Set Visit: Fantastic Four (2/2)
Tour: Part 1 / Tour: Part 2 / Q&A
Here's the continuation from to the first part of our FANTASTIC FOUR set visit, which included a breakdown of the fantastic foursome's history, the sets, including the Baxter Building, Victor Von Doom's Medical Compound, as well as his Industries Office. CLICK HERE to read all about those bits.
TOURING THE ART DEPARTMENT
At Vancouver Studios, Gorder continued his tour by taking us through the art department; where set decorators, prop masters, model builders, graphic designers, set designers all work their craft. Gorder continued discussing the film, as well as some of the props and models we saw along the way. Here are some of the highlights:
- In the world of comics, the awareness of the Fan 4 has a higher rating of awareness than Batman.
- Looking at a scale model of the Brooklyn Bridge, where a huge action sequence will take place, he explained that they built a section of it in Vancouver, identical in scale to the real bridge, the reason being that shooting on the actual bridge would cause a lot of inconveniences as well as costing a mint. So they shot plate shots of the actual bridge in New York, shooting helicopter shots and angles by a spacecam which will all be extended up onto the Vancouver "Brooklyn Bridge" making it virtually undetectable as the imposter.
- When asked whether or not there would be a lot of levity in the film, Gorder expanded on the various tones and themes we could expect in the film:
"We wanted to focus on bringing out the humor and the pathos and the bittersweet moments that we all can relate to as human beings. Ben is sort of the big brother character, maybe the guy that's not so good-looking, but he's the protector and Johnny being the good-looking hotshot that's annoying. So we want to bring those elements out in the characters so that with the demographic we have with the movie, everybody will be able to identify with somebody on the screen. You know, we bring out Sue's smarts and her matronly qualities and Reed is the professor, he's got all the advice and he feels very guilty that Ben is transformed and disfigured.
Ben learns to deal with his disfigurement like anybody else that would be handicapped, you learn to live with it; he doesn't mope about it. But Reed feels particularly guilty… and they're friends, they're best friends. So we want to bring out all those relationships and the character arcs because it's very important that the audience see these characters and can relate to them. It gives texture to them and makes them more real. This is a difficult comic to bring to the screen, if you do the story wrong it could end up being campy. Roger Corman did sort of a camp version, but for the price he made it for- it was brilliant, but it was campy. So if you lean too much towards making the characters exactly the way they are in the comic books then it doesn't translate onto film and it sort of becomes high camp. We discovered that with the X-MEN movies, how we brought it into the reality."
- In the props department, we spotted a Wired magazine that will be used in the film, with Reed Richards on the cover as well as an edition of The New York Post with The Thing on the front page with a title that reads: "New York's Newest Heroes."
- Walking outside the building, we saw a truck carrying Johnny's Porsche on its crane, completely crushed and bundled up in a nice round ball. The Thing's doing… naturally. The keys were still in the ignition.
THE FX OF F4
Finally, to close out this report, I’ll offer up an overview of an interview we did with Kurt Williams, the film’s visual effects supervisor. Seeing as the film will require a lot of digital work, especially with Mr. Fantastic, The Invisible Woman and The Human Torch, he was the ideal person to answer all the questions we had pertaining to how they’d believably bring the superheroes’ superpowers to life on celluloid. He added there’ll be 800 -1000 separate effects shot used in the film.
Kurt began by explaining that he’s referencing the comic book a lot, trying to find images from there that would translate well to a live action movie. They’re going to go to great lengths to ensure that the characters are as organic as possible, which includes a musculature and anatomical set of rules that apply to humans, this is especially vital for Mr. Fantastic and his extension abilities. They’re always asking themselves if that “character has attributes from our world.”
So, here is a point form summary of our discussion with him,
focusing on the five main characters, along with some quotes for
some of the more crucial, technical points he brought up:
We were shown some initial testing they did on the computer for Mr. Fantastic, which visualized the elasticity and “snapping back” of his arm. Fantastic will also master his expansion abilities, especially towards the latter part of the film when he will turn his body into a couple of things. Williams elaborated a little more on the stretching:
“A lot of times in the books, especially with Mr. Fantastic, his stretching is very tubular in nature and one of the things that will help translate from the comic book to the movie is to create a weight and a physics that apply in a real world. A lot of times those physics aren’t from our world necessarily, but they’re from a world that actually has weight and physics and when he reaches out, for that action there has to be a reaction, so in other words, if Mr. Fantastic stretches, we’ll never leave it like that; to where if a human had his arm stretched twenty feet he would be able to stand there as if it doesn’t have weight; when he stretches out, it snaps back. “
THE HUMAN TORCH
Torch will admittedly be one of the most difficult characters to bring to screen. Regarding the sounds of the flames, they will be heard, in some case even before he begins to torch, as a cue to what’s coming. Williams spoke about all the lengths they’re going to in making the hotshot pilot’s superhero powers realistically shine onscreen:
one of the most challenging characters that I’ve ever done and
most certainly in movies because we have to bring a flaming man onto
the screen that doesn’t look animated, it has to feel like he’s
really on fire. In order to do that we’ve had to create different
stages of his development where in the very beginning of the movie,
he snaps his fingers and flame shoots up, and it starts very small
and that’s going to feel like an actual flame element that
doesn’t necessarily take over his body.
