Why Eternals’ VFX Team Had To 'Throw Out' Everything They’d Learned On Previous Marvel Films

Chloé Zhao has developed a distinctive filmmaking style that’s prevalent in every film she directs, including the 2020 Best Picture winner Nomadland. When she was brought on to helm Marvel’s Eternals (which shared a particularly important similarity with Nomadland), she did not compromise her vision, which meant the use of beautiful, wide-angle landscape shots and natural lighting. This was new territory for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so even though the visual effects team had spent over a decade mastering new techniques for the superhero franchise, they essentially had to throw everything they learned out the window. 

CinemaBlend recently spoke with Eternals’ VFX team, and Matt Aitken, the film’s VFX Supervisor from WETA Digital, said the following about scrapping what he’d learned and starting fresh:

It was a new approach to filmmaking from my experience with a number of MCU films that I've done, which is location-based and using natural light, shooting at the end of the day with wide-angle lenses, long takes, particular rigs. So just a whole lot of the stuff that we, you know, the tools and tricks that we've assembled over the years to do our work, to make our work sort of fit in, we had to throw all that stuff out and just come up with with a whole new visual language to match what Chloe was bringing.

Matt Aitken having to develop a “whole new visual language” says quite a lot, as the seasoned expert also worked on Marvel films like Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. The visual scope of those team-up films was huge, with a ton of complex environments for the VFX team to construct. The fact that working with Chloé Zhao was still a brand-new challenge for him is pretty amazing. 

Say what you will about Eternals, but one thing everyone can seem to agree on is that the film is beautiful. It certainly fared better amongst fans than it did critics, but reactions were all-around mixed. Our own Eric Eisenberg even gave it 3 out of 5 stars in his review, though he specified that it was “visually gorgeous” and “unlike anything we’ve seen before in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.” The Marvel movie also did pretty well at the box office and made some great strides for representation. If you’re curious about the post-production process that took place on Eternals, you can check out a short demonstration courtesy of the effects team below.

Outstanding visuals weren’t the only thing that Eternals had to offer, as it also made some bold moves to set the stage for the future of the MCU. This includes, but isn’t limited to, introducing Harry Styles as Eros in one of the end-credits scenes. Luckily for us geeks, there are plenty of other upcoming Marvel movies on the way. We here at CinemaBlend will certainly keep you updated! 

Jeff McCobb
Senior Video Producer

Jeff is a film buff who is full of gratitude that he gets to spout opinions about them for a living. He currently resides in Los Angeles, where he spends his time complaining about Los Angeles.