Avengers: Endgame is the second highest grossing movie of all time with its sights set on becoming number one. The culmination of eleven years of storytelling spread out through 22 installments is unheard of and Marvel Cinematic Universe fans are pretty happy with the way everything worked out. Now, Marvel Studios is starting to give us a peek behind-the-scenes to see how the final epic battle was constructed, along with some other VFX secrets that helped bring the movie to life on the big screen.
The final battle in Endgame features just about every living character from the MCU going up against Thanos and his army, five years after the Decimation. There are way too many A-List stars on the screen at one time, which is only one aspect that makes the scene so breathtaking. Weta Digital’s visual effects supervisor Matt Aitken recently sat down to discuss how the battle came to life. He had this to say.
“It’s interesting, with this one, the environment underwent a big change after the plates for the battle were filmed. So the end battle was largely filmed in a block of additional photography which ran from September to October (of 2018) in Pinewood Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, and they were shooting on multiple stages with multiple units running at the same time. We have the Avengers compound, which is on the banks of the Hudson River in upstate New York with woods around it.
So the environment would be a combination of destroyed built environment, with certainly dirt, a lot of rubble and building elements, but also some busted trees and tree stumps and burnt out trees. But when it was all cut together and assembled in a rough cut with pre-vis, those tree stumps that they’d dressed the sets with became a bit more prevalent than they had anticipated and wanted the scene to look like.
Because it sort of read more like they were fighting in the ruins of a bombed out forest rather than the ruins of a bombed out Avengers compound. So for a majority of the sequences, we actually ended up roto-ing the characters off the environment and replacing the environment with a fully CG bombed out crater.”
As for bringing the entire cast together for the epic battle, that was a bit on the difficult side and many had to be placed in digitally. However, that doesn’t mean that a lot of them weren’t on the set of Avengers: Endgame at the same time. As we’ve seen from the cast’s set videos, there were plenty of instances where there were numerous heroes on screen at the same time and in real-life. Matt Aitken remembers thinking about a specific entrance during the final battle and how it had to go down. He had this to say.
“There’s another example, though, which is actually the portal shot of Titan. We really just see Titan really clearly in one of the portal shots, but it’s a key shot because we have Drax and Mantis and Strange and we see Quill turn up, and everybody’s waiting to see Spidey, because everybody was devastated by Spidey’s blip at the end of Infinity War. I anticipated how this was going to play out, and the couple of times I’ve seen the film with a live audience, it’s actually completely played like this.
You know people are recognizing Titan, they see Strange and Drax and Mantis, and they think, ‘Ah, this is potentially where Spidey’s going to come.’ And they see Quill, and they go, ‘Oh my God, there’s only one person missing from Titan now,’ and you see him start to web in in the background, and the crowd just goes crazy at that point. It’s just amazing. The payoff is huge.”
Speaking of the Decimated character’s return, that was another visually stunning piece of the final battle sequence. Just when all hope seems to be lost for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Steve Rogers hears a familiar voice on his radio. Soon after, a bunch of Doctor Strange’s golden portals begin to open, ushering in the Decimated. Matt Aitken remembers this part well and talked about the complexity of it all. You can read what he had to say below.
“I actually haven’t done a count, but I can list them for you. So there’s Wakanda, for sure. New Asgard, which is where Thor and Valkyrie have ended up, in Norway somewhere. Then we’ve got Kamar-Taj, the sorcerers are all coming from Kamar-Taj. We’ve got Contraxia, which is where the Ravagers come from.
We’ve actually got Ravagers coming through on sky cycles from more like a deep space environment. So we just had one of those classic MCU, gloriously colorful sky and star fields that our matte painting team worked up. And then we’ve got Titan as well in a few shots. So… however many that is. (laughs) Six or seven, I suppose.”
Avengers: Endgame has a lot more crazy scenes from a visual effects standpoint, which will hopefully get a lengthy feature in the Blu-ray bonus material. For now, Marvel Studios has released some pretty amazing behind-the-scenes images, breaking down the visual effects process. You can check out some of those images below. The interview with Matt Aitken was originally conducted by Slash Film.