With Taika Waititi’s epic Viking love story, Thor Love & Thunder set to impress us on July 8th, it’s important to note just how mighty an undertaking this fantasy epic is from a Visual Effects perspective. Even for a Marvel Picture, Love & Thunder set the Phase Four and MCU record for the number of Special Effects studios involved. Eclipsing Odinson’s previous outing Thor Ragnarok by two, as well as the recent Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Marvel is known for outsourcing its pipeline of visual effects to multiple studios in an effort to save time, which has led to criticism in the past. With tight turnaround times, scrapping of entire sets, and last-minute reshoots this can lead to Special F/x that either look unfinished or are unbefitting of a $200 million budget. Add to that COVID fatigue and things can get a whole lot worse.
Work-from-home crunch along with a backlog of studio projects; many of which are Marvel films making it difficult to coordinate away from home and not even the biggest visual effects studios in the world can wield the power of Mjolnir alone. Guess that’s why Thor is out looking for a partner in this one.
Interestingly, the Marvel Cinematic Universe television show that came closest in the amount of varied visual effects needed wasn’t Loki but in fact, the action-heavy early phase series Falcon and the Winter Soldier which involved a lot of different real-world locations, animating The Falcon’s wingsuit and The Winter Soldier’s metal arm.
Love and Thunder has nearly double the special f/x studios involved than the MCU’s highest-grossing entry Spider-Man: No Way Home (7) and six times fellow Chris Pratt starring blockbuster Jurassic World: Dominion (2). Surprisingly, its closest competitor at the box office is the comparatively modest $85 million priced Tom Hanks starring film Elvis (11).
As for the studios themselves, you have your Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), Weta Digital, and Digital Domain on almost every list, with Sony Imageworks chipping in of course for the Spider-Man.
Will this course of action continue? All signs point to yes. With the final pre-Covid movie Minions: Rise of Gru releasing, we are getting into the grunt of pandemic Visual F/X work. And there are still major gaps in the release schedule. It seems all audiences can do is wait between big Marvel releases filling the calendar. And Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige’s visual effects strategy despite an increasing overhead (the last three films cost $200 million) hasn’t hurt them yet. For what it’s worth Eternals (5) had better visual effects than most marvel projects, but as the critics showed, beauty isn’t everything.
The thirteen studios are listed as follows on the website Art of VFX:
Weta FX (VFX Supervisor: Luke Millar)
Rising Sun Pictures
ILM (On-set VFX Supervisor: Frazer Churchill)
Luma Pictures (VFX Supervisor: Andrew Zink)
EDI Effetti Digitali Italiani
Mammal Studios (VFX Supervisor: Gregory D. Liegey)
Fin Design + Effects
Cinesite (VFX Supervisor: Artemis Oikonomopoulou)
Outpost VFX (VFX Supervisor: Mathieu Assemat)
Comparable MCU Films
- Endgame had 12
- Dr. Strange 2 had 10
- Ragnarok had 10
- Shang-Chi had 9
- Black Widow had 8
- No Way Home had 7
- Eternals had 5
Comparable MCU Television Shows
- Falcon and the Winter Soldier 12
- Wandavision had 10
- Loki has 10
- Ms. Marvel has 8
- Hawkeye has 6
- Moon Knight has 5
- What If has 1
- Elvis had 11
- Stranger Things 4 had 11
- Obi-Wan Kenobi had 7
- Top Gun: Maverick had 4
- Jurassic World: Dominion had 2
Warner Bros. Comparisons
Zack Snyder’s Justice League (10)
Dune (4), Ready Player One (3)