Bet You Didn’t Notice This CGI In This Key Iron Man Scene

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With all the CGI in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, audiences are used to its bombastic fight scenes feeling closer to cartoons than live-action. Still, sometimes the franchise’s quieter moments manage to sneak in visual effects that you don’t even notice. Such is the case in “Iron Man 3,” which features a pivotal Tony Stark moment that was entirely faked.

Black Widow, Nebula, and Tony Stark

After injuring his ankle on set, Robert Downey Jr. was unable to continue filming, leaving one of the film’s most crucial scenes unfinished. As the movie wraps up, we see Tony on a beach throwing his arc reactor into the ocean as a symbolic gesture that he’s more than just Iron Man. Considering Downey Jr. kicked off the entire MCU, this poignant moment is almost sentimental. However, the actor wasn’t even there. According to “Iron Man 3” visual effects supervisor Chris Townsend, the sequence was the result of a clever mix of CGI and stand-ins.

“We were able to reconstruct [Downey Jr.] as Tony Stark on set, with the help of [a] body double and the facial captures we’d collected afterwards,” the VFX artist told CGSociety. So, despite it being the culmination of the “Iron Man” trilogy, the film’s most cathartic scene didn’t even require its star to be present.

The MCU has more hidden CGI than you think

The “Iron Man 3” finale may have been an early example, but these days, MCU filmmakers regularly sneak in visual effects where fans would never expect them. While something like Tony Stark’s Iron Man armor demands CGI, the franchise has digitally altered many seemingly mundane elements. Thor’s eyepatch in “Avengers: Infinity War” was a digital creation after a practical patch proved difficult to work with. Chris Hemsworth told CinemaBlend that the effect was just “four little dots on my face.”

The Avengers’ white Quantum Realm suits seen in “Endgame” were similarly added during post-production. Since the movie was shot concurrently with “Infinity War,” the scene was filmed with the actors wearing whatever costumes they needed to wear for the next scenes on their individual shooting schedules, as visual effects supervisor Stuart Penn revealed to Before & Afters.

Even the brick that Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) catches in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” was a CGI creation. “No Way Home” visual effects supervisor Kelly Port told Corridor Crew that it was originally a snow globe, but was digitally changed to a brick after the fact.

CGI — sometimes, even excessive CGI — is to be expected in any blockbuster superhero movie, but the “Iron Man 3” finale proves it can appear in places fans would never even notice. Robert Downey Jr. wasn’t even present for the emotional conclusion to his solo trilogy and audiences were none the wiser.

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