Christopher McQuarrie highlights new flaw with digital de-ageing

Christopher McQuarrie and Tom Cruise
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Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One director Christopher McQuarrie reveals he almost used de-ageing tech on Tom Cruise.

We’re very familiar these days with the term, ‘uncanny valley’, given that we’ve seen enough digital doubles and digital de-ageing to innately know when a character has been digitally altered and just looks ‘a bit weird’. Still, the technology is improving all of the time and the recent extended sequence in Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny that de-aged Harrison Ford’s Indy by five decades showcased just how convincing the process can be (even if his voice clearly didn’t match his ‘age’.)

Christopher McQuarrie is out promoting Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One and has been talking about his interest in the tech, revealing that he was considering de-ageing Tom Cruise for a 1989 flashback sequence in the latest Mission: Impossible entry in the series. However, he points out that the process has another flaw and this one is nothing to do with the ‘uncanny valley’. In fact, this problem will likely only become more of an issue as the tech improves.

Says McQuarrie, “Originally, there had been a whole sequence at the beginning of the movie that was going to take place in 1989 … We talked about it as a cold open, we talked about it as flashbacks in the movie, we looked at de-ageing”. The problem? When he was watching the footage, he was finding himself more impressed with the tech than actually following the story itself.

It’s an astute observation that has kind of flown under the radar amid the years of conversation about the process’ technological shortcomings. For my part, I certainly did spend at least some parts of Dial Of Destiny's opening sequence marvelling (and sometimes critiquing) the technology, rather than being transfixed by the story unfolding on the screen and I’ll wager that I wasn’t alone either.

Interestingly, McQuarrie claims that he’s solved this issue, but neglects to reveal what the answer might be: “In researching that [technology], I cracked the code – I think – on how best to approach it. By then, we had kind of moved away from it. We may still play with it. We never say never.”

What do you think McQuarrie’s ‘cracked code’ might look like? Maybe we’ll find out at some point, but until some filmmaker solves it,  the process of digital de-ageing will continue to cause problems with immersing audiences, whether it be the impact of the uncanny valley or because the technology becomes too ‘real’.

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