Part of the reason Avengers: Endgame relied on more CGI than usual was because of tight deadlines and the production's inability to settle on key costume designs in time for shooting. In the realm of large scale blockbuster cinema, none are bigger than Avengers: Endgame. The culmination of over 20 films in 11 years, Endgame brought Earth's Mightiest Heroes together for one last battle against Thanos and his minions.
These big-budget tentpole films, by their nature, tend to feature a lot of cutting-edge CGI effects. After all, there aren't many ways to convincingly articulate characters like Rocket Racoon, Groot, The Incredible Hulk, and Thanos himself without employing computer graphics. However, Avengers: Endgame had even more CGI than audiences have come to expect from this type of film. Some of this is due to the herculean task of assembling one of the biggest casts of superheroes ever, but some of it comes down to more rudimentary reasons.
Some of the CGI in Endgame came about as a result of a rushed schedule and important pieces of the puzzle not being ready in time for principal photography. As shown in a behind-the-scenes documentary from Wired, the Quantum Realm suits, used during the Time Heist, were not fully designed when production began, so the decision was made to shoot the scenes without the costumes, and then add them in later with CGI. Visual Effects Producer Jen Underdahl explains:
The time suits are a combination of Ant-Man, Tony Stark, and Guardians tech. That took quite a while for us to land on. By the time we got a final version, we were already in Principal Photography. We knew we were going to build them anyway, since they had to "nano" on and off with Tony's tech, and it ended up being that the costume department didn't have time to develop, fit, and fabricate all the costumes for those hero characters, so we ended up doing them digitally.
These time suits were not the only costumes that were crafted via CGI. Captain Marvel's signature outfit was not completed on time either. Brie Larson famously shot her scenes for Endgame before production began on the Captain Marvel solo film, so it makes sense that the costume wasn't finished yet:
Her suit, every time you see it in the movie, when she's in her full costume, is digital. Again, the designs for those suits were not ready in time for us to photograph Brie. When you saw her at the beginning, as she's rescuing Tony Stark, when you see her come back, when she's talking to Nat in the Avengers compound, with Rocket and Nebula, and then in the final battle when she comes back and kind of saves the day, that's all the digital suit.
Avengers: Endgame is not the first film to use CGI costumes. Back in 2002, for Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, the clone troopers were completely CGI; not a single outfit was built. This arguably backfired on Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, when troopers, depicted without their helmet, suffered from a particularly nasty case of "floating head syndrome." Even on prior Marvel movies, some costumes were entirely computer-generated. Spider-Man and Black Panther have almost always had their costumes overlaid with a layer of computer magic, and of course, the various Iron Man armors have traditionally been 100% CGI.
On a movie as large as Avengers: Endgame, delays are not an option. Once the Hollywood machine starts moving, there's no stopping it. It's more cost-effective to forge forward with production and paint over the blank costumes later than it is to delay the whole project until the costumes are ready. Obviously, in a perfect world, the costumes would've been ready on time, but there are countless variables and moving pieces in a film of this scale, and it's all but impossible to have every single element go off without a hitch. The documentary is full of extensive breakdowns of many of the CGI-enhanced moments in the film, many of which are all but undetectable to the naked eye.
- Black Widow (2020) release date: May 01, 2020
- Eternals (2020) release date: Nov 06, 2020
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) release date: Feb 12, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2021) release date: May 07, 2021
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2021) release date: Nov 05, 2021
- Black Panther 2 (2022) release date: May 06, 2022