Let’s make something clear – the use of CGI Paul Walker in Fast and Furious 7 is completely justified, tasteful, and emotionally moving.
It’s hard for anyone, even franchise newbies, to avoid welling up while watching that final scene, knowing the context of the film, and the imagery that’s at play. The CGI send-off that Walker’s character receives is a fitting tribute to one of the foundational parts of the Fast and Furious series, and it’s just beautiful.
Trying to do the same thing in The Fate of the Furious, though, would have been an absolute disaster – but that didn’t stop Universal from putting it on the table when planning out the follow-up movie.
F Gary Gray, who directed the eighth Fast and Furious movie, recently spoke about the lengthy discussions that were had over whether Paul Walker should be resurrected as a computer-generated puppet for the sake of keeping his character relevant in the future of the franchise, and it sounds like things could have been so much less classy:
“We had hundred of conversations about the best way, the classiest way to handle and address Paul’s legacy in this franchise. You know, there’s multiple ways you can go. You could create a digital Paul and make him more of a character. You could leave him out and pretend that he’s in this world anymore. These are all conversations we had and we felt like the choice we made respected his legacy the best. And my understanding is that his family was really happy with how we treated him.”
It’s no wonder the Walker family were pleased with Universal’s decision not to try repeatedly bringing their deceased loved one back from the grave in movies – this is an awkward subject, and something which would have been entirely unnecessary for the story as a whole.
This is a question we’re going to hear more asked more often over the next few years. Disney brought back Peter Cushing for Rogue One, but it’s widely believed that enough time has passed since that actor’s death that it wasn’t completely distasteful.
The next step for moviemakers is to try and find the shortest possible time they can get away with waiting before pulling a similar stunt again.
Eventually, we’ll probably see a fake, computerized Carrie Fisher clone. Disney already has the template in their archive, so it’s just a matter of holding out until Fisher’s passing is no longer quite so fresh.
Similarly, as other key actors disappear over time for various reasons, the temptation to bring them back with this technology is going to become increasingly hard to ignore. Depending on how long the Fast and Furious franchise lasts, we may well end up seeing more of digital Paul Walker in future.
Here’s hoping, though, that it won’t be for a while. The character has already had the perfect send off.