Creating the VFX of Logan for Image Engine

VFX project page

The brief

We collaborated with Image Engine to turn complex digi-double subject matter into entertaining copy that sells the VFX team’s talent, in this piece about the studio’s impressive work on 2017’s Logan.

The story

Logan is a comic book movie unlike any other. Although it continues the tale of Marvel’s most grizzled hero – the laconic lone wolf Wolverine – its approach is altogether of a different ilk than the movies that came before.

This is the story of a wounded animal – the Wolverine of Logan less an unstoppable billow of blades and brawn, but a creature damaged both physically and psychologically, searching for a place in a world that no longer has need nor want of him. Bar one young and similarly taciturn girl, that is, whose powers are not dissimilar to Logan’s own…

It’s a story with all the raw emotion of a Johnny Cash track, with the visual effects used to emphasize the story, rather than overwhelm it: Wolverine’s iconic blades and a litany of mutant powers are on show, but the effects are altogether less flashy, and more steadfastly rooted in realism.

This presented a unique challenge for the Image Engine team, who came on board early in the 20th Century Fox production to deliver close to 300 shots. As primary vendor, the sequences created by Image Engine were extremely demanding – not only did the artists need to create mutant powers and adamantium claws, but also unfalteringly lifelike digi-doubles of the film’s core protagonists.

Read on to learn how Image Engine created these lifelike digital doppelgangers, delivering seamless visual effects indiscernible from the real thing.

“The effects are altogether less flashy, and more steadfastly rooted in realism.”

Gritty and grounded

Logan’s shift in tone from predecessors The Wolverine and X-Men Origins: Wolverine impacted not only the storytelling, but also the overall aesthetic: “The production didn’t want traditional superhero movie, over-the-top effects,” begins Martyn Culpitt, Image Engine’s VFX supervisor. “Keeping it very real-world was the defining factor.”

Part of this raw and realistic approach included an unflinching approach to the representation of violence. As an R-rated film, director James Mangold and VFX supervisor Chas Jarrett wanted every punch, kick, and claw penetration to fully connect.

To represent this hard-edged violence while keeping the actors safe, Image Engine created full digi-doubles for both Logan and the young Laura (played by Dafne Keen). The team also created digital replacements for the numerous stunt actors who filled in for the leads.

These digital versions are impeccable 1:1 recreations, down to the subtlest skin pores and hints of emotion. Getting to such an intricate level of realism was no small task…

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