14 October 2022

Black History Month – Black Panther Fever: serious FX at the movies

We like to mix and match, here at mustard FX, and this week we’re blending the brilliant combo of Rotten Tomatoes (the website, not the decaying salad ingredient) and the UK’s Black History Month 2022. In fact, as it’s Black History Month, every mustard division will be posting blogs that celebrate black achievement, to commemorate this important period of the year.

Perfect timing! As no doubt you’re aware, last week saw the second trailer drop for one of the most anticipated movies of the year, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. We’ve already watched it over a dozen times, and aren’t willing to admit in public how many more views than that we’ve racked up. So if you’ve got Black Panther fever, keep on reading.

Wakanda needs no fanfare – it’s the long-awaited sequel to 2018’s Black Panther, one of the best reviewed movies in Marvel Studios’ history, and currently holding 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. For this is not only a film of towering cultural significance (the first Blackcentric Marvel superhero movie, people), but it also marked itself out as an award magnet.

Panther’s award parade naturally included visual effects. ILM’s work on the movie saw them popping open the champers the BAFTA and MTV awards, as well as delivering them a Critics’ Choice gong. The super talented Geoffrey Baumann served as Visual Effects Supervisor, while ILM worked alongside other effects houses including Scanline VFX, Double Negative, Perception and Rodeo FX to create the fully digital city of Wakanda.

Baumann has revealed that Black Panther presented the sort of dastardly challenges that made previous Marvel movies seem like child’s play. Problem number one was the specific costumes that had been designed for each tribe and character – this meant that the digital spectators during the Warrior Falls couldn’t be a simple copy and paste job on the digital set.  Instead, the visual effects department had to work with their colleagues in costume to model each extra individually. Some serious costuming and VFX prowess!

Those maestros at ILM also created over 60,000 individual buildings for the futuristic city of Wakanda, drawing inspiration from real-life locations like Sydney’s One Central Park and Kampala’s Pearl of Africa Hotel. With each one being a unique design, watching the film is a truly immersive digital experience, and one that we’ll be revisiting next month.

Of course, the biggest conundrum that Wakanda Forever had to deal with, was the tragic and untimely passing of Chadwick Boseman. The actor debuted his T’Challa (AKA Black Panther) performance in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, before headlining his own film two years later. After Chadwick’s death in 2020, Marvel made the respectful decision not to recast his role in the sequel. Instead, Wakanda Forever takes place in the wake of T’Challa’s death, and sees Wakanda’s leaders fighting to protect their nation from invading forces.

Although Marvel confirmed they wouldn’t be resurrecting a digital Boseman, there have been more and greater effects challenges for the film. One of these included the design and execution of the undersea nation of Talokan, something we can’t wait to put on slo-mo while we get out our magnifying glasses.

Time will tell whether this latest movie will wow us in the same way as the technically innovative original, but we’re already placing tactical bets on how many awards it’ll hoover up. From the trailer alone, Wakanda Forever looks to be one of the visually sumptuous movies ever to come out of the Marvel stable. For sure, it’ll be a poignant watch, but also a suitable honour to the memory of Chadwick Boseman. RIP, sir!


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