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How Eternals & Other Marvel Movies Restricted Shang-Chi's VFX

Eternals, Shang-Chi
By Sam Hargrave

Marvel Studios has undeniably crafted the biggest and most fleshed-out world in Hollywood history with the MCU. With current fans now being treated to upwards of three films and four Disney+ series a year, it's easy to forget how this all started with just six films releasing in Phase 1 from 2008 to 2012. Crafting this world has taken an immense amount of collaboration between creatives on different projects with producer and studio president Kevin Feige sitting at the helm of it all.

After the pandemic caused production issues and subsequent delays for the post-Endgame world, Phase 4 kicked off with a bang with WandaVision in January 2021. The studio went on to revisit many fan-favorite heroes across the year including Black Widow, Loki, and Spider-Man, but moviegoers were also introduced to some new friendly faces like Shang-Chi and the Eternals.

Coordinating all the different heroes and franchises takes a lot of work for the studio; from a timeline, character arc, and visual perspective, everything has to be aligned. Naturally, these conditions will restrict what other projects can do, and it appears these effects were especially prominent for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

How Did Eternals Impact Shang-Chi's Production?

Eternals, Shang-Chi, Sersi
The Direct

During a recent interview with ScreenRant, Weta Digital VFX supervisor Sean Walker discussed how other Marvel movies, including Eternals, restricted Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings' VFX.

Walker revealed around "halfway through the production," Marvel decided "they would like all the weapons to glow," adding further complications to the VFX process:

"Then there was a call made about halfway through the production that they would like all the weapons to glow, that was another moment. So we just got the team to work hard for a couple of months."

Shang-Chi Ten Rings
Marvel

According to Walker, whose company worked heavily on Shang-Chi, Marvel's own VFX supervisor received the suggestion to have the weapons "[glow] with magical energy" during a studio review and agreed:

"Yeah, it was one of those moments where I think Marvel's VFX Supervisor, on their end, was in a studio review, and someone in the crowd goes, 'Wouldn't it be cool if all the weapons glowed with magical energy going through it?' And he was, like, 'Okay, we can do that.'"

The VFX supervisor explained they then had "one of [their] team whip up some energy" designs and animated it to have "literal geometric veins going through all the weapons, so they would glow from the inside:"

"So we started with a little bit of concept, a motion concept, it's all done in 2D, we had one of our team whip up some energy flowing through it and animated it, so we could get a buy-off on it. We took all her hard work and added it to our shading technique, so we had literal geometric veins going through all the weapons, so they would glow from the inside."

Walker went on to explain the complications with "[working] on a lot of Marvel movies at the same time" is ensuring the "designs aren't exactly the same as someone else's" for other projects such as Eternals:

"So this is the tricky thing about having so many Marvel movies. We had a lot of them in-house, so we work on a lot of Marvel movies at the same time, so pretty much all of us are in constant touch with one another to make sure we're not stepping on each other's toes, that the designs aren't exactly the same as someone else's. So, we wanted to make sure that none of our effects looked anything like the Eternals' effects. So we had free rein, outside of stepping on someone else's toes."

The Difficulties of an Ever-Growing MCU

Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy
The Direct

The MCU has expanded greatly over the years to now include over 14 franchises and five series, with more releasing almost every month. Marvel's ever-growing world has now dived deep into the supernatural, cosmic, magical, and criminal underworld.

With so many moving parts across numerous franchises, it's imperative that the creatives involved maintain strong consistency and connectivity. Not only do timelines and continuity have to align, but the visuals and their colors need to reflect the similarities or differences in the powers of each hero and villain.

For example, Harry Styles' Starfox in Eternals couldn't have a portal that looked anything like those in Doctor Strange, or moviegoers may assume the immortal hero was using a Sling Ring like the Sorcerer.

As the universe continues to grow, this problem will only become more prevalent as VFX staff now has to compare their work to upwards of 30 past projects. Overly similar designs could heavily mislead audiences or justifiably send theories running wild, something Marvel Studios will be eager to avoid.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Eternals are now streaming now on Disney+.