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Sony Confirms Thanos-Like Mo-Cap for Morbius VFX

Morbius, Thanos
By Richard Nebens

Alongside the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sony Pictures is moving full speed ahead with its Spider-Man Universe following its impressive efforts with Venom: Let There Be Carnage. Next up in the rotation is Jared Leto's Morbius, a movie that's faced more release pushbacks than most of its companions with seven separate delays to its theatrical debut.

Sony has a large cache of promotional material for Morbius thanks to these delays, with multiple full trailers teasing the story and a full clip showing Leto's transformation into a vampire. As is the case with almost all superhero movies, this is brought to life by intense work in the CGI department, especially with powers and visuals like those that Morbius boasts in the movie.

The challenge is making something unique, especially with antiheroes like Venom and Carnage already in play in Sony's first duo of movies.

Now, some of the key players on Morbius' VFX team are sharing some of their secrets regarding how they brought that uniqueness to Leto's terrifying new anti-hero.

Mobius Meets Thanos in Mo-Cap Department

As part of Sony's Production Release for Morbius, director Daniel Espinosa, star Jared Leto, and visual effects supervisor Matthew E. Butler shared insight into Morbius' design in the film.

Jared Leto, Morbius
Sony

The character came to life through CGI instead of through prosthetics and makeup, which Leto was adamant about to make sure that Michael Morbius' transformation would have as few visual limitations as possible. The actor was excited to explore the potential that could come from those technologies, allowing him and the team to "push the envelope" in that regard:

"When you put a character on the screen for the first time, you have a big opportunity to create something. I was adamant from the beginning that we use technology to enhance and help with the transformation, especially of Morbius himself, because I thought that that’s where we would have fewest limitations. There’s limitless potential using some of these new technologies, so it’s interesting to be part of that and to push the envelope.”

Butler shared how much work goes into visual effects like the one in this movie and how each job requires "the right tool" to complete. The team looked at how actors like Leto and Matt Smith spoke "in their vampiric forms" and tried to "keep as many of his features" as possible, even though it's a terrifying look:

“Visual effects is never a single answer to anything – we try to use the right tool for the job, and each job is slightly different. On Morbius, the vampires perform, deliver dialogue and expression, and they need to look and feel and smell like that the actor. Jared Leto and Matt Smith need to come through in their vampiric forms. We tried to keep as many of his features as we could, so you could look at this creature and think, yeah, that’s Jared – yet we depart from a good-looking man to make this horrific character.”

Butler also explained how it was essential in making sure Morbius could easily switch back and forth between his human and vampire forms as this was essential for the character:

“Morbius can ‘bloom’ from his human version into the vampiric version and back again, so he’s not continually in that phase. He can go in and out – typically through anger. He needed to be able to morph into different expressions.

Thanos Josh Brolin mo-cap
Marvel

The VFX artist explained how the team had the actors "perform on stage" so that the team could "recapture that performance with a marked-up array of dots" all over their faces, along with helmet cameras to capture more of their subtle movements. He shared that this was how the team behind Avengers: Infinity War brought Josh Brolin's Thanos to life as well.

“One solution is to film them as they are and manipulate the face. That can work, but at times, we depart quite massively, and we still need to capture all the idiosyncrasies, the subtleties, the familiar telltales of who that person is and their characteristics, even though the creature is quite different in geometry. We decided that the actors would perform on stage and we would recapture that performance with a marked-up array of dots on their faces and helmet cameras that can capture all of those subtleties. The software can translate that performance into the performance of a creature that is completely different. That’s something we achieved quite well with Thanos.”

Infinity War Helping Push Morbius Ahead

The Mad Titan Thanos was one of Marvel Studios' biggest visual effects accomplishments, particularly when he was featured so heavily in 2018's Avengers: Infinity War and 2019's Avengers: Endgame. Josh Brolin's performance emerged from a combination of facial capture and VFX work behind the scenes, which led to rave reviews for Marvel Studios' work on the completely CGI character.

While Jared Leto's Michael Morbius isn't fully brought to life through technology, the work done on Thanos had a major influence on the work done for the Living Vampire in his solo movie.

Making sure that Leto's human form and vampire form meshed together seamlessly was a tough task, although the VFX team explored every possible option to bring it to the big screen in a believable manner. While Marvel Studios may not have made Morbius, the MCU's influence certainly came in handy with a character that utilized so many visual effects in his creation.

Morbius will debut in theaters on April 1, 2022.


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