'Avengers: Endgame' A VFX Wonder
Karen Moltenbrey
June 14, 2019

'Avengers: Endgame' A VFX Wonder

If we have learned nothing over the past decade since the characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) began gracing the big screen, it’s that each Avenger can easily carry his or her own film all the way to resounding box-office success. But, when they band together, it’s a total game changer – and none more so than the recent  Avengers: Endgame , which toppled box-office records even before it was released on April 26. And, its success continues, as it is poised to surpass   Avatar  as the top-grossing movie of all time – this after just two months’ time.  

In fact, of the top 10 highest-grossing movies, half are Avenger-related films – and only one of those five centers on a single Avenger (Black Panther), while the other four movies feature a team – proving their power in numbers.

With more Avengers on screen come more visual effects scenes. And in Endgame, the 22 nd film in the MCU, there are many – nearly 2,500 out of roughly 2,700 shots in the film contain VFX. In comparison, Avengers: Infinity War had approximately 2,700, and since the two films were shot back-to-back, many of the studios on Infinity War continued their work on Endgame, a direct sequel, as did Directors Joe and Anthony Russo. According to Dan DeLeeuw, Endgame’s visual effects supervisor, 13 vendors worked on this show, with Weta Digital and Industrial Light & Magic generating the larger share (494 and 550, respectively), along with Digital Domain and Framestore assuming a number of shots as well, while DNeg, Cinesite, Cantina Creative, RISE, Lola, ScanlineVFX, Capital T, Exceptional Minds, and Perception round out the list. 

Despite Endgame being a continuation of Infinity War, the facilities did not rest on their laurels, with a number of advancements for the latest film, especially concerning work on Thanos, Smart Hulk, and throughout the final battle.

“Interestingly, Endgame has about 200 fewer shots than Infinity War, but the actual complexity and length of the shots far exceed anything we’ve ever done,” says DeLeeuw, who was also visual effects supervisor for Infinity War as well as Captain America: Civil War and Winter Soldier, and second-unit VFX supe on Iron Man 3. “A film like [ Endgame] is kind of your doctorate thesis. I couldn’t have done Civil War without Winter Soldier. I couldn’t have done Infinity War without Civil War. And, I couldn’t have done Endgame without Infinity War. It was definitely a progression in terms of understanding the size, scope, and especially the density of the effects in Endgame.”

Endgame picks up after the devastating events of Infinity War, with the universe destroyed after an injured Thanos manages to activate the Infinity Gauntlet, and half of all life across the universe disintegrates, including T’Challa, Groot, Mantis, Strange, and others. However, surviving Avengers unite to take back the Infinity Stones in order to reverse Thanos’s destruction, but soon learn that Thanos has destroyed the stones. Five years pass, and Scott Lang (Ant-Man) escapes from the Quantum Realm, prompting the Avengers to ponder whether time travel is possible and leading Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Bruce Banner (Hulk) to successfully build such a machine in an attempt to resurrect those who Thanos had disintegrated. 

All Good Things…

Emotions ran high and low during the final battle scene and in the aftermath. Indeed, the Dr. Strange portal openings became a key turning point of the film – in addition to eliciting a good deal of emotional response. DeLeeuw witnessed the full effect that the scene had on audiences as he watched the film in a theater. “It’s one thing to think it’s going to work, then you see it with an audience and realize how much it really works and affects them.”

Without question, Endgame weaves the entire MCU saga together into the biggest superhero movie of all time. And like in the film’s end battle when all the characters unite in their ambitious common goal, so too did the visual effects artists from many top studios as they overcame daunting challenges to achieve a level of success never before reached in a cinematic production. Ah, the power of teamwork.