Indiana Jones de-aged by AI

Monday July 24 2023

Harrison Ford, who is the main cast actor for the film, "Indiana Jones”. PHOTO | REUTERS


I first watched the Indiana Jones trilogy at the tender, boyish, then teenage ages of Seven (Raiders of the Lost Ark), 10 (Temple of Doom) and 14 (The Last Crusade).

On May 18, 2008, when Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull opened in theatres worldwide, I was more interested in watching Obama in Oregon, where he drew a live crowd of 75,000 folks (the largest of his primary campaign).

That fourth Indiana Jones would go on to gross almost $800 million worldwide, just behind 2008’s The Dark Knight that raked in a $1 billion thanks in part to the Batman brand.

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Come this week, and the fifth Indiana Jones, The Dial of Destiny, has hit the screens in Kenya.

The storyline is typical of an Indiana Jones franchise film.


The Dial of Destiny features a relic called the Antikythera, invented by the legendary Archimedes.

There is a Nazi named Jurgen Voeller who is after the Antikythera because he wants to go back to Hitler and "end history" by winning World War II.

The action moves to Tangiers in Morocco, featuring the fastest tuk tuks anyone ever rode.

The film used a lot of artificial intelligence (AI) in its making, most visibly the de-ageing technology adopted to de-age the main actor, Harrison Ford, by a whopping 40 years.

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FaceSwap, in conjunction with a technology called Flux were adopted, where two infra-red cameras mapped, then re-mapped, the face of Ford.

ILM Machine learning tools also scoured years of Ford footage in the Lucas Film archives to mirror his movements from 1981 to 1983 (when the actor was 40, and not his current 80 years old), and VFX Pencil tools from Disney Research (the same ones that draw cartoons) used to fine-tune his facial features. From there, it was a simple matter for a CG mask to replace Ford’s face in every frame and film footage.

The umbrage of Hollywood workers with such AI is that it replaces doubles — the need for younger actors to play older characters, stuntmen — and especially entire special effects departments that are a mainstay of post-production in the movie industry.

Of course, in the arc of time of AI, we may see not only de-ageing, but technology bringing back even dead actors (like Heath Ledger) to act in brand new Batman films.

Extrapolate a little bit more, and you begin to see actors themselves become extinct.

With AI actors dominating, there will be no need for gossip columns, or red-carpet events, with the Oscars going only to ‘best AI effects’ (even a plotline may be Bot). It now seems a world where human "celebrity culture," at least in film and television, has come to an end.