The Avengers: VFX Supervisor Explains Why Hulk Was a "Smash" This Time Around
05.13.12 by BJSprecher
The Hulk has always been a popular character. In publication more or less continuously since the early '60s, the "Jade Giant" has spawned several animated series, video games and, of course, the popular live-action TV movies and series starring Bill Bixby as David Banner (Bruce Banner in the comic books) & Lou Ferrigno as Banner's alter-ego that aired in the '70s and '80s. But, despite the enduring popularity of the character, the Hulk was not a hit with moviegoers — both 2003's The Hulk and 2008's The Incredible Hulk failed to impress at the box office — until his recent appearance in The Avengers. In fact, the Hulk's portrayal in the movie has been such a crowd-pleaser that Marvel is considering a third solo movie for the character.
What's the secret of the Hulk's success in The Avengers? If you've seen the movie, then you know that writer-director Joss Whedon was able to effectively portray the humorous side of a half-ton green man throwing a tantrum — something neither Ang Lee nor Louis Leterrier bothered to explore in The Hulk or The Incredible Hulk — in addition to the terrifying side of so much raw anger and power. But, there's more to it than that, says visual effects supervisor Jeff White. In addition to Whedon making good story choices concerning the Hulk, White said that Whedon's insistence that he be able "to see Mark Ruffalo in the design" of the Hulk, as well as other "good design decisions" such as size, body shape and color, contributed to the character being more believable and helped Hulk "fit in" with the rest of the Avengers.
It was important to deliver on the performance that Joss was looking for. He knew exactly the Hulk he wanted to bring to the big screen. All of the great moments Hulk has in the film was Joss really guiding us there.
That was a great design decision that Joss made early on: He wanted to see Mark Ruffalo in the design, and that was great for us, because that meant we could work with Mark. We spent a lot of time capturing Mark's skin and his hair and every pore detail that he has. We actually did a life-cast of him as part of capturing all of that. So starting every shot from something real — and because Mark did a performance for every shot — we could then capture that performance and apply it to our Mark Ruffalo digital double, and make sure we were getting the right performance to translate onto the Hulk.
There were good design decisions made in terms of, he's desaturated color-wise, which helps him fit in with the Avengers much better. He's not super muscly all the time, either. Joss wanted us to go for a bit more of a wrestler aesthetic instead of just being super cut. What's great about that is that when he does jump around and start smashing everything, we really have somewhere to go in terms of flexing the muscles and popping the veins.
The cast of The Avengers includes Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chris Evans as Captain America, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Clark Gregg as S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Coulson, Cobie Smulders S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Maria Hill, Samuel L. Jackson as S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury, Stellan Skarsgård as Erik Selvig, and Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts.