Robert Zemeckis’ New Film Stars an AI De-Aged Tom Hanks

Beloved Hollywood filmmaker Robert Zemeckis is set to leverage new AI technology as a central component in his upcoming film Here, which hearkens back to his heyday in more ways than one. Reuniting his Forrest Gump stars Tom Hanks and Robin Wright, Zemeckis aims to transport audiences back to the ’90s, making his actors appear younger through AI-assisted de-aging technology. The results, however, are drawing mixed reactions at a time when AI in entertainment is a contentious topic.

In the just-released trailer, the AI de-aging appears convincing in some scenes, while in others, it veers into the uncanny territory, reminiscent of a FaceApp filter gone awry.

Here is a bold move from Zemeckis, whose recent films haven’t succeeded on the same level as the classics from earlier in his career. Based on a graphic novel of the same name, the entire movie takes place in the same location, showcasing different eras from the age of dinosaurs to the modern day, focusing on the living room of the couple played by Hanks and Wright. “The single perspective never changes, but everything around it does,” Zemeckis explained in a recent Vanity Fair interview. “It’s actually never been done before.”

The film utilizes a generative AI tool called Metaphysic Live to achieve its de-aging effects. This tool performs a “realtime, hyperreal faceswap” on the actors, using footage of Wright from when she was 19, for example, to create a youthful appearance, according to IndieWire.

Zemeckis is known for pushing the boundaries of technology in filmmaking, as seen in his ’80s classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which combined hand-drawn animation with live-action. However, some of his recent ventures into CGI, such as Pinocchio, have been less successful. Thus, the announcement of Here and its AI de-aging technology was met with little surprise.

De-aging, whether AI-powered or not, has always been a polarizing technique, drawing scrutiny in films like the recent Indiana Jones installment and The Irishman. Beyond its visual effectiveness, the use of AI in film raises ethical concerns. Many in the industry, including Hollywood screenwriters, have opposed AI on principle, fighting for protections against its use.

Regardless of how well Here performs, its use of AI de-aging technology ensures it will be a topic of debate, reflecting both the potential and the pitfalls of blending advanced technology with cinematic storytelling.