On a hot and sunny afternoon last summer, a group of journalists and I were invited to Pinewood Studios outside of Atlanta to observe filming and interview the cast and creatives of Avengers: Infinity War. There wasn’t much travel for me personally since I live in Atlanta, but it was the first time I was able to see the massive Pinewood complex, which is the biggest physical indication of how much “ATLwood” has grown over the last decade. Individual TV and movie productions come and go, but Pinewood’s presence shows that Georgia has cultivated an industry that is here to stay. That’s certainly true when it comes to Marvel and its sprawling MCU, whose presence on the lot was massive.
Avengers: Infinity War is the first part of a culminating two-part movie experience that will close out this phase of the MCU. It will unite a huge array of heroes against a massive, intergalactic threat — and only those superlatives will do, because the scope of the movie was clear from our first moments on set. We were immediately introduced to the dizzyingly high green screens that surrounded part of a docked ship as the Avengers land in Wakanda, seeking Black Panther’s help in uniting against Thanos. The practical work behind the CG was a highlight though, including the person whose job it is to walk Vision’s cape up and down after each scene so that it is digitally added with the right movement and shading. (Also a shout-out to the hair and makeup department that had to keep Cap loaded down with hairspray — he didn’t just wake up with that coif, folks).
Over the course of the day, we were able to speak with directors Joe and Anthony Russo, as well as screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Chadwick Boseman, Mark Ruffalo, Don Cheadle, Elisabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Danai Gurarai, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, and Sebastian Stan also all stopped by our press tent, and I’ll have those interviews rolling out for you in the next several weeks. But we also got to check out some really cool characters whose human counterparts (or voice actors at least) we didn’t meet — the Black Order.
From Ebony Maw and Corvus Glave to Cull Obsidian and Proxima Midnight, the detailed maquettes that revealed the digital characters were exceptionally sinister (you can see images of them here). But there was a hero among them as well — a “tween” Groot with a very come-at-me-bro snarl. From there we were able to check out huge stages that housed the Quinjet and a Ravager Quadrant, and the most impressive part of it all was how much weight everything had to it. The controls, the seats, the doors — everything felt real. The practical work in these films is really stunning, something that, again, doesn’t always gets noticed with so much happening onscreen. But it’s nice to know that these effects aren’t being left behind in an increasingly digitized superhero landscape.
Speaking of which, there is so much care put into each costume and the look of every character. Since we’ve all seen Black Panther now, you’ll know exactly how badass the Dora Milaje’s costumes are, but it was our first time getting to see them up-close (and it was fearfully awesome). There were also some interesting incorporations with CG regarding Rhodey (who is walking) as well as the facial mo-cap on Vision.
While the first scene we observed included just about everyone meeting in Wakanda — Black Panther, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Roadie, Falcon, Bucky, Captain America, Hulk (in Bruce mode), and Black Widow — a second scene we watched film that afternoon was a little quieter, focusing in on a few choice interactions. There were certainly plenty of one-liners (most of which were plot-driven), but Bucky and Cap also finally reunite. Falcon had some choice words for Bucky, though, mostly joking about him going rogue at someone mentioning trigger words like “baloney sandwich.” It’s both sweet and funny, and suggests how the movie might be trying to find time for deeper character moments that will help ground it, since its scope is so huge.
There were a few more sets and a couple of props that we were able to see that I am still sworn to secrecy about, but I can say that the detail work is all really incredible. Prop Master Russell Bobbitt also confirmed that a lot of the heroes will be getting upgraded gear and gadgets, including Hawkeye (!), Thor, Spiderman, and Iron Man (of course).
There is still a lot to discuss about Infinity War, so stay tuned in the coming weeks for more interviews and scoop from our visit to the set! Below are also a few shots of the Guardians’ new ship …