Characters to the Rescue
Karen Moltenbrey
June 14, 2019

Characters to the Rescue

In addition to Thanos, Weta also crafted Iron Man’s Nano suit, having a history with the character all the way back to the first Avengers film. “It’s interesting to look at the way he has progressed over time. We’ve been doing different suits for him each time,” says Matt Aitken, VFX supervisor at Weta. “He’s got a new suit in  Endgame, which includes some of the same Nano tech he was deploying in  Infinity War, but he took a beating, so he built this new suit that has far more armor plating, more like the solid-steel plate suits of the original  Iron Man.” 

Weta also did some Hulk work for the first time and shots of Thanos battling Cap, Thor, Iron Man, and Captain Marvel at the end of the movie. And, the artists did the Scarlet Witch, who amped up her power in this film. Dan DeLeeuw, Endgame’s visual effects supervisor, provided some comic-book art frames that showed what he wanted her magic to look like, and then Weta interpreted them into CG simulations, in essence taking reference material that was very graphical in style and adding detail along with a physicality and volumetric look to it. 

Weta additionally opened portals. In Endgame, just about every hero and villain from the MCU emerges and partakes in the battle as they unleash their full potential. In a sequence that drove fans to scream with excitement, and visual effects artists to nod their head in approval, the characters materialize through Dr. Strange’s portals, which Weta reworked at an immense scale. As Aitken explains, the artists started with the portal technology they had devised for Infinity War, the more human-size Dr. Strange portals, and repurposed them to be much larger. Also, a significant number of them had to fit in a single shot – and still be recognized as Dr. Strange’s portals. 

“It was important that when the portals start to appear, the audience is able to identify what they are and then realize these characters are now alive after having turned to dust at the end of Infinity War,” Aitken says. “We didn’t want bad effects to detract from the power of that sequence, so we spent a lot of time on it. It was very challenging, making sure that it played well and was spectacular and beautiful, and that the storytelling was clear.”

Moreover, the environments inside the portals were full-3D environments built by Weta: Wakanda, New Asgard, Contraxia, Kamar-Taj, and Titan. At the start of the sequence, it’s very nuanced the way the characters appear out of the portals. The first one to open is into Wakanda, and it’s very bright and hazy, before the characters are revealed. 

“On the days when all the characters were there, were some of the most amazing days on set because you are looking at every character who has ever existed in the first 10 years of the Marvel Universe together at the same time,” DeLeeuw says. “We had to make sure they all got their moments as they came back from the snap.”

ILM also had a big role in the end battle, creating Strange’s magic (water tornado, Winds of Watoomb). The studio opened the battle after the attack first occurs as the heroes fall to the lower levels of the compound, animating Hulk and Rocket. They continued the action during the battle after Hawkeye hands off the gauntlet, with a shot of Hulk and Cap together, followed by shots once Black Panther picks it up and takes out Chitauri and Outriders, before he is stopped by Thanos’s blade. Spider-Man flies in to assist, then Rescue. Strange uses the Winds of Watoomb to form a water tornado, then we’re back to Spidey, before Captain Marvel swoops in and takes out Thanos’s ship. 

To ensure that each studio’s battle shots were visually consistent and in the “same world,” Weta and ILM regularly communicated, with DeLeeuw keeping them on the same page in terms of aesthetic, as each worked on their shots.

Having worked on the prior films with Marvel (including the Helicarrier destruction mentioned earlier) was a good launching pad for this film. “The battle of Wakanda was difficult, and we had put a lot of tools into play to build those environments, and destroy those environments, and inserted thousands of characters, which certainly helped us on the end battle here, where we were adding even more characters and more destruction,” says Russell Earl, ILM’s VFX supervisor.