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The digital de-aging process has become a new debate in the movie industry over whether it really adds anything of value. After being used most famously in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman last November, no one should forget it was also applied earlier in a 2016 MCU movie (Captain America: Civil War).

Yes, Marvel got a leg up on the trend four years ago, even though it was still a relatively new process. Not that other movies ever refrained from using it, going back as far as 2008’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Back then, it was a much cruder technology. Although Civil War managed to make it fairly convincing when showcasing Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) as a young man. Fans on social media are still amazed they made it look so good.

The de-aging scene in ‘Civil War’ with Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr. | Tibrina Hobson/FilmMagic

Anyone who remembers the above scene will recall how accurate the effects team made Downey look like a teen. He reportedly performed it as he looks today, then tech company Lola VFX transformed him to look about 30 years younger.

The above digital company is the one pioneering the tech on Benjamin Button, plus de-aged Michael Douglas in Ant-Man as just starters. While Downey looked more convincing as a young man, they did have a lot of source material to draw from. Many fans, like on Reddit, note how much young Tony Stark looked like Downey did when in the 1987 film Less Than Zero.

Lola VFX did reportedly dig into that film to reference how Downey looked at around age 20. Nevertheless, the digital challenges were still many, mostly in how to change bone structure considering how different it looks as people age.

While this de-aging process has improved since 2016, is it really going to become a popular process in movies? Using real younger actors to portray characters when younger is still in active use.

Smart casting in finding lookalike younger actors

Shows like NBC’s This Is Us are a good example of how casting departments still use real actors to portray younger counterparts to characters. Each one of the kids the show hired to play the Pearson kids as teens are absolutely convincing thanks to resembling the adult versions in many ways.

Many movies and shows hire younger actors to portray childhood versions of a character, a practice since the beginning of film. Now, though, there could be more reliance on digital technology to make this happen.

Since the MCU is so reliant on digital technology, they may do more de-aging in their future projects. Part of this might be to de-age the Avengers themselves if they happen to come back and either encounter their younger selves or done in flashback.

Perhaps Robert Downey, Jr. will be up for de-aging again since he can still act out his own scenes without deferring to digital pixels.

Perhaps shows like upcoming ‘Loki’ will showcase younger Avengers

De-aging technology is already set up to become better than ever. Some media analysts have said the de-aging in The Irishman was better than what the MCU accomplished and set a new path forward.

No doubt Marvel will adhere to that technological challenge and utilize it to a more realistic effect. With upcoming Loki on Disney+, time-travel is going to be employed often, perhaps giving rise to the title character visiting younger versions of The Avengers.

It may be then when de-aging finds its fullest bloom in the MCU and for all films. In Robert Downey, Jr.’s case perhaps he can still play a 50-something (resurrected) Tony Stark when 80, even if a real 80-something Tony Stark would be far more interesting.

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