These days we take it for granted that the movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will feature amazing action sequences. And with so many different characters with their own special skill sets, we expect each MCU hero to engage in battle with the latest world-threatening nemesis differently. That means each action sequence has to stay true to the characters while serving the film's story, and of course, keeping movie-goers entertained. It's no wonder that every one of these scenes takes meticulous planning, but sometimes that planning takes a lot more than a storyboard. That's where a technique called visualization comes in.
In support of the home release of Spider-Man: Far From Home, the world's largest visualization studio The Third Floor shared some secrets about making two of the film's key action sequences at a special presentation. The team at The Third Floor works with a film's directors and other departments to figure out the movement and other elements of complex action scenes. This starts before the movie even begins filming and continues throughout the production process.
As The Third Floor's CEO and founder Chris Edwards summed up, "All these [action] shots are prescribed and very specific. And need to be done in layers and technically broken down so that they're even achievable on set, much less to explain what’s going on to the actors."
In the case of Far From Home, The Third Floor previsualized many of the movie's key scenes in order to plan the movement of the different characters and imagine the action and camera shots. Then once the movie was in production, the studio continued to work with filmmakers to visualize the film's environments, computer graphics and illusions. And as anyone who has seen the film knows, Mysterio's illusions were a key part of the film's action.
This created the need to walk a fine line between the fantasy of Mysterio's illusion and the reality of Spider-Man springing into action, and it was one of the challenges The Third Floor faced when visualizing the Molten Man sequence for Far From Home. A team led by previs supervisor, Brian Carney had to work out how to make sure Spidey remained a big part of the sequence while also ensuring that he never interacted with Mysterio's Molten Man illusion. Not exactly an easy task.
Carney confessed that initially, Spider-Man would just watch a lot of the fight, but that wasn't true to the Web-Slinger we know. So Carney and his team had to figure out how to make sure Spidey was an active leader during the action while also plausibly ensuring he never interacted with Molten Man in a way that would clue him into the fact that the Elemental was being controlled by Mysterio. The solution: creating a crack in the Earth that put Spidey's friends in danger -- a solution that distracted the character long enough to allow Mysterio to be the hero. An added bonus for the team was their solution also influenced part of the movie's story.
The Third Floor team also discussed the challenges they encountered with planning the final battle between Spider-Man and Mysterio. When visualization supervisor, Shannon Justison started work on the film, it had already been assembled into a rough cut. However, there were concerns about the way Spider-Man came across in the final battle. Specifically filmmakers felt Spider-Man wasn’t being "Spider-Man-y enough." There was a feeling that the character was behaving more like a combination of the Hulk and Iron Man.
Justison and her team had to determine how to ensure the sequence included a big moment that was pure Spider-Man. They came up with ideas that showcased Spider-Man in action using abilities that none of the other Avengers had. Eventually, in collaboration with director Jon Watts, they came up with the idea to have Spidey use his webbing to string together Mysterio's drones and electrocute them, leading them all to light up.
The whole sequence only occupies a short amount of screen time. Clearly, though, a great deal of thought, planning, and creativity went into creating it. The Third Floor's work demonstrates just how much creative problem-solving goes into each frame of a single MCU film.
Helmed by Jon Watts, Spider-Man: Far from Home stars Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, J.B. Smoove, Jacob Batalon and Martin Starr, with Marisa Tomei and Jake Gyllenhaal. Spider-Man: Far From Home is available now on Digital and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and DVD.