via avengerswag on Tumblr
Sometimes when I think about Joss Whedon‘s The Avengers, I regard it as just a jumble of hilarious moments. I’ve said before that I really need to see it a second time, because at my midnight screening I missed a bunch of one-liners because the audience would still be giggling and cheering at the line or visual gag that had come before. So even though yes, there was plenty of character development and rousing action sequences and an appropriately Whedonesque death, sometimes I just think about those standout moments that made me laugh in disbelief. Disbelief because I didn’t think that superhero movies were allowed to be this funny. And that, for me, is the sign of a good movie, that it’s crammed with all these quotable/.gifable bits.
That’s why I was jazzed to read io9′s extensive list of “weird secrets” of The Avengers. They got to sit down with the movie’s visual effects team at Industrial Light and Magic, and they pried out of them 24 behind-the-scenes tidbits about how they made the Hulk look just right, what points in the movie there were digital actors on-screen, and of course these little Whedon nuggets of fun. I was especially interested in two moments, both starring Mark Ruffalo‘s fearsome green creature and two gods.
As you’ll see from the .gif above, the first moment is the did-he-just-do-that moment in the middle of the climactic battle, where Hulk and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) have just demolished Chitauri invaders side-by-side. But Hulk, nursing a bit of a grudge over their earlier fight, doesn’t miss his opportunity to get in the last word against the Asgardian hero. It turns out that one long, continuous shot was the most difficult to get right, because the editors had to use footage from the beginning of the shoot all the way to the end. As io9 explains,
For the actual punch, they put Chris Hemsworth in front of a bluescreen standing on top of a real section of a downed Leviathan that they built. And they attached Hemsworth to a cable pull that they retimed, so he could look like he was knocked sidewise. They cut a few frames out of the footage, so it looks like Hulk’s punch has “instant impact,” says [Visual Effects Supervisor Jeff] White.
But even that moment doesn’t compare to the schadenfreude of seeing Hulk smash the shit out of villain Loki:
via Jiyong Chung
Tom Hiddleston fans be assured, that’s a digital Loki who’s getting thrown around like a rag doll. But because the effects editors wanted it to look as real as possible, they actually shook up poor Tom so they could insert his face in the sequence. That duty fell to Animation Director Marc Chu:
”We’re not inventing how he looks when he’s in pain. I had to get behind [Tom Hiddleston] and shake him violently,” so they could capture his real expressions. (He mimes violent shaking.) “I did it so long, he started laughing. So we didn’t use that portion.”
Associate Visual Effects Supervisor Jason Smith adds,
“When we first heard about the thing where Hulk slams Loki up and down, it’s like that’s a bold thing to do. It’s very cartoony. It’s almost Hanna-Barbera.” But when you watch it in the theater, it totally works, and it’s the way we’ve always wanted to see the Hulk. And that’s all down to Joss Whedon getting why these characters work, says Smith. In that shot, Whedon really wanted the Hulk’s face to be totally deadpan, rather than making a lot of grimaces or weird facial expressions — and that’s a huge part of why it works. “Because Hulk is just like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to smash you into the ground, and it’s not a big deal to me.’”
Funny, the same thing happened with Prometheus, where the MPAA almost cut the scene of Noomi Rapace performing surgery on herself because it gave the movie an R rating, and yet it was one of the film’s best sequences. So yeah, sometimes moviemaking is tedious and certain scenes seem extraneous… but these examples prove that the filmmakers have the right instinct for what works and what will most resonate with the audience. Or at least, end up getting endlessly reblogged in .gif form on Tumblr.