ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with Jake Morrison, the VFX supervisor at Thor: love and thunder, about what it’s like to bring Marvel visuals to life. The film is available digitally now and opens on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD on September 27.
“The fourth installment finds Thor on a journey unlike anything he has ever faced: a search for inner peace. But his retreat is interrupted by a galactic assassin known as Gorr the God Butcher, who seeks the extinction of the gods,” reads the film’s synopsis. To combat the threat, Thor enlists the help of the Valkyrie King, Korg, and his ex-girlfriend Jane Foster, who, to Thor’s surprise, inexplicably wields his magical hammer, Mjolnir, as the Mighty Thor. Together, they embark on a harrowing cosmic adventure to unravel the mystery of the Butcher God’s revenge and stop him before it’s too late.”
Tyler Treese: As visual effects supervisor, he manages a lot of the project. With Marvel movies, you take a look at these credits and the number of people involved is mind-boggling. You’re working with so many great people, but what’s it like piloting a boat like that?
Jake Morrison: Yes, it is one thing; there is no doubt there. You start with a relatively controllable number of key visual effects companies that are going to be like… for example, we knew that Weta [FX] we were going to do our final battle. We knew that method [Studios] We were going to do the Moon of Shame. So you start with those key pieces and then… honestly, you try to keep it contained as sensitively as possible. But because of, I wouldn’t say it’s [a] Marvel Factor: I think it’s just [a] make cinema factor. As he has shot the movie and begins to put it together, the opportunities start to show up in terms of what the story is. A particular actor’s performance might be stronger in this, or you might suddenly decide, “well, what if we do this?”
And then we get additional photos, so you can start adding more pieces. And so, in order not to overload those providers, it ends up bringing in more providers. I think we maxed out at 25 different vendors on this image. So from a practical standpoint, and God bless you guys for asking this, because it’s like… it’s definitely something for my team, because we’re actually a relatively small team. It’s me and my VFX producer, Lisa. [Marra] — the key association type there — and then we have a small team of coordinators, probably 10 or more. And then each of those coordinators has one or two vendors. So what I do from a practical standpoint is start the morning, because we’re in Los Angeles, start the day and talk to Europe and chase the sun. Go from Europe to London, to New York, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Los Angeles.
You then head to New Zealand in the afternoon. We had Adelaide, China… I mean basically you sweep the world, that’s how you do it. And then you finish the day at the time you finish, because there are other things to do afterward as well. Then you get up and do it all over again. You get used to different time zones because you have international date lines, so certain providers will pull out because it’s their weekend or it’s not, or suddenly Sunday gets a lot busier because it’s actually Monday in New Zealand, and at a certain time there is no weekend And why would there be? you just work.
You mentioned planning the final battle. There’s a lot to that, but what are some of the smaller elements in a movie like Thor: Love and Thunder that end up being difficult to pull off and that viewers wouldn’t really think about?
Trying to find new things to do with the hammer, that’s the first thing because we’ve done a lot of things with the hammer. Trying to make lightning look better, I think I’ll say it because this is my room Thor movie, oddly enough. So you tend to get a ton of lightning looking effects. So you try and basically make every battle sequence the best it can be. The fact that Natalie’s hammer could be broken into multiple pieces gave me something else to play with from an action standpoint. Now we had… as someone once said, if all you have is a hammer, everything seems to be a nail.
Suddenly we don’t have a hammer, we have a laser-guided machine gun that only kills bad guys. So it’s fun to think of different ways to do it. What most people wouldn’t take away from the movie, because I hope it comes naturally, is… Taika [Waititi]The edict from the beginning for me was: “I have these huge stages, I have one in the golden temple, so we have all the gods, we have all the gods you can imagine. “Then we have the shadow creatures. The shadow creatures, Gorr released them, and apart from a couple of keys that everyone liked and we did repeat a little bit, I’d say 98% of those two huge categories have no repeats, which from the point of view of VFX is almost impossible because there is always some kind of efficiency. If you do it as a football crowd, you’re going to have mostly bipedal humans in a variety of outfits. You basically roll the dice and get a number of different variations.
