Black Widow is filled with thrilling action sequences and stunning scenes shot on-location in places like Norway and Budapest. However, it's worth pointing out that there is a good chunk of CGI-infused scenes throughout the movie.
Marvel Studios is known for its impressive use of visual effects over the years, as evidenced by the success of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Throughout the franchise's run, the presence of CGI has been a common staple, which is understandable due to the fact that the narrative focuses on otherworldly individuals and locations.
The MCU improved its VFX work by showcasing new elements along the way such as successfully de-aging actors and actresses and introducing purely CGI characters like Josh Brolin's Thanos. The same is true for Black Widow, mainly due to the fact that it de-aged David Harbour and Rachel Weisz's MCU characters during the flashback sequence of Natasha Romanoff's past.
In addition, it seems that the de-aging process is not the only CGI-heavy work that Black Widow utilized based on this new VFX breakdown.
EXPLORING BLACK WIDOW'S CGI
Digital Domain, via Befores and Afters, shared a breakdown of how much CGI was used in the final battle of Black Widow.
During the final battle, Scarlett Johansson's Natasha Romanoff, Florence Pugh's Yelena Belova, and Olga Kurylenko's Taskmaster were involved in a daring skydiving sequence. The outlet confirmed that real skydiving footage with some stunt doubles was used, allowing the production team to use it for camera angles and to track movements.
Digital Domain digital effects supervisor Hanzhi Tang stated that the shot of Natasha mid-fall (as seen below) was filmed with Scarlett Johansson in a full Black Widow costume "sliding down a blue ramp."
"There’s a lot of stuff going on in this shot. Scarlett Johansson was filmed in a full Black Widow costume sliding down a blue ramp. That’s the plate.” However, she typically might not do the full move as was needed for this shot. Because her body actions didn’t line up exactly with the solar panel or the pose, from the neck down, it’s been replaced by the digi-double version of Black Widow. And because her hair would have just gone in front of her face, that also needed to be replaced in CG.”
The destruction of the Red Room is one of the major highlights of the final sequence. Tang mentioned that the tricky part in this scene is really just "tracking" all the elements through all the shots in order to make sure that the "big hero pieces that are recognizable are consistent from shot to shot:"
"For the falling debris, we made a separate library of pieces of the Red Room. We had FX help us by shattering and doing some of the destruction, and just giving us some of the pieces. There’s a lot of pieces that were also hand cut out of the main model, and then published as its own separate asset. The tricky part was really just tracking them through all the shots, and making sure that the big hero pieces that are recognizable are consistent from shot to shot. Some poor person needs to think about that, sit down think and about it, and make sure it’s consistent. There are some really unsung heroes in layout."
The intense yet emotional ground-level battle between Romanoff and Taskmaster is also part of the breakdown. Tang said that the sequence was filmed on an open field, consisting of a "small section of set with a large truss piece and a couple of large chunks of debris" while also involving flames coming out of gas lines and several parachutes on the ground:
"For the ground-level shots, they filmed just on an open field. They built a small section of set with a large truss piece and a couple of large chunks of debris in the foreground. They had some flames coming out of gas lines and parachutes waving around. Beyond that, it was just open grass which we needed to either paint up as charred areas or add flame elements, which you then have to get to go behind the foreground grass, so it was a lot of roto work."
Tang confirmed that the top-down shot of Taskmaster and Natasha fighting while in slow-motion as the sword comes over is purely CG.
BLACK WIDOW'S INTENSE FINAL BATTLE
Black Widow had one of the more memorable final battle sequences from the MCU's massive slate, and many would agree that it is mainly due to its skydiving aspect combined with the overarching emotional conflict.
This latest breakdown provided fans a detailed look on how the cast and crew crafted an impressive sequence, and this goes to show that it was not an easy affair. It's also worth pointing out that all of the scenes were filmed before the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning that health protocols were not involved and there were no restrictions in any form.
Aside from serving as a proper send-off for Scarlett Johansson's Natasha Romanoff, many would agree that Black Widow will be remembered for its intense fight scenes.
The film is filled with intimate scuffles between family members (Nat and Yelena) while also showcasing massive action involving large-scale production sets (destruction of the Red Room). In many ways, there's no denying that the prequel featured quality fight scenes that make it stand out from the rest of the MCU entries.
Even though Romanoff is a more grounded character, adding CGI to her action scenes further elevates the hero even more. The thorough breakdown showed the flawless execution of the final battle while still keeping the emotional conflict in mind that the film is trying to deliver.
Black Widow is now streaming on Disney+ via Premier Access and in theaters worldwide.