John Krasinski's appearance as Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was a dream come true for the many fans who had long been calling for him to be cast in the role. Krasinski did a fantastic (no pun intended) job of bringing the character to life, but perhaps what is most memorable about Reed's role in the film was his grisly death at the hands of Elizabeth Olsen's Wanda Maximoff/The Scarlet Witch.
In what is arguably one of the most (if not the single most) gruesome sequences in the history of the MCU, Wanda systematically tore through the Illuminati, only briefly struggling against the likes of Hayley Atwell's Captain Carter and Lashana Lynch's Captain Marvel. Anson Mount's Black Bolt scrambled his own brain with his booming voice and the proclaimed "smartest man alive" was turned into spaghetti by Wanda's reality-bending chaos magic.
Industrial Light and Magic, who brought the battle to life, recently shared exactly how they crafted these iconic scenes and their surprising inspiration.
ILM Shares How They Dismantled the Illuminati
In an interview with befores & afters, ILM visual effects supervisor Julian Foddy pulled back the curtain on how the special effects studio pulled Reed Richards to pieces with techniques that blew Black Bolt's mind. The inspiration for Reed's death, in particular, came "directly from [Marvel Studios president] Kevin Feige:"
“At one point, Wanda turns Reed Richards (John Krasinski) into all these shredded, stringy forms. The starting point there was some reference that was passed to us by Janek Sirrs directly from Kevin Feige. It was someone passing a lump of modeling clay or Play-doh through a garlic press.
Devising this kind of fate for Mr. Fantastic wasn't easy. Foddy remarked that it was a challenge to "build a setup that didn’t just look like the body geometry was emitting something else."
Looking specifically for that stringified effect Feige had visualized, they needed to "come up with a way to disassemble and shred the real model" so that "the correct texture coordinates, would pass along and be taken with the ‘strings’ of Reed, as they were all being shredded away."
While they achieved the result they were looking for, it wasn't without difficulty. According to Foddy, it "was quite a technical challenge:"
Making it feel like organic material and getting the right amount of flex and balance to the strings, as they come off, was quite a technical challenge. There were cheats, because if you were to actually shred a real human being in such a way, there would be an awful lot of flesh and blood. Of course, this is a Marvel movie and we don’t want to be too gruesome.
Interestingly enough, Foddy revealed that "both Reed and Black Bolt are wearing fully digital suits throughout." Even in the close-up scenes where the Inhuman King liquidates his brain with his voice, "that’s a fully CG outfit he’s wearing."
Black Bolt received his own special treatment for ILM too. When Wanda removed Black Bolt's mouth, the studio utilized "a CG patch that we created using the texture photography from the actor." In terms of creating his disturbing death scene, Foddy notes, "the way we approached that was to almost do it for real."
The crew "started off by looking at lots of reference of things getting smashed up in slow-motion" and "looked at human faces in wind tunnels". Though time-consuming, Foddy thinks the process "was definitely a task worth doing, it really gives some interesting and gruesome results."
Opening the Door to a More Gruesome MCU?
All throughout Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the special effects were absolutely fantastic. This was demonstrated incredibly in the battle with the Illuminati, and the work ILM put into bringing those few-second closeup shots to life goes to show the level of care and attention to detail that goes into making these films.
An interesting question arises: is this the beginning of a more gruesome MCU?
While it's certain that no one is expecting Marvel Studios to turn the franchise into something like Amazon's The Boys, it seems clear that the studio is becoming more comfortable with approaching darker and more disturbing themes. Disney+ projects like Moon Knight and films like Multiverse of Madness stand in stark contrast to the bright colors and toned-down violence of early MCU entries like The Avengers.
The answer here is probably found somewhere in between the extremes. In a wise move, Kevin Feige and company seem intent on making the style of each project fit the nature of the characters they portray. While Moon Knight was at times nearly a psychological thriller befitting its tortured protagonist, Ms. Marvel is shot in a style heavily reminiscent of tee comedy-dramas like MTV's Awkward.
This approach is, in this writer's opinion, a brilliant one. Not only does it keep Marvel projects from feeling like constant rehashes of the same style, but it also allows a deeper focus on the characters. Moon Knight was what it was because that was the best way to tell the story of Marc Spector. Ms. Marvel brings to life the Kamala Khan of the comics while having an air that fits the coming-of-age experience of a teen girl navigating living lives in separate worlds.
Multiverse of Madness was just as much a part of this philosophy as anything else. Sam Raimi's blockbuster had plenty of stylistic elements reminiscent of his earlier works like Evil Dead and Army of Darkness, which works perfectly for a story that focused on the occult as much as the Doctor Strange sequel did. The showdown with the Illuminati wasn't gruesome just to be gruesome; it served as a story point, demonstrating how far Wanda had fallen and the brutality she'd resort to.
It's becoming increasingly clear that while the MCU is a shared universe, the style and cadence of each individual project will be tailored to match the characters in it and the story being told. Fans should be eagerly awaiting new entries, as each promises to bring to life their favorite characters in the most authentic way possible.