Taika Waititi's Thor: Love and Thunder was the latest movie to be added to the interconnected Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film featured Chris Hemsworth returning as Thor to take on Christian Bale's Gorr the God Butcher, who was trying to enact his revenge on all of the gods after the death of his daughter. Love and Thunder also saw the return of a character that made her debut over a decade ago in 2011's Thor - Natalie Portman's Jane Foster.
After not seeing each other for eight years, seven months, and six days, the God of Thunder and Jane were reunited. However, to Thor's surprise, Jane was now wielding a repaired Mjolnir and was known as the Mighty Thor.
Due to Jane being regarded as a superhero after wielding Mjolnir, she had her own suit of armor that looked similar to Thor's. However, fans quickly noticed that the helmet appeared to be fully CGI, and criticisms of the decision came fast. Now that Love and Thunder has its own behind-the-scenes documentary on Disney+, the producers have explained why they made that decision.
The Reason Behind Jane Foster's CGI Helmet
Thor: Love and Thunder was released on Disney+ as part of Disney+ Day. An episode of Marvel Studios: Assembled was also dropped on the streaming service to accompany the film, offering insight into the filming process and featuring behind-the-scenes looks at the movie.
In the documentary, Love and Thunder producer Brad Winderbaum talked about the decision to make Jane Foster's Mighty Thor helmet fully CGI. This is a choice that some fans criticized, but the producer stated that adding the helmet later "help(ed) (them) from a performance standpoint." He also added that the helmets are "not always the most comfortable things" to wear and that they can even affect the actor's performance sometimes:
"Those helmets are really well-designed, but they’re not always the most comfortable things in the world. Sometimes they’re heavy, they change your posture. But if you can eliminate all of that and have a VFX artist put it in later, then that’s what you do. Our CG artists have gotten so great at creating reflective surfaces like the helmet, that it actually helps us from a performance standpoint."
Costume designer Mayes C. Rubeo also talked about the ideas for the helmet, saying that it was inspired by "old comic books" so it could have a "vintage feeling" to it. She added that they "didn't want to hide too much of (Portman's) eyes and her features:"
"The helmet that we have, we went back to the old comic books and got that vintage feeling for it. And we adapted to the beautiful face of Natalie Portman, but we didn’t want to hide too much of her eyes and her features. It’s very easy not to lose her because she’s unique."
Even though a fully CGI helmet helped the crew members and the actors, some fans were disappointed with how it looked in the final cut.
Twitter user @keonm27 expressed that "physical sets and costumes are so much better," and also mentioned how Black Bolt had a CGI helmet in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness:
"The issue isn’t that the CGI marvel uses for absolutely everything is bad, it’s that physical sets and costumes are so much better?? Like why does Jane Foster need a completely CG helmet? Why did black bolt’s suit need to be all CGI? They’re just overworking their digital artists"
@leekassen also took to Twitter to say "Jane Foster's helmet looks like a fucking Snapchat filter."
Black Bolt was brought up again along with the question of why Portman couldn't wear a real helmet by @Mezer0 via Twitter, who also added that the helmet "looks distractingly bad:"
"CGI on Jane Foster's Helmet in the Thor 4 trailer looks distractingly bad, why can't they just get Natalie Portman to wear the helmet. It was the same for a certain character in Doctor Strange 2, they wore a full face mask but it was CG'd on top and was noticeably distracting."
Twitter user @SamDev93 also expressed disappointment, saying "Jane Foster with the helmet looks so fake."
Should Jane Foster's Helmet Have Been Practical?
If someone were to ask a filmmaker or a costume designer whether a practical or a fully CGI costume looks better, they would probably say practical at least 90% of the time. Obviously, if it can be created with real materials then it is going to look more realistic than something generated from a computer.
As long as the CGI doesn't distract the viewer from the film itself, then there is really no reason to not use it if it's needed. Most filmmakers and actors would probably sacrifice something like a helmet looking 100% real if it meant the actor's performance was better.
The same concept is applied to Spider-Man; not just the mask, but the entire suit is CGI. If Tom Holland were to have a mask on that he couldn't see out of, it would definitely affect his performance. Also, the other cast members have to be taken into account, too. It is probably much easier to get into character and act if someone is looking at their co-star's face rather than a helmet or a mask.
In any circumstance, CGI can always look better. At some point in the future, it can probably be perfected to look absolutely flawless. With the limitations that VFX artists still have due to COVID-19 and the fact that they are constantly working extremely hard and trying to meet deadlines, it isn't going to be perfect, but they are going to do the best they can. If an actor's performance is going to change because of a costume, it would probably be best to go the CGI route and make the story of the project as good as it can be.
Thor: Love and Thunder is now available to stream on Disney+.