- For well over a decade, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has brought the comic world to the big screen using state-of-the-art visual effects and elaborate stunts.
- Movies like “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “Captain Marvel” used innovative de-aging technology to let actors Samuel L. Jackson and Kurt Russell play their younger selves.
- Breakthroughs in motion capture allowed Josh Brolin to play Thanos with the most fully realized emotions possible in “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame.”
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Following is a transcript of the video.
Narrator: For well over a decade, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has brought the comic world to the big screen using state-of-the-art visual effects and elaborate stunts. Making a Marvel movie is physically demanding work for the actors and the people behind the cameras.
To learn how these movies come to life, let’s take a look at what eight Marvel movies looked like behind the scenes.
The third “Captain America” movie went big. It was the first film ever to employ IMAX 2D cameras, which came in handy during the now legendary airport battle.
For one daring jump, a stunt performer attached to a rope leaped right behind Bucky to capture this shot. For another shot, they actually flipped a truck over.
The sequence where Cap faces off against Crossbones and falls out of a window and then onto an awning, a truck, and then finally the ground took a lot of planning. Stunt coordinator Sam Hargrave, who also doubled for Cap at times, said pulling this off involved constructing an awning and shipping dock for the existing building. The awning had to be built at just the right angle, and all the pads had to be obscured.
“Doctor Strange” took the MCU visually to a new level. The multiverse involved intense CGI work. Framestore alone worked on 365 visual effects shots for the film. So, naturally, there was a lot of green screen and empty spaces on set, like when Doctor Strange walks through this portal into another dimension. On set, he was really walking through what looked like a giant glowing Hula-Hoop.
Meanwhile, elaborate wire work was used to give the appearance the characters were floating through the air. And when Strange takes on his astral form, the visual effects team backlit everything. This helped them more easily create a transparent effect.
And what about Strange’s fateful car crash? According to director Scott Derrickson, they had to destroy about nine real Lamborghinis for this one scene.
Unsurprisingly, outer space in the sequel to “Guardians of the Galaxy” looked a lot like a blue screen. One of the most subtle touches in the film was the de-aging done to Kurt Russell for the opening flashback. While they did do some makeup touch-ups to make him look younger, it was largely CGI. A young actor was used for reference of 30-year-old skin and stood in for Russell on set. Visual effects artists later grafted some of the stand-in’s skin onto the older actor.
And how do you act alongside a CGI character like Baby Groot? With this Baby Groot doll, which gave the cast a better idea of how they should make eye contact with Baby Groot in a given scene. Actors Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel recorded the voices of Rocket and Baby Groot in a sound booth. Their facial expressions and gestures were also recorded and used for reference when animating the characters.
In “Black Panther,” the cast’s rigorous training in fighting styles ranging from judo to jujitsu is on full display throughout the film. Actor Michael B. Jordan was covered in about 3,000 prosthetic dots. Each one was made with a glue-like material. The makeup team had to make sure they wouldn’t all come off during the Warrior Falls sequence, given that it was a fight scene involving a lot of body contact and splashing water.
“Black Panther” was shot all over the world. Many of the Wakanda scenes were filmed on a soundstage in Atlanta, while the car chase through the streets of Busan was actually filmed in South Korea.
According to cinematographer Rachel Morrison, they wanted to distinguish Wakanda visually from the rest of the world. One way they did that: lighting. For the Wakanda scenes, Morrison said they relied on warm afternoon light and used supplemental light to get rid of any shadows.
“Avengers: Infinity War” contains approximately 2,900 visual effects shots. Thanos is a motion-capture marvel. Bringing a CGI character with over 40 minutes of screen time to life was a big challenge. At times, actor Josh Brolin would wear a Thanos head on top of his own head so the actors could use this eyeline as a guide. Brolin wore a motion-capture suit, tracking marks on his face, and a helmet with cameras attached to it to get every subtle mannerism.
In this sequel, Scott Lang fought alongside Hope Van Dyne, aka the Wasp. She made a big impression early on during this fight sequence in a restaurant. The stunt team went through four to five weeks of intense training for it. Evangeline Lilly worked with them to tweak the character’s moves to fit the actress’ own movements. For example, Lilly thought to add a lot of S curves into her fighting style.
Giant-Man was, of course, created with CGI. But for the part where he collapses into the water, they had sprinklers on set to actually splash onlookers. Then there is the stunning quantum realm. When building this microscopic world, the visual effects team made sure to give it a psychedelic feel. Everything in this environment was constantly in motion. To make such a tiny world seem so much bigger, they relied heavily on macrophotography. Other photography devices such as lens flares added to the energetic visuals.
Oscar winner Brie Larson got in superhero shape to portray the titular hero. Larson worked with celebrity trainer Jason Walsh for nine months before “Captain Marvel” started shooting. By the end of their time together, she was strong enough to be able to push a Jeep, so she was more than ready for shots like this.
And how do you make Captain Marvel fly? Sometimes they used wires. Other times they used a tuning-fork rig, which was operated by crew members in blue suits who would be edited out later.
“Captain Marvel” also features some of the MCU’s most convincing de-aging work to date. The visual effects team was tasked with making Samuel L. Jackson look like his 1990s self. Nick Fury has a lot of screen time. There are at least 800 de-aging shots in the film, and the artists had to take nearly three decades off of him. While filming, Jackson donned a wig and tracking dots on his face. In postproduction, they got to work reshaping and resculpting the actor’s face while altering the texture of his skin. Luckily, they had a lot of reference material of 1990s-era Jackson to work off of.
To play the updated version of Thor, chiseled star Chris Hemsworth wore a bodysuit, which he estimated weighed 60 to 70 pounds, as well as a mouthpiece that puffed out his cheeks. While the visual effects team did some touch-ups, Marvel Entertainment visual effects producer Jen Underdahl said that actually having the suit on set helped Hemsworth’s performance.
And for this one shot, you will notice the actors weren’t actually wearing their nanotech suits on set. That is because it made more sense to create these suits largely using visual effects. Since they constantly expand and shrink, it would be hard to do that practically.
Nothing compared to the film’s final battle. Bringing this many characters together in one place was a logistical challenge. Not every actor could actually be there on set at the same time. Take this shot, where the MCU’s female heroes stood together. Tom Holland couldn’t be there on that day. Because Peter Parker hands Captain Marvel the Infinity Gauntlet, they needed to have somebody there to interact with Brie Larson. So another actor stood in for him, and Holland was later digitally added into the scene.
Thanks for watching. If you liked this video, subscribe for more just like it. Let us know what other Marvel movies you wanna know more about in the comments.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in June 2020.