Comic book and movie fans love the most recent version of Marvel‘s big green gamma powered machine, the Hulk, but it’s had an abysmal movie run in its past. Ang Lee’s Hulk was embarrassingly terrible while Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk delivered a bit more – thanks in part to Edward Norton, but Marvel Studios and Universal Pictures were both unimpressed with their final box office totals.
Now that we live in a post-Avengers world, we’ve seen what a proper Hulk can act and look like thanks to Joss Whedon, Mark Ruffalo and the many hours of work the wizards in the visual effects business did. With such praise about every aspect of the character’s execution, the Hulk series that ABC and Guillermo del Toro have been “developing” for ages should be a breeze to get going, right?
The movie and television site Screen Rant spoke with Industrial Light and Magic’s Jeff White, one of the Visual Effects Supervisors for The Avengers, and discussed the challenges Guillermo will most likely face for a series based around a different/younger Hulk and Bruce Banner:
“I think we’d have to have a lot of Banner. You know I think from beginning to end we got much faster at doing shots. We learned a lot about the process and about how to light him and how to make him look good. One of the things that was interesting was when we started off we kind of took our typical approach of really art directing the lighting, like rim, rim, rim, you know super stylized. And he really looked fake and kind of popped out. And what we found is that we ended up having to kind of flatten out his lighting to get him to sit in there with the rest of the Avengers. So I think after learning things like that, you know we could – if you’re talking about a TV schedule and how fast you need to turn around production, it would be a matter of, you know trying to build off everything we did for the movie and then, you know get him in there, get him lit. You wouldn’t have time to do the – you know all the really detailed shape, you know per frame corrections that we do.”
Since the Avengers’ Hulk is one of the most sophisticated visual effects of the entire movie, with CGI and motion capture used in a majority of Ruffalo‘s scenes as Hulk, fans are going to expect the same kind of treatment on television. Seeing another actor get painted green and appear once or twice an episode just doesn’t quite cut it anymore, so what kind of quality can we expect?
“I think that would be one of the big challenges. How do you turn that much animation around and still have it be believable? Because there is like animation, then simulation then, you know sort of hand correction after that. And I think where we found the biggest time suck ends up being is all the facial work, getting the eyes to look right and then how much that changes once you start lighting him.”
It all come down to the body type, as The Avengers Hulk was designed specifically for Ruffalo’s body and facial features. Sure, Marvel has the access and knowledge to use the current modeling of the Hulk on TV, but unless Ruffalo signs onto the series (which is highly unlikely) the current character models, motions and emotions are effectively useless. And even with these issues are somehow miraculously sorted out, the main issue is going to be the quality of the character.
White does mention that the TV effects team could possibly “youngify” the Hulk model, saving both the shows budget and visual effects time, but the character would still have to be based on an entirely different actor.
“[Even if you could youngify him], it would still be a challenge because you’d really have to put some thought and design work into it. For us, some of the hardest shots were not Hulk or Banner but what does he look like when he’s half-way there because on one you have a reference of a real guy and on the other you have all this artwork and then half-way in between there’s this weird amalgamation of how much brow and how much cheek and what do his eyes look like. For us, those were some of the more difficult shots was figuring out the half-way in between. Especially because Joss didn’t just want the transformations to be like either a slider or a guy who is a balloon. So that ended up being quite difficult.”
There’s no doubt that should this project go forward, which many of us are hoping, the visual effects team is going to having a taxing amount of work ahead of them. Unless these problems are addressed first and foremost, the conflict between great visuals and what’s practical will always be present.
And seeing as ABC is also currently working with Marvel on the S.H.I.E.L.D. television series, everyone is going to want to stay on their “A” game - that is, if they want another Hulk film once Avengers 2 hits theaters May 1st, 2015.