John Krasinski’s appearance as Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was a dream come true for the many fans who had long been asking him to be cast in the role. Krasinski did a fantastic job (no pun intended) in bringing the character to life, but what is perhaps most memorable about Reed’s role in the film was his horrific death at the hands of Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff/The Scarlet Witch.
In what is arguably one of the most (if not the most) gruesome sequences in MCU history, Wanda systematically ripped through the Illuminati, only briefly wrestling with Hayley Atwell’s Captain Carter and Lashana Lynch’s Captain Marvel. Anson Mount’s Black Bolt shook his own brain with his booming voice, and the proclaimed “smartest man in the world” was turned to spaghetti by Wanda’s reality-bending chaos magic.
Industrial Light and Magic, who brought the battle to life, recently shared exactly how they created these iconic scenes and their surprising inspiration.
ILM shares how they dismantled the Illuminati
In an interview with befores & afters, ILM visual effects supervisor Julian Foddy pulled back the curtain on how special effects studio ripped Reed Richards to pieces with techniques that stunned Black Bolt. The inspiration for Reed’s death, in particular, came “directly from [Marvel Studios president] Kevin Feige:”
“At some point, Wanda Reed Richards (John Krasinski) turns into all these shredded, fibrous forms. The premise was that there was a reference passed to us by Janek Sirrs directly from Kevin Feige. It was someone who ran a lump of modeling clay or Play-doh through a garlic press.
It was not easy to face this kind of fate for Mr. Fantastic to think of. Foddy noted that it was a challenge to “build a setup that didn’t just look like the body geometry was radiating something else.”
Specifically looking for that entangled effect Feige had visualized, they had to: “make up a way to take apart and shred the real model” so that “the correct texture coordinates would pass and be taken with Reed’s ‘strings’ as they were all eaten away.”
Although they achieved the result they were looking for, it was not without its problems. According to Foddy it is “was quite a technical challenge:”
Making it feel like organic material and getting the right amount of flex and balance in the strings when they come off was quite a technical challenge. There were cheats because if you ripped up a real human like that, there would be an awful lot of flesh and blood. This is, of course, a Marvel movie and we don’t want to be too gruesome.
Interestingly enough, Foddy revealed that: “Both Reed and Black Bolt are wearing all-digital suits everywhere.” Even in the close-up scenes where the Inhuman King liquidates his brain with his voice, “that’s a full CG outfit he’s wearing.”
Black Bolt also got his own special treatment for ILM. When Wanda removed Black Bolt’s mouth, the studio used “a CG patch we created using the actor’s texture photography.” In terms of creating his disturbing death scene, Foddy notes: “the way we approached that was to do it almost for real.”
The crew “started by looking at lots of references to things being crushed in slow motion” and “watched human faces in wind tunnels”. Although it is time consuming, Foddy finds the process “was definitely a task worth doing. It really gives some interesting and horrifying results.”
Open the door to a more gruesome MCU?
through everything Doctor Strange in the multiverse of madness, the special effects were absolutely fantastic. This was demonstrated incredibly in the battle with the Illuminati, and the work ILM has done to bring those few second close-up shots to life is testament to the level of care and attention to detail that goes into making these films. .
An interesting question arises: is this the start of a more gruesome MCU?
While it’s certain that no one expects Marvel Studios to turn the franchise into something like Amazon’s the boys, it seems clear that the studio is becoming more and more comfortable with approaching darker and more disturbing themes. Disney+ projects like Moon Knight and movies like Multiverse of madness are in stark contrast to the bright colors and toned-down violence of early MCU items like The Avengers†
The answer here is probably somewhere in between the extremes. In a sensible way, Kevin Feige and his company seem intent on making the style of each project match the nature of the characters they portray. While Moon Knight was at times almost a psychological thriller befitting its tormented protagonist, Mrs. Marvel was shot in a style strongly reminiscent of tee comedy dramas such as MTV’s Uncomfortable.
This approach, in this writer’s opinion, is brilliant. Not only does it keep Marvel projects from feeling like constant repetitions of the same style, but it also creates a deeper focus on the characters. Moon Knight was what it was, because that was the best way to tell Marc Spector’s story. Mrs. Marvel brings the Kamala Khan of the comics to life while having an aura befitting the coming-of-age experience of a teenage girl navigating life in separate worlds.
Multiverse of madness was as much a part of this philosophy as anything else. Sam Raimi’s blockbuster had numerous stylistic elements reminiscent of his earlier works, such as: Evil Dead and army of darkness, which works perfectly for a story that focused just as much on the occult as the Doctor Strange sequel. The confrontation with the Illuminati wasn’t gruesome to just be gruesome; it served as a story point, to show how far Wanda had fallen and what cruelty she would resort to.
It is becoming increasingly clear that although the MCU is a shared universe, the style and cadence of each individual project will be adapted to the characters in it and the story being told. Fans should eagerly await new entries as each promises to bring their favorite characters to life in the most authentic way possible.