Black Panther’s CGI Problems
We’ll start with a disclaimer for this section: Black Panther is one of the best looking MCU movies to date. (Killmonger and Black Panther’s first fight scene was particularly gorgeous.) But regardless of how great the rest of the movie looked, whenever the titular hero is fully suited up in the Black Panther habit, the visuals falter.
It can be argued that the new suit isn’t supposed to look all that realistic, given its vibranium foundations and futuristic abilities, but that doesn’t really explain the hero’s rubbery movements whenever he’s in action. It’s very clear that the movie relied heavily on CGI to depict T’Challa and Killmonger’s abilities once they’d consumed the heart-shaped herb and donned the new suits, and it’s pretty distracting in their final showdown on the train tracks, which falls well short of their more grounded first fight. To get a better idea of what we’re talking about, check out this clip of the climactic brawl. The laws of physics get straight up thrown out the window at the 20 second mark.
It’s certainly a dramatic departure from the Black Panther we saw in Civil War. That film had its own CGI problems (as detailed earlier), and it ended up requiring a ton of visual effects work during post-production to take the Panther habit to the next level. But in the end, the final product was much stronger. The new Black Panther suit is an upgrade in-universe only, in our opinion.
Also, we’ve got a quick nitpick that demonstrates Marvel’s seemingly unnecessary overuse of CGI for you. Take a moment to rewatch the second Black Panther clip that was released to the public a few weeks ago. Specifically, hone in on the 45 second mark, where you see Nakia shooting two guys, the second of which is very obviously computer-generated. Why the hell would they even bother to CGI that, you ask? Well…
Why the MCU uses so much CGI
There’s several reasons why Marvel has opted to incorporate more digital effects into their films over the last decade. For one thing, it’s often cheaper and less time-consuming to use CGI to make minor tweaks to a scene in post-production than it is to go back and actually reshoot everything. As detailed in a 2016 article from The Verge, this is one of the main reasons why the aforementioned airport fight from Civil War ended up being almost entirely computer-generated. It’s simply more practical from a movie-making perspective.
As we touched on in the last entry, the fantastical abilities of the MCU heroes also play a role. Flyers and magic users will always require digital effects on some level, but even more grounded heroes like Black Panther and Spider-Man often need a CGI boost in order to show off just how physically superior they are to other characters.
As far as the increasing use of green screen is concerned, the MCU films simply take place in a lot of locations where you just can’t shoot a movie (like in space, or an entirely fictional location like Wakanda and Asgard). There’s a less obvious reason why Marvel so often chooses to shoot pivotal scenes on a studio soundstage rather than on-location, however: to avoid spoilers being leaked to the public. Just look at the leaked photos that emerged from the set of Avengers 4, which seemingly confirmed that the plot will revolve around time travel. Though the validity of that theory has since been called into question, there’s no doubt that filming out in public can result in spoiler-tastic plot details being leaked.
Frankly, there is no real fix for Marvel’s increasing tendency to fall back on CGI. There’s a certain style ingrained in these films at this point, and with all the success they’ve had with that style, there’s no way they’re going to change it anytime soon. Hell, the MCU even has an in-house effects artist who teaches a CGI crash course to directors who are unfamiliar with the process. Here’s hoping that the digital effects are a bit more seamless in the shared universe’s next few outings.
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