Deepfake technology has grown increasingly impressive and terrifying over the past few years, from dead actors popping up in Hollywood blockbusters to politicians being doctored to say things they’d never dream of. While many are worried about the dangerous potential of deepfakes, there are also lots of fun, harmless examples – and a new Star Wars video feels like exactly what the tech was made for.
2018’s Solo: A Star Wars Story was a notorious box office flop, with many feeling that the prequel just wasn’t the same without Harrison Ford as the titular Han Solo. If only there was some way of using a young Ford’s likeness for the character. Spoiler alert: that’s exactly what a new deepfake (below) has done – for a couple of minutes, at least. As the name suggests, deepfakes require deep machine learning (check out the best computers for video editing for some serious horsepower).
Whatever you think of Alden Ehrenreich’s performance, there’s a certain magic in seeing a young Han Solo being played by, well, the real Han Solo. It’s a tantalising taste of what could have been had the film actually been made a long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away). But perhaps part of the reason it works so well is that Ehrenreich does a great job of mimicking Ford’s mannerisms – a detail that’s easier to appreciate with Ford’s face replacing his.
But while impressive, the tech still isn’t perfect. As with all deepfakes, the digital face has a certain 'uncanny valley' quality. It just doesn’t quite look real – simply because it isn’t. That said, it’s nowhere as bad as these 8 appalling CGI fails in modern movies, which suggests the tech is improving at alarmingly rapid pace.
This is incredible and impressive. And makes me absolutely terrified of what this technology is going to do to our world in the next few years. https://t.co/sOCqydVLvqAugust 18, 2020
Wow. No offence to Aldan, but I would definitely like to see the whole film like this! Harrison Ford in Solo: A Star Wars Story [DeepFak…: https://t.co/McbjfC1JxcAugust 18, 2020
An even bigger problem becomes clear as soon as Harrison Ford opens “his” mouth. As with most deepfakes, it’s the voice that gives it away – in this case, the voice is still Ehrenreich’s. Deepfake audio tech isn’t as advanced as the visual side, and until it's possible to recreate Ford’s signature drawl as well as his face, we’ll have to keep waiting for the ultimate ‘Solo’ experience. Until then, every Star Wars film can be found on Disney+ (here's how to get 15% off).
With many worried about the tech being used for political gain and the spreading of misinformation (imagine that), it's nice to see an example which simply lets fans imagine their favourite character being played by the original actor once again. If you fancy going further down the deepfake hole, check out these 10 deepfake examples that terrified and amused the internet.