Within “Rogue One” I found this technique alarming and off-putting. For one thing, this CGI Cushing looks a sliver too animated, his face pulling mugs like a Pixar villain. For another, I know Cushing’s dead! So his appearance ripped me out of the film as my brain ran down a path (screaming) of hows and wtf.
This resurrection path from uncanny valley seems inevitable. The ethics of such a thing were explored in Ari Folman’s surreal 2013 drama “The Congress.” Disney has used CG to recreate younger versions of Michael Douglas and Robert Downey Jr. for “Ant-Man” and “Captain America: Civil War,” respectively. And before that, both Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly were resurrected and repurposed to hawk vacuum cleaners and Volkswagens. But its inevitability doesn’t make it less atrocious. There’s an important distinction between making a living actor look younger for a flashback and slapping a deceased performer’s face in a new film. The latter cannot consent. Sure, their estates can sign off. And perhaps in the case of Cushing his approval is assumed since he appeared in previous “Star Wars” films. In this case, it might well be sold as well-intentioned fan service. But the fact remains Cushing couldn’t say no.
As much as the public prefers to think of actors as personas not people, we — and the studios — do not own them. And so to take their likeness and voices and reconstruct them to new end when they can’t consent is repugnant and wrong.