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Summer’s Effects to Heat up Screens

Season’s dozen tentpoles range from thunderous to sly

This summer offers f/x-heavy pics as diverse as any year ever, some of them offering new takes on familiar and established franchises.


“Oblivion” started out the summer f/x season by featuring a retro technique — front projection — for its Sky Tower set. Projected skyscapes even were used to light the actors. Neil Blomkamp’s “Elysium” will end the summer with its story of a lone hero caught between a decrepit Earth and the off-world refuge for the wealthy.

“Star Trek Into Darkness” vfx supervisor Roger Guyett says, “I really wanted to step it up a notch,” so the starship Enterprise itself and its space dock got “tricked out” details.

In a different twist on the future, most of “After Earth” takes place on a verdant but deadly planet: Earth. Look for Jaden Smith’s aerial chase with a giant raptor, shot in Switzerland with stuntmen in bird suits soaring past cliffs at 160 mph.


Guillermo del Toro’s “Pacific Rim” is the helmer’s love letter to Japan’s cinematic tradition of giant robots and giant monsters — and there will be plenty of other creatures on cinema screens. Fox’s “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” draws on classic Ray Harryhausen mythological beasts, updated for the next generation of fans.

“World War Z” offers a new take on zombies: Up to 8,500 of them massed in the “tower of zombies” scene in Israel. For Universal’s “RIPD” vfx supervisor Mike Wassel and his team created bad guys whose appearances reflected their villainy and engineered an entirely CG Kevin Bacon.

For “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones,” about a young woman who must fight demons that would destroy humanity, vfx supervisor Edward Taylor drew inspiration from the natural world. “When you’re creating supernatural creatures, there are actually a lot of larvae and other slimy things that work very well,” says Taylor laughing.

For “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones,” about a young woman who discovers it’s her destiny to fight demons who would destroy humanity, VFX supervisor Edward Taylor drew inspiration from the natural world. “When you’re creating supernatural creatures, there are actually a lot of larvae and other slimy things that work very well,” says Taylor laughing.


Iron Man 3” overcame plenty of obstacles, including an injury to Robert Downey Jr. and the bankruptcy of Digital Domain, but all ended well for the kickoff of “Marvel’s Phase 2.”

“White House Down,” a Die Hard-style actioner, serves up a digital White House and Washington, D.C., in its aerial shots (The real thing has a no-fly zone. Go figure.) Pic’s car chases also benefited from the an advanced previsualization system that let the team drive digital cars in real time as shots were planned.

Superman gets a bigscreen reboot in “Man of Steel.” This pic promises a fast, agile Kryptonian hero battling villains every bit his equals. In Fox’s “The Wolverine,” the latest tale of Marvel’s most popular X-Man, vfx supervisor Philip Brennan engineered plates for a bullet train battle by driving along many of Tokyo’s elevated highways to get footage.

The biggest wild card of the summer is probably Disney’s “The Lone Ranger,” produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Gore Verbinski, the team behind the original “Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy. Look for surreal, CG-enhanced Western action in the vein of the “Pirates” pics, but at locomotive speed instead of a sail’s pace.

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