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Marvel’s newest film, Captain America, released on July 22, joins the list of great movies that Marvel has produced these last two decades. With action, and a balance of humor, sadness, and romance, director Joe Johnston delivers the goods straight to the door.
Amidst all the fun, the first 30 minutes is most memorable not for Captain America’s feats of strength but rather feats of bravery and physical weakness. That’s right, Captain America had to start somewhere. The effects teams came up with a unique and long process of creating “skinny Steve” Rodgers out of the buff and massive Chris Evans.
At first the plan to create a skinnier Chris Evans was to film a body double and digitally paste Evan’s head on the double’s body. This technique was primarily used in David Fincher’s films, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button when using Brad Pitt’s head on an older man’s body. The technique was also used in The Social Network when creating one of the Winklevoss twins.
However, when the time came for the double to re-create Evans’ movements, there was a problem. He could not seem to mimic Evan’s body movement correctly.
“Chris moves in such a unique way; he doesn’t move like anybody else,” Johnston said. “The body double could not move like him. As hard as he tried to watch Chris and duplicate the movements, it just wasn’t the same.”
This led to a conundrum of what the crew should do to create the skinny Steve Rodgers. Apart from some, Evans liked that the body double would not be used.
“The beginning part of the movie is so crucial to get the audience invested in who Steve is, I didn’t want to share that part of the performance with another actor,” Evans said. “I talked to Joe about it and thankfully, he agreed.”
With this bump in the road the crew had to figure out a different way to “unenhance” Evans’ body.
The final plan was to digitally shrink Evans’ muscles, jaw line and body to look like the 90-pound Rodgers. This worked but left the digital effects team with a problem. After shrinking the body, it left empty space in the background that Evan’s body previously covered.
To fix the problem, the crew had to shoot using green screens and superimpose the background into the picture to cover the empty space. This turned out to work well but became a long and trying process. Taking up some of the production time and all of post-production, the effects team had to alter about 250 shots to create “skinny Steve.” However, sometimes the artists would catch a break in scenes when Evans’ was laying or sitting down because the head replacement became possible.
Captain America: The First Avenger pulled in a lot of attention in the time leading up to its release: Joe Johnston did not disappoint. With a movie pulling off difficult special effects as well as keeping the characters and the story in mind, Captain America blew audiences away.
Many movies get carried away with special effects but Captain America, even with the overwhelming amount of effects, stayed true to what really makes a movie great, the story and the characters.
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