“Sky Captain” was not a financial success. “Rogue One” was enormously so. “Rogue One”’s use of reanimation and de-aging was made with nostalgia, not memory, as its primary goal.
The poisonous twin of memory is nostalgia. Memory can be beautiful, but it can remember flaws, the hard things, the mistakes that shouldn’t be forgotten. It is bittersweet because it reminds you of the fragility of all things. “The Limey”’s use of the film “Poor Cow” for flashbacks of lead Terrence Stamp as a younger man is memory. The fading from black and white of the impossibly young and beautiful Stamp to the worn, still beautiful face of Stamp in the colors of a sunset in Los Angeles reminds you that time passes, that people get old. “Remember you are mortal,” says memory.
Nostalgia is soft, narcotic. Nostalgia lies that you are immortal, and so are the things you love. That “The Flash” is the most brazen and appalling attempt at nostalgia of late is not a coincidence. The superhero boom has been a useful accomplice to the stripping of worker power every tech “disruption” is ultimately about. After removing the idea that the actor or director matters and that instead, they serve the IP, the Marvel Cinematic Universe factory took away sets, costumes, and props that unionized workers built, made, and decorated so that they could be tinkered with in post by un-unionized, underpaid, and vastly overworked VFX workers.
The poison is rapidly spreading through the bloodstream of the entire industry. “The Flash” doesn’t just do poorly by actors long dead; it turns very much alive performers like Henry Cavill and Sasha Calle into blurry Colorforms of themselves. It’s a preview of the fate the executive suite wants for all actors—jpeg files they can jangle like keys in front of audiences.
It says so much about the contempt they and AI people feel for humanity that the urge to create—to say “I was here,” let alone to want to make a living from it—is so utterly alien to the people running the studios and streaming platforms. They think you can order art like a lousy pizza, and like a lousy pizza, it slides out the computer looking hideous. The people who used to run studios never cared about art more than they cared about making money. But at least they used to understand audiences would rather pay to see images made by humans.