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The beginning of Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man features an absolutely stunning visual effect. Set in the late 1980s, the sequence puts a spotlight on a digitally de-aged Michael Douglas as he berates some head members of S.H.I.E.L.D., and you’d think the guy just stepped off of the set of Wall Street. As amazing as it is, however, it was this moment in the film that the director found to be the most terrifying of the entire production – knowing that the effect would be a huge make-or-break moment for the movie.
I few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down for an extended chat with Peyton Reed to talk about the production of Ant-Man, and it was during the discussion of the key flashback sequence that the filmmaker explained just how nerve-wracking it was to put into motion. He said,
The single most terrifying visual effect in the movie to me is scene one in the S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters with Michael Douglas… If that didn’t work, we were screwed, because you’re going to be in some weird uncanny valley as a viewer. ‘That’s terrible. This doesn’t work. I’m out.’ You could potentially lose an audience member in the very first scene if that didn’t work.
One can easily see where Peyton Reed is coming from here – and one only really needs to point to the digital Jeff Bridges featured in Joseph Koskinski’s Tron Legacy. That visual effect never really looked quite as good as it should have, and it wound up received a less-than-positive response from the audience. The young Dr. Hank Pym doesn’t have anywhere near the amount of screen time that the young Bridges’ character did, but the fact that he is featured in the opening scene of the film could have really turned movie-goers off.
Thankfully, Reed found himself working for a studio that has produced more than a few big projects featuring characters undergoing massive physical changes. The director put his faith in the hands of the VFX company Lola, with which Marvel Studios has worked before, and while things seemed shaky for a long time, Reed couldn’t ultimately argue with the result:
Lola, the company who did it, who had done the “Skinny Steve’ stuff from the first Captain America - that stuff was so great. But we didn’t know until scarily close to the end whether that was going to work.
Those of you who are planning to see Ant-Man this weekend should plan to be totally amazed by the digital de-aging the film features. After you see it, head back here and tell us what you thought!