A big part of Thor: Ragnarok‘s success lies in the director Marvel chose to helm the project. Instead of putting a big-name director on the project, they went with Taika Waititi, a director best known for the goofy vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows. Waititi brought a new rhythm and sensibility to the MCU. What he didn’t bring, though, was extensive experience with visual effects – an absolute necessity for Marvel movies.
Marvel has someone for that, apparently. Talking to ScreenRant, Marvel’s visual effects supervisor Theo Bialek talked about how the studio helps directors get ready to work with more visual effects than they ever have before. The studio has a “crash course” for directors who might have a good grasp on how to capture the characters but less on how to capture the spectacle.
“That responsibility fell on Janek Sirrs, who helped kinda guide [Spider-Man: Homecoming director Jon Watts],” Bialek said. “Janek has an enormous amount of experience on Marvel films and visual effects in general. One of the tools that we do is you break down some of the techniques… and different disciplines that go into it – all the aspects of it. So they get kind of a crash course on how to do these shots.”
One of the biggest difference is how things come together for a visual effects shot as opposed to a more traditional one.
“You don’t really see linear progress on a film – for visual effects its very much a lot of overhead, days go slow, and then they ramp up rapidly at the end of the show,” Bialek explained. “It takes a little while for someone who’s not familiar with it to get comfortable with the idea that you don’t see a lot of progress… until you sort of figure out the key shots.”
Even that can vary a bit from studio to studio. Bialek noted that while Disney likes to use a bunch of visual effects houses for its movies, Sony likes to keep things in-house, meaning that the work flow is very different.
Like Waititi, Jon Watts had a short list of credits before he jumped to Spider-Man: Homecoming, with small movies like Cop Car on his list. Before they helmed Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Civil War, and the two upcoming Avengers films, Joe and Anthony Russo had mostly had experience directing the ensemble show Community on NBC. Many of these choices have paid off in spades for Marvel, as these are some of the best-loved MCU flicks, so it makes sense that they’d want to get a process in place to help those directors do their work on a whole new scale. The upcoming Black Panther‘s director, Ryan Coogler, has had more recognition than some of those directors thanks to 2015’s Creed, but once again, the scale is altogether different.
Based on early buzz, it sounds like Marvel’s director selection is going to pay off again. We’ll find out when Black Panther hits theaters on February 16, 2018.