Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is back and this time, he’s finally coming into terms with his feelings (both for MJ and Tony Stark) while traveling all over Europe! If you haven’t seen the new Spider-Man movie, you can stop reading here, major spoilers ahead!
The movie was a special effects extravaganza because the major villain is the master illusionist himself, Mysterio (Quentin Beck, played by Jake Gyllenhaal). If you are a comic book fan then you should’ve seen that coming right away but for some moviegoers, the reveal was just as shocking as the fake Elementals that laid waste on popular European tourist spots.
In the comics, Beck is an ex-special effects specialist who used illusions to commit crimes. He tricks his enemies using technology, hypnosis, and sleight of hand.
In Spider-Man: Far from Home, Mysterio positioned himself as a hero, an ally of Nick Fury from another dimension who’s hell-bent on avenging his loved ones from the very same monsters that were destroying half of Europe.
According to director Jon Watts, he had to dig deeper from Spiderman’s vast gallery of villains to find the perfect baddies that would challenge Spider-Man while also opening up visual possibilities. The movie ended up highlighting the thin line between reality and make-believe, how one’s reality can be distorted and manipulated to achieve the desired result. In this case, getting Spidey to hand over Tony Stark’s latest and greatest masterpiece.
Mysterio was revealed to be just a regular guy in a costume who has his own special effects team. The game plan, it turned out, was to “launch” Mysterio’s career as an Avenger-level superhero using a device called Illusion-Tech. The technology allowed Mysterio and his special effects team to produce incredibly lifelike, three-dimensional images on a large scale, such as vast city spaces.
The master illusionist and his ragtag team of disgruntled Stark Industries employees used realistic computer graphic imagery to 1) fool Nick Fury, 2) get Peter Parker to hand over a powerful new technology to enhance the realism of his holograms and 3) to get other superheroes to fight the “monsters” and rendering themselves vulnerable to Mysterio and the gang’s actual weapons.
To make the illusions as convincing as possible, the special effects team used real footage that was reported by several news outlets as well as explosives to decimate structures every time the elemental monsters make their appearance. It was later revealed that everything from the eerie green mist to the colossal monsters was just a part of an elaborate ruse to win wealth and fame.
Once unmasked, Quentin Beck reveals his grand delusions, saying how easy it is to fool people “when they’re already fooling themselves.” His illusions, he declared, are meant to “give the world something to believe in,” adding that his trickery is the truth to drive home the point that Beck is one insane dude.
The film highlighted the naiveté of the public; how easy it is to fool people by controlling what they see, and how the holograms could lead to devastating results (the shocking ending). Even Spider-Man himself with his “Peter tingle” had a hard time keeping up with the trickery because the visuals were so convincing.
At times, Mysterio was depicted as a blockbuster filmmaker. During the final illusion battle, Beck pulled double duty as a director and the main actor in his own demented version of a superhero movie. He led his team to a complex, “Avenger-level” holographic scene while also delivering heroic dialogues to Nick Fury until he ran out of things to say.
In a sit-down interview, Framestore visual effects supervisor Alexis Wajsbrot said Marvel execs wanted to extend the final fight scene to “make the sequence more special,” so it was heavily re-designed two months before delivery.
The special effects firm came on board much later in the production so Wajsbrot and his team had to work quickly to complete the sequence. Wajsbrot worked alongside production visual effects supervisor Janek Sirrs and production visual effects producer Cyndi Ochs for the final battle sequence.
Wajsbrot added that director Jon Watts wanted to make sure that Mysterio was driving the whole sequence:
“It was all about showing how powerful Mysterio is and how he could create all kinds of crazy illusions and tap into Spider-Man’s fears,” says Wajsbrot. “We did receive a very early previs but I think that maybe only 10% of what the final sequence looks like in the movie. It evolved a lot.”
“It was very important that there was a common look to the sequence that Mysterio was driving. We decided this would be the green smoke – that’s why you see in most of these shots a green element. And rather than just tapping into Spider-Man’s fears like a horror movie, it was about trying to tap into his emotions as well. That was why we were at school hallway, for instance, because he was worried about his school friends being in danger.
Another of Watts’ stipulations was that the illusions crafted by Mysterio made some kind of sense in the real world. “Spider-Man couldn’t fall unless he was falling in the real world,” explains Wajsbrot. “The only time you see Spider-Man falling in our sequence is when he is actually falling from the construction site building. He falls into a giant spiderweb and then onto a car.”
To perfect Spider-Man’s movements, the special effects team used motion capture of Tom Holland to get the details right. “On a lot of shots, the studio was very keen for Tom Holland to do the mocap for Spider-Man to make sure that it looked like him. You can recognize when it’s mocap done by a stunt performer or by Tom.” The motion capture shots came after the animated performances were almost done.
Wajsbrot said that Marvel had to do an “ADR session” for the mocap. “They looked at our renders, and did a mocap session for Tom Holland for just about every shot, following our animation and timing. We could then almost drag and drop into our shots at the end.”
Wajsbrot added that many concepts and shots were explored and abandoned to avoid drawing similarities with the illusion scenes from the Doctor Strange movie (dubbed the “Magical Mystery Tour”).
One of the scrapped scenes includes a fight scene where Mysterio’s cape was churning out monsters to attack Spider-Man, which was similar to a Doctor Strange’s sequence featuring the Cloak of Levitation taking down a baddie. Some of the abandoned scenes were already 75% completed but dropped.
“There really were some crazy ideas that, thankfully, didn’t stick, because I’m not sure we would have had time to be able to do them,” Wajsbrot added.
Although Framestore came in much later into production, the team worked with 140 complex shots to complete the final sequence.
“Our editor was doing the show and tell reel for Framestore’s Far From Home work,” says Wajsbrot, “and he created what he called the ‘Rest in Peace’ story – everything that we’d done that didn’t make it in, which is almost as cool as the real showreel itself.”