Director Talks “Ant-Man” De-Aging Effects

Marvel’s “Ant-Man” this week is filled with some pretty astonishing visual effects, but none are more incredible than the one that dominates the entire opening scene of the film – Michael Douglas’ face.

MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD

The opening two minutes of the film are set in the 1980s as S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Triskelion headquarters are being constructed. Set in a well-lit concrete office within the building, Douglas’ Hank Pym is engaged in a meeting with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), Howard Stark (John Slattery) and Mitchell Carson (Martin Donovan).

Douglas in the scene has been digitally de-aged to look pretty much like he did in Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street”. Though we’ve previously seen de-aging in the likes of “X-Men: The Last Stand,” “Tron Legacy,” “Benjamin Button” and the recent “Terminator Genisys,” it was never 100% and looked either too cartoonish or flawed to be believable.

That’s not true in this case, the effect here is simply flawless and even under close scrutiny on a big screen it stands up. The film’s director Peyton Reed believed getting the effect right was arguably the biggest make-or-break moment of the whole production and tells Cinema Blend:

“The single most terrifying visual effect in the movie to me is scene one in the S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters with Michael Douglas… If that didn’t work, we were screwed, because you’re going to be in some weird uncanny valley as a viewer. ‘That’s terrible. This doesn’t work. I’m out.’ You could potentially lose an audience member in the very first scene if that didn’t work. Lola, the [VFX] company who did it, who had done the ‘Skinny Steve’ stuff from the first Captain America – that stuff was so great. But we didn’t know until scarily close to the end whether that was going to work.”

The result is astonishing, even if only short lived in the overall film, and sets a new standard in terms of what can be done with digital de-aging technology.