Version of this story: “Eternals” first appeared in the Below-the-Line Issue of ’s awards magazine.
Matt Aitken, a long-serving visual effects supervisor at Weta Digital has spent his entire career meticulously tinkering with the many. “tasks” (or VFX elements) in a single movie shot. “My previous two projects were ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ and ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ which you can imagine were pretty complex,”He said it from his New Zealand office. “But on ‘Eternals,’ we had about 50,000 tasks to complete, so roughly about 100 tasks per shot. It was a great job and a really, really big one.”
InThe visual effects industry, Aitken credits include Robert Zemeckis’s “Contact,” the “Lord of the Rings”And “Hobbit”Trilogies and “Avatar.”Two Oscar nominations have been given to him for his work. “District 9”And “Avengers: Endgame,”This year and the next “Eternals”This film was one of 10 that were shortlisted for the Best Visual Effects Oscar.
Marvel Cinematic Universe Part “Eternals”We are introduced to a new breed of superheroes. These synthetic creations were once played by Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek. Kumail Nanjiani was also a part of the cast.
The film was directed by last year’s Oscar-winner Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”Aitken said that he was able to transition easily from the arthouse to MCU. “There was no learning curve with Chloé,”He stated. “She had a huge background in watching manga and watching other superhero films and I got a sense that there were always going to be effects-driven films in her oeuvre. She is the same artist, but it’s just that she has multiple canvases she operates on.”
Aitken had been greatly moved by “The Rider,” Zhao’s 2016 film set in South Dakota. “‘Nomadland’ came out while we were working on ‘Eternals’ and I thought that was a profound film. For ‘Eternals,’ she was a great choice because it was a completely new project. It isn’t building on established MCU characters or or effects and it couldn’t look too much like ‘Doctor Strange’ or ‘Iron Man.’ It’s the classic thing where you know what it’s not supposed to look like, but it takes a bit of thinking and brainstorming to find out what is it supposed to look like.”
Aitken and Weta worked together on the design of Deviants, along with the effects house ILM. “They might have recognizable animal forms, like a wolf or a bear,”Aitken said, “but up close, you see they’re not made of skin on top of muscle and skeleton. They’re made from lots of tendrils, and the rigging team built controls into the Deviants so that there was secondary motion and those tendrils would ripple against each other.”Deviants develop into more advanced forms of physicality as they gain more energy.
Kro is the most advanced of the races, and a hyper-intelligent being. His appearance was meticulously planned by Zhao and his effects team. “Kro has a humanoid form but we really focused on his face,”Aitken. “We had up to 30 different models of his face mocked up, and those were for Chloé and the filmmakers to pick aspects from, in order to give us notes on how to build him.”
It was essential to get the details right. “Kro’s got four eyes,”Aitken laughed. “And I remember there were some particular notes about shaping his brows, since the brow brings so much to bear in the range of human expressions.”
But Kro’s not human, a challenge in bringing the character fully to life. Bill Skarsgård (well remembered for another inhuman creature, Pennywise the Clown in “It”) performed the voice of Kro and was on the set to provide a baseline of facial motion capture. “Bill was wearing a head-mounted camera rig to film his face,”Aitken. “And then we scrutinized the footage to replicate what Bill was doing, but we also had the option to keyframe (select snippets of footage to animate), which we felt was the best way to honor that performance and that character.”
Kro is only in a handful of scenes “Eternals,”His presence combines pure malevolence and a touch of woe.
“He’s a formidable opponent, but we knew he couldn’t be just a simple monster,”Aitken stated. “The Deviants are kind of a failed experiment, so Kro needed to be subtle and sympathetic as well. Which, of course, is emblematic of Chloé’s style.”