08 Apr Uncanny CGI faces in films
“Uncanny valley” is a hypothesis coined in the 70s regarding an image that doesn’t feel right, for example how a person would react negatively to a humanoid cyborg in a movie or game. After knowing that Paul Walker’s face was CGI’d onto his two brothers bodies in order to complete the next film in the multi-billion dollar “Fast and Furious” franchise, the world has published a multitude of reactions to this “uncanny valley” footage on social media.
Of course, the director of “Furious 7” was contractually obliged to complete the film, even though the world was mourning the tragic loss of Paul Walker. Technically, the effects team had to sift through unused footage of Paul Walker and build a library of different emotional ranges that Paul portrayed. Then they had to record Paul’s brother’s voices and fit them in with what Paul was saying. Paul Walker uncannily lives forever as Brian O’Connor, even though he is dead, and it is truly quite a feat.
Groundbreaking CGI was really first seen in “Jurassic Park”, apart from the astounding dinosaurs, Ariana Richard’s face was added in in post-production over her stunt double’s face as her stunt double accidentally looked into camera. Jodie Fosters eyebrow was slightly adjusted when speaking to Matthew McConaughey in “Contact”, and she felt digitally violated. Natalie Portman’s face was fixed over a professional ballerina’s face, making it seem as though she could dance the part of the Black Swan on stage. A digital tear was added to Jennifer Connelly’s face in “Blood Diamond” to make her scene more dramatic.
CGI’ing faces is not new at all; it’s interesting in terms of what is possible with manipulation and whether or not audiences notice or care. These incredible effects are so rapidly changing and advancing that film theorists don’t quite know how to engage with its implications in cinema, audiences and imagery.