tribute and cashing in is simply too vague and studios should really try to avoid it altogether. Another prime example, but this time around the actor had been deceased well before the movie was ever conceived was that of Harold Ramis. The actor passed away in 2014 from complications of an autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis. There was a tribute to him in 2016’s “Ghostbusters,” but 2021’s “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” took it a step way too far. Not only was the movie centered around his character Egon, but in the film’s climactic showdown a CG ghost of Harold Ramis appears to save the day.
It was disgusting, needless to say. I do not mean disgusting as in the effects are inherently bad, though they can be in cases such as “Rogue One”. It is clear a lot of time and effort goes into making these effects look as good as possible. However, it is weird that some poor VFX artist’s entire job is to make sure their CG puppet of a dead person looks as close to them as possible.
It is the same conundrum biopics also. Since these actors cannot give their consent to use their likenesses, it is often in the hands of their estate, and I do not feel those decisions are always made with the best intentions. Think about performers like Fred Astaire or Bruce Lee. Do you really think these icons would be okay with their images being used to sell vacuums or Johnnie Walker Whiskey?
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