The biggest appeal to rewatching old films in theatres today is getting to see the likes of James Dean, Ingrid Bergman and Bette Davis at the peak of their success in classics such as Rebel Without a Cause, Casablanca and All About Eve. That is the exact reason theatres hold ‘nostalgia nights’ so modern moviegoers can experience a portal through time and embrace the elegance and coolness of films from the past. But what happens when the element of time-travel is omitted and replaced with a CGI reincarnation of our favourite old-timey actors in new blockbusters? Is the appeal still there?
Recently, a movie company, Worldwide XR, is resurrecting the timeless cigarette-smoking bad boy and heartthrob, James Dean, into a CGI simulation in an upcoming war film, Finding Jack. This practice is commonplace in films where the actor passes away prematurely before the movie wraps but never has a company made a CGI resurrection the leading role of the film, especially when the actor has been dead for over 60 years.
“Influencers will come and go, but legends will never die,” Worldwide XR CEO, Travis Cloyd says.
In hindsight, this major development in technology appears to be a new way to reinvigorate the talented actors from the past and invite them into the modern film scene. However, ethically, it is a great invasion of intellectual property and rights of the deceased. The dead cannot give their consent, and the living are hungry to milk their talents for all its worth. The two are mutually enforcing, causing a serious lack of respect for our beloved artists.
When the announcement that Worldwide XR had the rights to over 400 deceased celebrities, many living celebrities expressed their discomfort. Their disdain was especially pronounced when it came to tweets regarding James Dean. Here are a few of those criticisms:
I’m sure he’d be thrilled 🙄
This is awful.
Maybe we can get a computer to paint us a new Picasso. Or write a couple new John Lennon tunes.
The complete lack of understanding here is shameful. https://t.co/hkwXyTR4pu
— Chris Evans (@ChrisEvans) 6 November 2019
Evan’s criticism is valid. By giving opportunities to people who are not even alive anymore, it results in the erasure of new (living) upcoming talents. Why relive the greatness in the past when we can encourage that same greatness in the present?
James Dean is being resurrected by CGI to appear in an upcoming movie. Don’t ever let anyone tell you things have gotten more difficult for white guys in Hollywood. Even dead ones can still get a job.
— Bette Midler (@BetteMidler) 7 November 2019
Middler echoes my thoughts exactly. It’s incredible the lengths Hollywood goes through to eliminate opportunities for people of colour whilst simultaneously working arduously to CGI a dead white man.
Mark Roesler, CEO of CMG Worldwide says in addition to other famous, deceased personalities; the film “opens up a whole new opportunity for many of our clients who are no longer with us.” TO BE READ AS: “Found a new way to rob graves of dead icons and milk the masses for less!” https://t.co/67Nxze0wLN
— Dylan Sprouse (@dylansprouse) 6 November 2019
The paramount of exploitation, reviving old stars to act in movies they might not have chosen for themselves, shows that Worldwide XR has lost all touch with reality. Why deal with the difficult task of directing living actors when you can puppeteer a dead one for your financial benefit?
The criticism has not fallen on deaf ears. In an article with Variety, Worldwide XR CEO Travis Cloyd said,
“It’s disruptive, some people dislike it.” However, he argued that the emergence of digital humans was inevitable, and promised that his company would vet any potential partners to make sure that they would do the celebrity in question justice. “We will do our due diligence,” he said.
The decision is very polarising. On one hand, it is a grand feat in our technology to be able to even attempt something so innovative. On the other hand, the lack of respect for autonomy and intellectual property is downright Orwellian.
But what do you think?
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