It’s been another banner year for comic book movies. Aside from Suicide Squad, which has been out only a week, each movie has grossed over $500 million. That kind of box office success is no longer a surprise, but an expectation. Deadpool is arguably the best of the bunch, but only Captain America: Civil War has managed to receive critical acclaim and cross the hallowed $1 billion barrier.
Civil War continued Marvel’s streak of hits by upping the ante with an Avengers-like cast of characters, making it one of the biggest movies in history. It also had a massive budget of $250 million, a lot of which was reserved for visual effects work. One of the men responsible for that was the visual effects supervisor Dan Deleeuw.
TechnoBuffalo recently got the chance to talk to him about the expansive vision of Captain America: Civil War. Having worked on Iron Man 3 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Deleeuw is no stranger to the magnitude of Marvel movies. Mending the bridge between story, character development and visual effects is of the utmost importance for a movie this big. Deleeuw and his team did it right, and it had a lot to do with the shared vision of the visual effects and production teams coming together, including directors Joe and Anthony Russo.
“You’ll start as they’re writing the script,” Deleeuw told TechnoBuffalo. “The Russo Brothers are awesome. They’ll invite you into the story room and talk about the ideas and [mention] what they’re thinking about. Then [we] go off and start dreaming all the ideas we had as kids, imaging what would be cool if they came to life. From that, you get the rough ideas for a story.”
One of many great scenes in Civil War is the airport fight, which was almost completely CGI. It’s an amazing scene that faces off Team Cap and Team Iron Man, and also serves as an introduction for Spider-Man. It wasn’t an easy scene to create, but what made it possible were the ideas before filming even began.
Although Marvel’s movies are known for being huge spectacles, it was actually a much quieter scene in Civil War that proved to be the most difficult.
“There are things like doing the hologram that Tony Stark had at the presentation at MIT where we see present day Tony Stark and his younger self,” Deleeuw said. “That was challenging, not only because we made him younger but the fact that it was a single shot that ran at 2,000 frames.”
The true genius of the visual effects is making a scene so fantastic the audience doesn’t even realize how much work went into it. The purpose of the MIT scene wasn’t to show off fancy CGI work, but to expand on the character of Tony Stark and make him more human. This scene is integral to the plot and it does its main job of developing a character.
“[Marvel] is definitely a place that promotes creativity and storytelling,” Deleeuw said. “That’s the first order of business in terms of designing shots and designing sequences.”
It’s an often overlooked aspect of Marvel movies. Many people write them off as mindless action flicks, but they keep on succeeding and earning positive reviews because of their emphasis on storytelling, which results in characters worth caring about. The Tony Stark MIT scene is a great example of that.
As a visual effects person, Deleeuw has been influenced by countless movies that have used special effects to tell a story. Some of his favorite films include Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
It’s worth noting that the work on those films still influence the films we see today, including Civil War. The scene where Iron Man flies away from the raft and Black Panther observes and follows him is a direct descendant of the Boba Fett stalking scene in Empire Strikes Back. They’re fans like everybody else.
“I’ll talk about stuff [with director Joe Russo] and we’ll start describing things in Civil War,” said Deleeuw. “When Iron Man flies away from the raft and Black Panther is stalking him and follows him. When [Joe] describes the shot I said, ‘Oh yeah, like Boba Fett in Empire Strikes Back,’ and he said, ‘Yeah, that’s it.’”
Captain America: Civil War will be available on Blu-ray and digital next month.
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