Will Smith’s face just wants to terrify us this year. First we didn’t know what to think when he went, quite literally, blue in the face as the CGI genie in Disney’s live action Aladdin remake. Then we got creeped out by his digitally de-aged doppelganger in the trailer for upcoming sci-fi action movie Gemini Man. And now a deepfake video which transposes Smith into Keanu Reeves’ place as Neo in 1999’s The Matrix has gone viral and given us the uncanny chills all over again.
YouTuber Sham00K grafts Smith’s face onto Neo’s (retaining Reeves’ floppy Nineties hair, and what sounds like his voice) in key scenes from the movie, including the now-iconic bullet-stopping sequence, to form a trailer of what might have been. And while it’s unsettling to see Smith’s computer-manipulated face appear in these scenes in a way that’s hard to articulate, it’s also highly likely that somewhere out there in another timeline, he did star in The Matrix. Remember: alongside Reeves, he was one of the most bankable actors of Nineties Hollywood.
Deepfake versions of existing movies are becoming increasingly common online: earlier this year, Crtl Shift Face brought two other worlds colliding together when they created a video which put Rocky star Sylvester Stallone in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s place in Terminator 2: Judgement Day.
These are novel uses of deepfake technology, but it is considered by many to be a dangerous tool, capable of spreading misinformation and highly susceptible to misuse. One high profile example is a video of former president Barack Obama giving a PSA on fake news, which turned out to actually be a hoax cooked up by director Jordan Peele and BuzzFeed. When it comes to the internet these days, we’re all in the Matrix: nothing is what first seems.