Is De-Aging Harrison Ford a Good Idea for ‘Indiana Jones 5’?
We’re getting treated to a lot of content from Indiana Jones 5, and it is my own personal heaven. And one of those bits of information is that there is a de-aged Harrison Ford in the opening sequence of the film, which is both exciting and a little upsetting given the history of how the franchise uses younger actors to tell Indy’s story.
In a cover story for Empire Magazine, we got first-look images for the new movie, which did include shots of Boyd Holbrook, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Mads Mikkelsen, along with Ford’s return as Indiana Jones, but we also got a bit more information about the film as a whole.
In the interview with Empire, director James Mangold (who also wrote the script with Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth) talked about taking the story back, for a moment, to the Raiders era of Indiana Jones and how that meant de-aging Harrison Ford to the Indy we knew from that first Steven Spielberg movie. “I wanted the chance to dive into this kind of full-on George-and-Steven old picture and give the audience an adrenaline blast,” he explained of the de-aging.
“And then we fall out, and you find yourself in 1969,” Mangold said of the opening into the main action of the movie. “So that the audience doesn’t experience the change between the ‘40s and ‘60s as an intellectual conceit, but literally experiences the buccaneering spirit of those early days… and then the beginning of now.”
For Harrison Ford, though, he was on-board because he actually believed the de-aging this time around, unlike movies that have used the technology previously. “This is the first time I’ve seen it where I believe it,” Ford told Empire. “It’s a little spooky. I don’t think I even want to know how it works, but it works.”
The pitfalls of de-aging technology
I understand the problems that many have with the CGI technology involved in bringing us past versions of actors, mainly when it goes so far as to revive the dead or to turn a completely new actor into another one. (At that point, just cast someone new!) I also recognize why it might not be the answer to all of movie-making problems, especially when it isn’t a real actor emoting or working off their scene partners.
Sometimes it is, and others it is just someone going through the motions that they then layer technology on top of. I don’t know how the scenes work while filming or if it just loses that flair when you change the entire actor’s face to fit another actor’s face, but sometimes, it just falls flat when it isn’t the original actor you’re trying to capture at a different age.
And when it is a case of the original actor doing the role and then just de-aging them, that’s most of the time when I genuinely like it.
When de-aging works, it really works
The first big use of de-aging technology recently came from Captain America: Civil War, when we got to see a 1980s/1990s-era Robert Downey Jr. onscreen. For someone who grew up watching RDJ movies and loves his work, it was pretty spot on because RDJ had a very smooth face to begin with, so it wasn’t necessarily the hardest of jobs to recreate that for a young Tony Stark.
But then there were moments like in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story when Princess Leia appeared and it looked a little like alien Carrie Fisher. Not that it wasn’t emotional—it was, but that was attributed to the loss of Fisher around the same time. Point is, it looked a little freaky.
And this back and forth goes on and on. So if this de-aging of Ford is good? Pray for me.
The journey of younger actors in Indiana Jones
One of the downfalls of this technology though, to me, is the loss of a tradition in the world of Indiana Jones. From The Last Crusade and into The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, we have seen many a young actor take on Indiana Jones at various times of his life, and we’ve even seen an older Ford in the television series. But it did all give us River Phoenix as a young Indy in The Last Crusade, and so, using de-aging instead of casting an actor that’s the right age does lose that magic.
I understand why they didn’t—because this time, that flashback is part of the story we already experienced with Ford as Henry Jones Jr., unlike the others—but still, having a younger actor take it on would have felt right in the spirit of Indiana Jones as a whole.
But, I also understand how modern audiences take that information. And with it being so specific to Raiders-era Indy, I get why they went for de-aging instead of casting a new actor. It will all come down to whether or not it looks good in the end, but I can’t wait.
So is it a good thing? We’ll just have to wait and see.
(featured image: Lucasfilm)
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