Aside from its 700-hour running time (okay, 3.5 hours), one of the most remarkable things about Netflix's The Irishman is its digital de-ageing of actors including Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. But while critics were impressed by film itself, many found the de-ageing visuals a little lacking. And now, an incredible fan-made de-aging deepfake has arrived – with many deeming it superior to the original.
In the new video (below), YouTuber and prolific deepfaker Shamook places their own de-aged De Niro side-by-side with the original, and it's certainly impressive. The improvement is most noticeable in De Niro's eyes, which appear darker and, well, younger. Check out the best computers for video editing if you're inspired to try some tinkering of your own.
The 2019 gangster film tells the story of De Niro's mob enforcer Frank Sheeran, and involves several flashbacks which feature the de-aged actors. With a 96 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and numerous academy award nominations, the film itself was considered a triumph. But not everyone was keen on the de-ageing, with CNET (opens in new tab) going so far as to call the multi-million dollar visual effect "a waste of money" thanks a distracting and slightly unplaceable sense that there's just "something off".
The shortcomings of the original are made even more obvious by this incredible new deepfake, which exposes how De Niro's eyes in the official version feature the foggy, 'uncanny valley' quality present in many not-quite-successful deepfakes.
YouTubers were quick to heap praise on the video, with most comparing it favourably with the original. "It's totally the eyes," one says. "DeNiro's got his old-man eyes in the original movie, even after de-aging him. The deepfake gives him youthful eyes. That difference is shocking." Others suggest that the original simply de-wrinkled De Niro, instead of the more comprehensive de-ageing present in Shamook's attempt.
Gahh.. The original is really not great at all :/August 24, 2020
But others have argued that, while the new deepfake looks incredible, it's because of the extensive work already carried out by the filmmakers. "It’s obvious it looks better," one user comments. "To be fair, you had a good starting point, since ILM's [Industrial Light and Magic] de-aging involved making CGI necks and helping the hairline."
While some are concerned about the dangerous potential of the technology (here are 10 deepfakes that have terrified and amused the internet), deepfakes are becoming more common, and more impressive. Perhaps the most incredible thing about this particular example is that it makes the official film like more like a deepfake than the actual deepfake.
It's fascinating to see how the tech is empowering fans to take matters into their own hands when it comes to improving their favourite films – just last week we were blown away by this mind-blowing deepfake which placed Harrison Ford in the titular role of Solo: A Star Wars Story. There's no point trying to guess who'll feature in the next big deepfake – at this point, it seems anything is possible.