With this, Taika said, “I don’t want to see the same one again. I want to see gods with big heads, little gods. I want to see gods 18 feet tall. I want to see gods that are only made of eyeballs.” It was basically a dare, he just said, “Okay, you guys are going to think about it.” So I think from a casual standpoint, from an audience standpoint, you wouldn’t know that, say, if we take the shadow creatures, here’s something that no one would know about the shadow creatures: every creature in Shadows are born from a shadow, but their form is created based on the thing that casts the shadow.
So if, for example, as in the children’s bedroom, the first [in] Molly’s bedroom, the light source casts a shadow and it’s a spiky plant or something. The resulting creature will be spiky. Or if you have a soft shape, like a bicycle tire or something, the resulting creature will have tentacles. So we put this huge amount of backstory and development into these things that never get explained. It doesn’t make sense in the movie for the actors to sit around and talk like, “Well, these shadow creatures are certainly scary. Well, I wonder if they look like this. All they wanted was wave after wave of insane Avengers, but it was crucial to the Marvel team and to Taika that we have some kind of form tracking feature. There is a reason they do these things. It’s not just a bunch of cloned monsters.
So stuff like that…there’s only a million of those. If I told you how many rounds we put on Jane Foster’s little transponder that he uses to look at parts and get readings, you probably wouldn’t believe it. Are so many. It had solid dials, it had this, it was an iPad-type thing, it had waveform readouts. All this is the invisible work that we are doing in each film. It’s really fun, really fun stuff to do, but I guess the only way it works is that people don’t even notice it.
You’ve worked on all four Thor movies. What was it like to see his journey in this movie. When he becomes a father at the end, I felt very satisfied as a viewer. So what has it been like to see that growth on screen?
Oh, it’s been lovely. The point is that you see it on the screen and then you are also working with the same actors. I worked in the first avengers image, so I worked with Chris [Hemsworth] and that gang, with tom [Hiddleston] and those guys for years. This is how you grow as people. Probably, I don’t know, if I say it’s been 12 years or something since I started working on the first one, could it be true? It probably is. That’s a lot of life to share with this. No one was more surprised than all of us when Taika took thor ragnarok and he really took it down and walked away with the new playbook. He broke his hammer, he cut off his hair, he put him on a planet where everyone else is already a superhero, so there’s no advantage to being Thor.
[He] basically cut the teeth of the whole thing, which I think was great. You couldn’t do that story again because it’s like a purely pessimistic story. So what is he most afraid of? It’s the commitment and it’s the people he loves to hurt in some way. [It] It was a really engaging and interesting angle for Taika to come to this one. Ultimately, it will be a sad story because the heroine dies at the end. That’s how that goes. But the journey itself, I think there’s enough emotional complexity there that, along with the jokes, there’s enough room for Chris to really let the character grow. For me, he has been great. He is great.
These things come every four years and it’s been a privilege to work on them. There’s one thing I can tell you that’s great about him. Thor movies: It’s that there’s no set playbook, in terms of what you can put on the screen visually. Whether it’s a geopolitical thriller or a movie set on a train, you pretty much know what you’re going to be doing in your day job. When you sign up for a Thor movie, all you know is that it’s going to be absolutely anything. The space dolphins were not at the launch meeting. Just imagining that environment, like you have the space ship that’s traveling and then what does space look like?
We spent hours and hours and hours collecting. I wanted the space to be more like Doug Trumbull’s cool stuff, like from the ’70s. They were doing oil and water, like the original star trek movie – things like that or 2001: a space odyssey, where they used all this really weird chemistry, literally physical chemistry, to see into space. So I wanted to include some of that in this movie. A little of that and that frozen liquid stuff of the northern lights that the goat boats pass over. At the same time, if you told me at the beginning of the project [that] I was going to have to work on the engineering… “okay, there’s going to be a boat and it’s going to fly and it’s going to be pulled by mega screaming goats, but we’re going to have to make a rainbow bridge and what we’re going to take away the ax we gave him last avengers imagine and shoot the Bifrost down, creating a solid bridge that the goats’ hooves will then smash into, kicking up crystalline shards and finally destroying the bridge when the ship’s keel breaks through it. And by the way, this time we’re going to make it a full rainbow. We are not just going to waste time, as we did in thor 1 with the Loki vs Thor fight on the bridge. It’s actually Roy G. Biv. We are filled with rainbows.” You can’t do that in most movies. It’s pretty random.