7.27.2017

Digital Anima and Digital Animus

Digital Anima:
The expression "art imitates life," was not coined in reference to CGI, but it may as well have been. When I saw the recent Star Wars film "Rogue One." I was able to fully enjoy a prequel to a film that was nearly 40 year old - with seamless visual continuity. How amazing is that?

In the good old days, if you wanted to do something like this, you would simply ask an actor play a younger version of themselves. That's what Harrison Ford did in The Temple of Doom (the Indiana Jones sequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark). And it worked out pretty well, because there were only 3 years between the two films. If the time lag between films is too great however, or if an actor is no longer willing or able to reprise a role - well then, re-casting was really your only option.

With recasting invariably comes comparison, disappointment, and visual discontinuity that makes a sequel less than perfect. This happens a lot on television. The recasting of Darren Stevens in the series "Bewitched" was done without explanation. It was probably one of the more successful attempts at doing this. The replacement of Larry Hagman as Major Tony Nelson in the 15 year reunion of I dream of Jeannie however
was much less successful.


Everything is different now though. It's getting so you really can't tell the difference between digitally animated characters and real ones.  I think I was first stunned by this effect in "Terminator Salvation", when a young Arnold burst into the room as the T-800 I remembered from the original film, instead of the Governator, as I was expecting.

Holy Cow! That was awesome. And things have gotten so much better.




Rogue one allowed us to see Peter Cushing reprise his role as Grand Moff Tarkin - even though he died in 1994. And it allowed Carrie Fisher to reprise a role she played when she was only 19. Rogue One is almost perfect - and I think the biggest problems, are not due to CGI, but with things that people might be tempted to pay less attention to - because CGI is so meticulous.  Darth Vader's shoddy helmet for instance. 

Where is George Lucas when you need him?

Needless to say, like all cool things it can be used for evil. 
If an actor chooses not to accept a role in a sequel, can the studio just go out and make a copy of them?  Is the character portrayal owned by the actor or by the owner of a production. I assume that recasting doesn't present the same problem because you can't help how you look.


But if you find some means of artificially making an actor look like a person who previously inhabited the role - that presents legal issues - because an actor has a right to their own face, and how their visage is used. Just recall the case of the rubber faced George (Weissman,) McFly in Back to the Future II, who inspired Crispin Glover to sue for changes to certain clauses in the contracts of the screen actor's guild.


Digital Animus:
But there are even thornier issues when you get into the realm of politics. Many fact checkers rely on video clips in the historical record to debunk claims made by propagandists. While we've found ways of vetting still photos that have been Photoshopped, like this one that circulated widely on the internet along with the claim that Barak Obama had been a member of the Black Panther Party. Using Google image search, someone was able to find the original "un-doctored" photo.


It seems to me like it would be a lot easier to take people in with a realistic video though. Especially if there is no original to refer back to. Here is a video that shows you just how far this technology has come. Will we need to come up with a whole new set of tools to prevent ourselves from being deceived? Will fact checking be removed beyond the layman's reach?

Back in the 70's and 80's Dispensationalism saturated Evangelical culture. It fueled all sorts of speculation about the end times. One of those speculations was that somehow the person who would be called The Beast, would receive a fatal wound to his head, but live - and that a second Beast would somehow through the use of television, make it appear that the guy had been miraculously healed.



The second beast was permitted to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image would also speak and cause all who refused to worship it to be killed. - Rev 13:15

These days many Evangelicals are not as wed to Premillenial interpretations of the Bible.  Preterism, for instance, is gaining a strong foothold. But if premillenialism isn't true - the world sure seems to have seized on many of the "wonderful (terrifying,)" ideas Christians have dreamed up for our dystopian future. The news is full of things that makes Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkin's fiction look tame.


In a bid for political power, Evangelicals have hitched themselves to a falling star who is preparing the way for a major backlash against the church (Great Tribulation anyone?).


And now I see a company in Wisconsin is going to start micro-chipping their employees (read here). All of my seminary training, and all of the scholarly folks tells me that you aren't supposed to read the Bible with a newspaper in your hand. But the world these days - it's begging for it.





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