finding jack

Today in terrible ideas: James Dean will return from the grave to star in the new movie Finding Jack. Dean, who died in 1955, will be brought back to life via CGI in the Vietnam War action-drama. Directors Anton Ernst and Tati Golykh say they have the approval of Dean’s family to perform this digital necromancy, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. To paraphrase Dr. Ian Malcolm, the filmmakers were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.

I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, but I’m going to have to throw a penalty flag on the field for this one, folks. THR says that the new movie Finding Jack is going to bust James Dean out of his grave and have him return to the silver screen. Dean will be recreated via CGI using actual footage and photos. The film will employ “full body” CGI and bring in a voice actor. Per the THR story:

Directed by Anton Ernst and Tati Golykh, the project comes from the filmmakers’ own recently launched production house Magic City Films, which obtained the rights to use Dean’s image from his family. Canadian VFX banner Imagine Engine will be working alongside South African VFX company MOI Worldwide to re-create what the filmmakers describe as “a realistic version of James Dean.”

“We searched high and low for the perfect character to portray the role of Rogan, which has some extreme complex character arcs, and after months of research, we decided on James Dean,” said Ernst. “We feel very honored that his family supports us and will take every precaution to ensure that his legacy as one of the most epic film stars to date is kept firmly intact. The family views this as his fourth movie, a movie he never got to make. We do not intend to let his fans down.”

Finding Jack is based on the novel by Gareth Crocker, which is based on the true story of the abandonment of canine units in Vietnam. Here’s the book’s synopsis:

Following a tragic accident, Fletcher Carson joins the flagging war effort in Vietnam. Lost and lonely, he plans to die in the war. But after stumbling upon a critically injured yellow Lab, Fletcher unexpectedly finds a reason to live. He finds Jack. Fletcher and Jack are a team, and like the hundreds of other U.S. Military dogs and their handlers in Vietnam, they serve their country, saving countless lives. To the men, the dogs are heroes. But at the end of the war, the U.S. government announces that all the dogs serving in the war have been declared “surplus military equipment” and will not be transported home. Ordered to leave Jack behind, Fletcher refuses – and so begins the journey of two friends who will go to the ends of the earth to save each other.

The CGI Dean will play a supporting character named Rogan. The idea of bringing dead actors back for digital performances isn’t entirely new. The sci-fi curiosity Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow had the late Laurence Olivier play the villain via archival footage, and the Tales From the Crypt episode “You, Murderer” featured a “starring” role for Humphrey Bogart, also using archival footage. But does anyone think this is a good idea? The Finding Jack synopsis actually sounds like it could make for a powerful, emotional movie. But will audiences be able to concentrate on the plot? Or will they be distracted by the CGI ghost of James Dean walking through scenes?

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