Sigourney Weaver is 67-years-old. Let that sink in for a moment. I was raised on incredible science fiction movies like Ghostbusters, Galaxy Quest, and the Alien films (just the first three, let us never speak of Alien: Resurrection). In my mind, Weaver will always be eternally 30-something, an intensely charismatic actor who lent a dynamic physicality and a rich intelligence to some of my favorite sci-fi films.
Time -- that unrelenting bastard -- eventually catches up to us all...unless you're a beloved character like Professor X, Princess Leia, Wolverine, and now (maybe) Ellen Ripley. For better or worse, through the magic of CGI, Hollywood has become increasingly invested in digitally replacing, facemapping, and de-aging actors.
As has been widely reported, director Ridley Scott is considering many more Alien films beyond the upcoming Alien: Covenant. According to Comicbook.com, Scott is planning to connect the dots between the original 1979 Alien and his new iterations, reintroducing Ripley to the ongoing narrative... except, given Scott's leisurely pace of filmmaking, that could be sometime around 2030.
Empire (via AvPGalaxy) relates:
"[Scott] is planning at least two more films before linking up with the original Alien... He is not ruling out the idea of using a digitally de-aged Sigourney Weaver to bring back Ripley."
To date, instances of digitally-enhanced actors in major films has been sporadic, with such characters serving cameo or minor roles. Whether Scott (or any director) can wrangle the technology to sustain a leading performance remains to be seen.
However, the process of digital de-aging and facemapping is becoming more sophisticated. Unfortunately, there's still the eerie and sometimes unpleasant "uncanny valley" effect, wherein the CGI looks remarkably lifelike, yet still feels artificial and mechanical -- for many, it can yank them out of the narrative entirely. I still get the heebies when I see Princess Leia in Rogue One, which felt jarring and unnatural to me.
Presumedly, by the time of Scott's final Alien film, the technology will have improved to the point that audiences can't tell the difference at all, which opens an entirely different discussion.
How do you feel about digital versions of your favorite characters? Let us know in the comments down below!
Alien: Covenant hits theaters on May 19, 2017.
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