Marvel VFX artists are bringing some big issues to the table while sharing what really went wrong on “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” in post-production.
Marvel’s latest blockbuster, which ushers in the MCU’s Phase 5, is rated “rotten” by all of Rotten Tomatoes’ reviewers for the film and earned a B-score from CinemaScore – a very poor rating considering CinemaScore voters typically rate on a curve. The lackluster reviews and disappointing critical reaction are partly rooted in the rocky special effects; now VFX artists explain precisely why the superhero movie looks so bad.
“Unfortunately, you notice there were shortcuts,” said visual effects technician Jin, whose name was changed to a vulture talk. “Some things were used to conceal incomplete work. Some editorial cuts were made to not show as much action or effects as there could have been – probably because there just wasn’t enough time to render it all. I really felt like some scenes were cut or otherwise altered to save money, save time, or disguise the inability to do so.
Jin cited that the Marvel VFX department was scattered due to the overlapping post-production process for “Quantumania” with “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” Visual effects workers reportedly worked up to 80 hours a week for months at a time, especially when last-minute changes were requested.
IndieWire has reached out to Marvel for comment.
VFX artist Conor, whose name was also changed for the post, explained, “There were times when we were creating the full action of one actor: Ant-Man moving on to something. And you just think, ‘Why didn’t they film it the right way or how they wanted it in the first place? Why do we have to redo and recreate? Why do we have an actor’s performance in Frankenstein together? A quick swipe that takes maybe two seconds would have to be done 20 times to get the look they want. There have been a lot of reshuffles, a lot of inefficiency.
Fellow Jin added, “In terms of priority, ‘Wakanda Forever’ was definitely at the top of the list. All the money went there. All the best resources went there. It’s understandable given the context – with Chadwick (Boseman) and everything and how well the first movie did. But it diminished the ability to carry ‘Ant-Man’ throughout.
Jin continued, “For ‘Ant-Man,’ there were a lot of editorial changes towards the final third and fourth of the project that were just too late. There is a point of no return. Why certain things were changed, why certain notes were plucked longer than they should have been – that’s on Marvel. But it certainly caused a lot of tension, turmoil and weight for everyone.
Lack of resources and equal pay for time spent also added to the disappointing visual outcome.
“A lot of us are sitting here thinking, ‘The money is here. Why doesn’t he come down? Marvel spending a little more money to pay more VFX people wouldn’t make a big difference to the leaders all the way to the top,” Jin said. “But if it’s about them not being comfortable with their bank numbers and we work to burnout, we lose every time. Honestly, I equate it to greed human.
With VFX unionization rumbling in Hollywood and allegations that Marvel has “permanent” industry-wide burnout, the alleged mistreatment of visual effects artists has been the subject of discussion for nearly one year. Former Marvel VFX Artist Dhruv Govil tweeted that working on Marvel shows is what led him to leave the industry after collaborating on movies like “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
“I’ve seen far too many colleagues crumble from being overworked while Marvel tightens the purse strings,” Govil wrote. “The problem is #Marvel is too big and can demand whatever they want. It’s a toxic relationship.”
Another Vulture report published in July 2022 accused Marvel of “blacklisting” visual effects houses that sometimes failed to meet unreasonably high standards with rapid turnaround times.
“The effects houses are trying to bend over backwards to keep Marvel happy,” a source told the outlet. “The other thing with Marvel is that they’re famous for asking for a lot of changes throughout the process. So you’re already overloaded with work, but then Marvel asks for regular changes way beyond what does any other client. And some of these changes are really major. Maybe a month or two before a movie comes out, Marvel will make us change the whole third act.
The source cited the stunning climax physics of “Black Panther” which “looks a bit like a cartoon” due to the fact that a cinematographer isn’t involved in the VFX process. “We come up with the hits a lot of time. It causes a lot of incongruity,” the source said. “It broke the visual language of the film.”
Public reaction to the questionable special effects in the Disney+ Marvel series “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” has led showrunner Jessica Gao to defend the process. “It’s terrible that a lot of artists feel rushed and think the workload is too heavy,” Gao said during TCA’s press tour for the series. “I mean, I think everyone on this panel stands in solidarity with all workers and is very supportive of good working conditions.”
Main star Tatiana Maslany added: “I think we have to like to be very aware of the fact that the working conditions are not always optimal and they have made such incredible progress in this industry. I watch it, and it doesn’t look like a video game cutscene. I can see the character’s thoughts. I am very impressed with what they are doing.
As Jin recently said in the February 2023 report, those involved in VFX projects on Marvel “can’t be like, ‘Well, that’s kinda shitty. Shouldn’t we be doing something better? Because that’s never going to happen.”
Jin concluded of ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quatumania’, “I think there was so much potential for that story, for the visual effects in general – I think the movie is getting the reviews it received because Marvel is doubling down on the binding quality as much as possible. They’re drawing the blood out of the stones. And we’re out of blood.