Later on, as his skills become more refined, he has to actually create heat and the flame has to come off his body as a result. So we’re creating various layers and those are just face layers combined in those images. We’ve got about 6 or 7 layers that we can put into any one shot depending upon its intent and how hot he’s getting. When he goes supernova it’s going to be very white hot, what’ll happen is the heat will come off his hands, for instance, and like a solar flare off of the sun, as it lifts off the hot surface, in the case of Johnny, that heat will be exposed to oxygen, and then will create flame.
We’re creating him in such a way where we’re using real
fire elements and that’s important. We have to create this effect
with him where he is photo real and he’s got to generate fire from
within his body. You’re going to see the skin on his body change
as he’s generating that fire. That’s going to create an organic
feel that’ll make the audience believe that he is really on fire.
One of the things that was important to Tim [Story] and I as we started developing these characters is that we’d always have the performance of our characters – that we really don’t go to a completely animated character until we really have to. Tim wanted the performance of the characters on the set, with the other actors. And so we set out to do that and it’s a little more work on our part but I think it creates a more organic feel to the scene and you don’t feel like you’re jumping off into animation suddenly, so as an audience member I think it’s going to flow very well. You’re not really going to know where the animated parts are or where the real performances are.
For instance, with Johnny, every time he starts to torch up,
or if he’s partially torched, we’ll be bringing Chris Evans’
performance back through the effects. So, we always have the real
actor in the shot, the real movement.”
THE INVISIBLE WOMAN
Jessica’s actual performance will be captured, it will then be rotomated and a CG character will be put over that performance. He assured us that it wouldn’t have the feel of an animated character that may not have the weight, feel or reaction of Jessica’s performance. Her true performance will shine through. The outline of her body will be there, in a very subtle way, so a lot of the time the audience will be able to see and read her facial expressions. HOLLOW MAN and PREDATOR were just a couple of films they studied in trying to create their own organic effect that’ll be used to fully service her character. He then expanded on the uses Sue will have of her force field, at different stages in the film:
begins as a very defensive thing in her character where she
generates her force field as she has to defend herself or the other
Fantastic Four. Towards the end of the movie she gets to where she
can really generate it and use it more offensively.”
He went on to discuss what Sue will have to deal with as she begins to discover her powers:
a character that her powers are somehow reliant on her emotions and
that’s one of the driving forces behind the Sue character.
Sometimes she’s better at being invisible when she gets angry. One
of the issues with her character is that she has to control her
emotions in order to manage her powers, and that’s what she learns
in this movie. So we have to prove that to the audience – when she
gets angry, she disappears. Sometimes she’s not so good at it at
first and she’ll come back a bit and we’ll see a little bit more
of Jessica and then she’ll disappear again. She’s a very
emotionally driven character in the movie, they all are in a way.”
The Thing will be predominantly prosthetic, using, for the most part, the suit they fashioned for Michael Chiklis. One of the ways they’ll contribute to his performance is by the reaction of the outside environment to his weight. Examples that were given are bricks crumbling off a building he brushes up against or a pavement caving in when he lands on it. One occasion where they will be using a completely CG Thing is in a scene in which he falls from a window and falls down to the city block.
The F4’s arch-enemy will mostly be done with practical effects (with regards to prosthetics) until it gets to the point where his electrically-powered energy blasts will come into play. They will be generating some light sources that come from under his skin, which will consequently give an outwardly electrical effect to him. This will help keep it organic, making it come from the inside to him just as it does with Johnny’s flames and Sue’s invisibility. Since they all were all affected by the same radioactive cosmic dust, the progression of their powers and their sources will be quite parallel.
he fully escalates into full ‘Doom’, he has this power that he
sort of controls the energy in a room and the electricity and so
there’s a lot of scenes where he drains the energy in the room and
the lights come down. In the end, that power is sort of his
That concludes my wrap-up of my one-day visit to the set on
movie. As I mentioned in my intro, I
find myself a little more excited than usual for this undertaking
and although it’s impossible to really know what the end result
will be like until I’m sitting in the theater this coming 4th of July, the strides they’re all taking to insure that everything
is as authentic and exciting as the comic book was, is certainly a
pretty good sign.
Stay tuned for the Q&A session we had at the end of our day with Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon, Ioan Gruffud and Chris Evans; as well as director Tim Story, and producers Ralph Winter and Avi Arad.