Marvel Studios' Eternals is now available for the world to stream on Disney+, bringing the MCU's 26th theatrical movie back into prominence as fans dissect the action that came in this semi-cosmic story. Moving away from humans like Iron Man, and even away from powerful magicians like Doctor Strange, Eternals took the opportunity to introduce over a dozen new players while expanding the MCU to new heights.
While the movie brought some of the most mixed reviews of any MCU story to date, it came with exciting new powers from various new heroes along with a fresh look at the intergalactic Celestials. To bring this all to the big screen took plenty of work from Marvel's VFX teams, much of which had to be done from home throughout 2020 and 2021 after filming was completed.
With so many new entries coming in Phase 4 and more than 30 projects in the MCU as a whole, the big challenge is making each story look unique even while making sure they all add to the same narrative. This was also the case on Eternals, as was recently revealed in an interview with one of the movie's VFX team members.
Making Eternals Visual Effects Unique
Matt Aitken, visual effects supervisor at Weta Digital, spoke with The Wrap about his time working on Marvel Studios' Eternals. Specifically, he shared how the team ensured that they made this movie's visuals differ from past outings like Iron Man and Doctor Strange.
Having also worked on Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, Aitken revealed that Eternals had "about 50,000 shots" needed for the movie's final cut, which turned out to be "about 100 tasks per shot:"
“My previous two projects were Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, which you can imagine were pretty complex. But on Eternals, we had about 50,000 tasks to complete, so roughly about 100 tasks per shot. It was a great job and a really, really big one.”
Referencing the work he did with director Chloé Zhao, the team had "no learning curve" thanks to Zhao's extensive background watching other superhero movies. With that history, Aitken was in awe of the level on which the director operated while pulling together the visuals:
“There was no learning curve with Chloé...She had a huge background in watching manga and watching other superhero films and I got a sense that there were always going to be effects-driven films in her oeuvre. She is the same artist, but it’s just that she has multiple canvases she operates on.”
Looking back to Zhao's past directorial efforts along with other MCU films from the Infinity Saga, Aitken commented on how it was important to make sure Eternals stood on its own visually. The VFX supervisor said that this new film "couldn't look too much like Iron Man or Doctor Strange" and that it took a lot of work to nail down exactly how the visuals were supposed to be presented:
“Nomadland came out while we were working on Eternals and I thought that was a profound film. For Eternals, she was a great choice because it was a completely new project. It isn’t building on established MCU characters or effects and it couldn’t look too much like Doctor Strange or Iron Man. It’s the classic thing where you know what it’s not supposed to look like, but it takes a bit of thinking and brainstorming to find out what is it supposed to look like.”
The Challenges of Eternals' VFX Work
While every MCU film and TV show takes a ton of work in the visual effects department to make the story come together, each one also has to stand out from its counterparts in its own unique way. This was particularly important for Eternals as the 2021 movie delivered so much new material in terms of individual characters and story, along with expansions to the entire Marvel universe.
Requiring a VFX shot number count that rivaled Infinity War and Endgame, Eternals' cosmic nature automatically made it stand out from the reality-based Iron Man and the sorcery shown in Doctor Strange. The challenge came in making sure that all ten Eternals' powers looked distinctively separate from one another while confirming that they were all connected, on top of being different visually from other heroes.
Combining these visual effects with a new costuming style and tributes to the characters from Marvel Comics was no easy task, but it was one that Zhao and her team prepared intensely for as Phase 4 became a reality. Fans will hopefully get to see this kind of VFX work again in the eventual Eternals 2, but for now, Marvel has another round of excellent action and adventure coming to life for the MCU in this outing.
Eternals is now streaming on Disney+.