This is the year of weird CG experiments, apparently. First we had Will Smith's terrifying genie, then that hyperreal Lion King, and then whatever fresh hell Cats is—and now, digitally de-aged Robert De Niro is here. On Wednesday, Netflix released the first trailer for The Irishman, Scorsese's upcoming gangster movie due out this fall. The movie centers around real-life hitman Frank Sheeran, played by De Niro, and spans three decades of the mobster's career—using that fancy CG technology that will soon let Will Smith fight his younger self to digitally shave the years off De Niro's face.
The streamer reportedly pulled out all the stops, pouring over $125 million into Benjamin Buttoning De Niro and his co-stars, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino back to their glory days. The new trailer gives us a few glimpses at younger De Niro and his computer-enhanced cheek, and while it isn't exactly Uncanny Valley territory, it won't trick you into thinking you accidentally stumbled back to 1989.
It looks… fine. But did Netflix really just spend millions on "fine"? Isn't there a cheaper option that might have delivered similar results? Say, a certain free iPhone app that has captured our collective imaginations lately? Couldn't the streaming service have saved a few million bucks by running the whole movie through FaceApp instead of worrying about all this fancy CG trickery?
Oh, funny you should ask. Let's find out!
Here, we have a de-aged De Niro in the trailer, wrinkles smoothened but iconic grumpy-ass frown still in tact. He looks just about the same as he did in 1988's Midnight Run, so that's good, but the scene's low-key lighting helps hide the CG.
The issues get a little more noticeable in close-up:
There's just something off about this, isn't there? The right side of his face looks too crisp, too clean, too inhumanly smooth to look normal. It's passable, to be sure. But worth the millions? Unclear.
Let's see how the results vary when we turn to FaceApp, shall we?
Here, we have a photo of De Niro taken at the American Icon Awards last May, looking his usual 75-year-old self:
But when we run it through FaceApp's "Young" filter, the years just melt away. Behold:
Wow—Travis Bickle, is that you? Stunningly realistic. And all it took were a few simple clicks!
Here's De Niro at the same event, arm in arm with his Irishman co-star, Al Pacino:
And with a little FaceApp magic…
Voila! It's like we've stumbled into a prequel to Heat.
Truly amazing. And to think, Netflix spent millions and millions on CG that could've been done with one free app. What a waste! The Irishman premieres at the New York Film Festival in September and will hit Netflix and select theaters later this fall. Until then, marvel at the wonders of FaceApp technology and how youthful De Niro's mole looks in the trailer.