With all of the space alien technology and super powers that make up such a large part of Captain Marvel, it's not exactly a shock that there are a ridiculous number of visual effects shots in the film. However, a significant portion of the visual effects are actually dedicated to something surprisingly terrestrial, making Samuel L. Jackson looks like his circa 1990s self.
Because Captain Marvel is set prior to the events of most of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but includes the character of Nick Fury, who we know well from those movies, the film had to use visual effects to de-age Samuel L. Jackson. While these sorts of effects have been used in films before, because of Jackson's significant role in the movie, the number of shots that had to be de-aged by the post production was quite significant. According to visual effects producer Victoria Alonzo...
Sam hasn’t changed much, and yet, you can see he has. He’s such an iconic actor and everyone knows who he is. So, if you do it wrong, it’s very clear. And we have maybe 800 shots. That’s a lot of de-aging of Sam Jackson.
On the one hand it seems like a lot, but of course, Samuel L. Jackson has the second largest role in the entire movie. It's that fact that actually makes the whole thing so obviously insane. Marvel made a movie where everybody knew going in that every time we saw Samuel L. Jackson's face the post-production team was going to have work to do.
It's not uncommon for a modern blockbuster superhero movie to have somewhere in the neighborhood of 2500-3000 digital effects shots in the film if not more. And so, while 800 is but a fraction of that, it is certainly a significant fraction. And in the case of a movie like Captain Marvel, it was going to have the same number of digital effects shots as your average superhero movie anyway, so most of the de-aging was likely on top of all that.
Victoria Alonzo also points out, in one of the special features attached to the Captain Marvel Blu-ray, that doing the de-aging right on Samuel L. Jackson was especially important. Jackson was already a movie star throughout the 1990s, the era in which Captain Marvel takes place, which means we all know exactly what he looked like back then. A less than accurate de-aging job on an unknown face might work out fine, but if post-production doesn't get Jackson's face right, we all know it.
It wasn't all that long ago, I'm thinking of 2010's Tron: Legacy, where using digital effects to de-age somebody found us deep in the uncanny valley. Today, as Captain Marvel shows, it's actually remarkably effective.
Captain Marvel is now available in Digital HD and will arrive on Blu-ray June 11.