Wakanda Forever concludes Marvel’s Phase 4 cinematic run. While the Multiverse Saga is well on its way with fans anxiously waiting for what comes next, there’s one thing I can’t help but notice: the CGI seems to be devolving.
I went into Black Panther: Wakanda Forever excited and a little anxious. This was a sequel that had suddenly lost its lead actor, and it was no doubt a challenge to deal with it on and off-screen. Emotions and expectations were high. This was going to be a make-it-or-break-it film and determine whether the franchise could continue.
Well, it hit it out of the park. Not only was the film a touching tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman, but it also proved it was able to provide a story that continued his legacy. It was emotional, moving, funny, and in my book, the second-best film of the MCU’s Phase 4.
… Okay, but there was something wrong with the CGI. I’m sorry but this has to be said: it seems that Marvel is dropping the ball in this department.
[Hero image credit: Disney/Marvel\
Has the CGI in Marvel projects gotten worse over time?
Obviously, I still thought Wakanda Forever was a great film, meaning that the CGI wasn’t bad enough that it distracted from the story… but it was bad enough to notice. In a CG-heavy franchise, it’s concerning. Of course, I’m not trying to take away from the many, many, many times Marvel has done computer-generated graphics brilliantly. The final battle in Avengers: Endgame is still a magnificent spectacle. Loki’s visuals were absolutely stunning. And who could forget Tony taking flight for the first time all the way back in 2008 in Iron Man?
While there are shots here and there throughout the history of the MCU where the CGI was questionable (looking at you, awkward Mark Ruffalo head on the Hulkbuster in Avengers: Infinity War), it was occasional, perhaps even rare. But now it’s starting to become common.
Take Black Widow. The first film of Phase 4 was, surprisingly, a jump back to the history of the legendary spy who had already died in Endgame. I loved it. I thought it was a great film that fleshed out Natasha Romanoff’s story. However, I also couldn’t deny that the last setpiece with the exploding airborne base wasn’t done very well, especially that horrid shot with Florence Pugh. That shot seemed to have come out of a CW show, or I daresay even worse.
Another heavily-panned moment is in Thor: Love and Thunder. In the film, the children of New Asgard are kidnapped by Christian Bale’s Gorr (not to be mistaken as an Australian telling you to run), one of which is Heimdall’s son, who has the ability to communicate via something I’ll call “spectral FaceTime”. It desperately needed a software upgrade.
Perhaps the biggest one that audiences complained about was She-Hulk. Incels and men with small egos aside, fans were concerned about how the character looked when the trailer was finally released. The show was fun and was really a breath of fresh air for the MCU, but while the animation for She-Hulk was smoothed out a bit after the criticism, it was still… meh.
And then there’s Wakanda Forever. I reiterate that the movie was brilliant just because I see you ready with your pitchforks, but it was also the first Marvel film where I had to concede that the CGI was deteriorating. The way Namor was animated and simple things like CGI backgrounds seemed to have been done shoddily.
Coincidentally (or perhaps not), this also comes at the same time that some people who claimed to be former CGI artists for Marvel have spoken up about the working conditions they operated under. Spoiler alert: it’s bad.
“I’ve had to comfort people crying at their desks late at night from the sheer pressure involved, and routinely had colleagues call me having anxiety attacks,” an effects artist CNET interviewed stated. “I’ve heard personally from many artists that they ask to avoid Marvel shows in their future assignments.” VFX artists were reportedly working 60 to 80-hour work weeks.
The same CNET article reported that Marvel is infamous for requesting countless variations of scenes and making changes last minute even if the set release date is just around the corner. The working environments are high-pressure and low-morale and the budgets are low, thus not being enough to afford experienced artists.
Linda Codega writes in Gizmodo, “The VFX industry is deeply broken. It exploits artists using short-term contacts, chases tax incentives across the globe, and creates an environment where production studios, especially an industry giant like Marvel, are treated with a deference that comes at the expense of the artists’ craft and mental health. VFX is a machine designed to destroy artists. And it’s working perfectly.”
It seems that a time of reckoning is upon Marvel. It can’t be definitely confirmed that this is the cause of the faltering CGI in its projects, but it seems to be too much of a coincidence to think that it doesn’t at least play a part in it.
The way Marvel is managing CGI and VFX artists is not working and it’s starting to show. A change needs to happen. As a Marvel fan, the one thing I’ve loved that they’ve done and head honcho Kevin Feige continues to do is to listen to its fans. Hopefully, they’ll listen again.