Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures' Spider-Man: No Way Home didn't take long to become the most successful blockbuster outing in quite a long time once it debuted in theaters on December 17. Earning rave reviews critically while breaking into the top ten highest grossing movies selection in box office history, the threequel came in firing with a thrilling story, an epic cast, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience overall.
Part of what made No Way Home such a special MCU movie was the inclusion of Benedict Cumberbatch's Doctor Strange, who tried to help Peter Parker out with his identity problem through the use of questionable magic. As things went awry with Strange's spell from the first act, the good Doctor attempted to contain it with a magical artifact called the Machina de Kadavus, the official name of the cube that was teased in multiple trailers.
This box held plenty of mystery as fans waited to find out exactly what it did, particularly as marketing suggested an intense fight over it between Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. Now, a new interview is revealing some interesting details on how that box made its way into the final story for the picture.
Spider-Man: No Way Home's Magic Box
Framestore visual effects supervisor Adrien Saint Girons, who worked with the VFX team on Spider-Man: No Way Home, spoke with Befores & Afters about the design of the Machina de Kadavus from Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum.
Saint Girons explained how she and the team designed the box, which actually took "a lot of time" to complete to make sure it looked right for the movie. This led to "a lot of changes" through the process, and it even had "a whole backstory" that ended up being "simplified" during production:
"We designed that. That was, very bizarrely, one of the things that we spent a lot of time on. You wouldn’t think it, but it was a very time-consuming process. It took a lot of iterations to come up with exactly the right look and the right mechanism for the box. There were a lot of changes that occurred. It used to be a much more mechanical kind of puzzle–I don’t know if you ever saw those Chris Ramsey videos online where he’s solving big puzzles. There was a whole backstory to it that got simplified in the end."
Working the box from the physical set into post-production was another challenge, as it started off as "a green cube" before the details of the look and mechanics evolved over the course of post-production. The core idea centered on Strange working between sending the villains back to their universes and containing the spell that went wrong:
"One thing that was pretty great with this film from the start is that we were involved in the creative process. The box started off as a green cube and the idea behind the box evolved. How the box worked actually changed throughout the lifespan of the project. The general idea was always that it was something that Strange is solving and to send the guys back to their worlds. But in this case, in the end, it was to contain the spell that had gone wrong. So, it got a little bit of a hybrid role and transformed in that sense."
The planning process started with making sure the box looked "ancient" and "complex" while also being "an interesting mechanism." The team wanted to make sure it looked like a device that took a truly powerful and strong wizard to work with:
"The initial brief was that it should look ancient, that it should look complex, and that it should be an interesting mechanism. It should look like something that would take a strong wizard to solve. The initial design was all exploded and Strange is bringing all the pieces back together. We had these hinge mechanisms, and then the look was something where we had to figure out the right amount of metal versus wood versus stone to give a sense of an ancient artifact."
Saint Girons expressed a great deal of pride in how much "artistry" went into designing the artifact, despite the fact that it was all developed through CGI and largely came as "a background thing" throughout No Way Home:
"The amount of artistry that went into, first of all, designing it, but then actually creating it and modeling the thing, it’s kind of crazy. The same object in reality would’ve been amazing to see, but I’m very happy with the way it came out, fundamentally. Even though it’s there as a background thing in the whole movie it’s present throughout the whole experience. And what was cool is, we designed it, we then passed it on to the other vendors and they kept it going throughout the movie after the chase sequence that we worked on."
The VFX artist confirmed that this box was the movie's MacGuffin item, sharing how "massively important" it was to the plot. She also described how fun the process of developing it was, which added to its authenticity in the final cut:
"Exactly, it’s this massively important piece of the film. I very much enjoyed that design process, as tedious as it was considering how long it took. A lot of thought and energy went into that, and I think it just adds to making it feel authentic."
An Unused Backstory for Doctor Strage's Box
While most of No Way Home's blockbuster action centered on the returns of five villains and both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield's Spider-Men, some key supporting players also had their time to shine. One of these players was the magic Machina de Kadavus, which turned out to be an exciting prop to develop as the special effects came together.
The most interesting part of this is the undisclosed backstory that was originally planned out for the magic box, which never actually made it to the big screen during the scenes in which the mechanism was featured. While other artifacts from the Sanctum, like the Eye of Agamotto and the Cloak of Levitation, have seen their fair share of in-depth story and screen time, this new box still remains a mystery without the backstory.
Unfortunately, the story behind the box didn't gain any more specifics through this interview, and it's unclear if and when it will come back into play in future Strange-centric stories. Hopefully, more on that front will reveal itself someday as fans continue to celebrate the more mainstream major events of this outing.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is now playing in theaters worldwide.