When Marvel finally came to use Spider-Man: No Way Home‘s trio of Spider-Men to recreate the pointy Spider-Man meme, the Spider-Man fandom had already taken matters into their own hands and turned Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock into the film’s breakout star using an unintentional comedy. Although the film’s earliest trailers were meant to mystify fans who did not yet know the multiverse details that would bring Molina’s Doc Ock face to face with Tom Holland’s Peter Parker, they also ended up sparking a wave of jokes that took the piss out of one. of Spider-Man’s most self-righteous villains.
Given the amount of planning that lies in Marvel’s tent pole functions, one could have got the impression that everything. No way homes rollout, from the immediate leap to speculation about characters edited from the trailers to the emergence of Doc Ock memes, was part of Marvel’s grand plan. But when we recently spoke with Scott Edelstein, a VFX supervisor for Digital Domain, one of the production houses that worked on No way homehe explained that while the studio operates a tight ship held together with precise coordination, he and the rest of his team had very little sense of how the public would run with and remix their work.
It has come up in a few other conversations and I would ask you. How has your experience been since working from home became the norm for many VFX professionals during the pandemic?
Scott Edelstein: It has allowed this work-life balance that we do not have … it’s not the easiest thing in this industry, you know? For me personally, I drove an hour and a half each way, so three hours of my day sitting in the car. This setup really lets me wake up in the morning and be able to sit down at. 7 with a cup of coffee and review morning emails. When the team comes in, they already know what to do and I can start getting my kids’ mornings kicked off and that has really changed a lot. I just think it’s made things more efficient and I do not see how we’ll ever go back.
When you talk about leadership on a show, something goes in the direction of 80 percent of their day from meeting to meeting, where they run around the building to talk about this. When you do it all over Zoom, you are not wandering around trying to get to every single meeting room. While you are in these Zoom meetings, you are still working and you are paying attention, but you do not always have to contribute 100 percent of the time.
I can not tell you how many times we have been to meetings with many people, where we talk about things, and something is done during the meeting. Before the meeting ends, things are already done and you have already looked at it and approved it, whereas people used to have to go back to their desks an hour later and then go into it, and then wait for the next meeting to show you.
Was that your experience No way home?
In part, yes. For me, some of it was cool about working with No way home was the daily audit process. In the office, we typically went into the screening room, sat there, watched all the footage and talked about them and gave notes. Normally we would be in the front row in a dark room and you are in there for how many hours a day. Artists filter in a way in the back, and their images came out, and you talk about them with the laser cursor on the screen. But you never really get much face time with people that way because there are so many people.
With No way homewe probably had 200 artists on the project and what I found was really cool about working from home and Zoom meetings like this are like what we’re doing right now. [gesturing towards the camera]
Like when I talk to an artist about a shot, I’m not in a dark room in the front row and they are in the back. I’m looking at them and we’re having a conversation about their work. I think that’s super cool. You can say what you want about the personal aspect of it, and how it’s a creative environment, and how being together helps you have that kind of back and forth. But I think there are other ways to do it, and I think the pandemic has shown us that we able to do it from home.
What were some concepts about Doc Ock’s physical qualities that you really wanted to highlight in the bridge fight scene that might not have been quite as technically feasible back in 2004 for Spider-Man 2?
Our approach was to watch the old movies because we really wanted to pay tribute to them. We wanted the personality of the arms to come through in a similar way, but we also wanted to bring new technology into the mix to give them more character. Because of the way movies like this are shot, we sometimes had Alfred Molina on wires, and other times he stood on a platform that lifted him around. For the most part, he ended up being more comfortable standing on this platform so he didn’t just dangle. We almost always replaced him from the neck down because we had to replace all his legs and his jacket because the long coat he is wearing is draped over things or stuck to things.
So we almost just kept his head on him all the time, but then you have to talk about his weight, his movements, and how to make it look like he’s not just floating. We were very careful to ground it in a little bit of reality. So like, he has four arms, but we had to make sure he never just stood on one of them while also leaning far out and holding a car, you know? The weight transfer of how he walked was supposed to make sense so it felt like he was like a heavy piece of machinery crawling around.
Talk to me about the internal logic you developed for how Otto interacts with his tentacles and how they move and behave.
So there are a few things that go into this. First, their inner light changes color depending on who is in control. If you watch the old movie, you get it that way, even though the continuity in it might not have been that strong, but in this one we would really pay attention. When the lights inside are red, it means his chip is fried and then the AI of the arms has 100 percent control. Under the bridge, when Spider-Man takes over with nanotechnology, the lights turn blue because he now has control over them, just like a Bluetooth connection. And later in the film, when the chip is fixed and Doc Ock is in charge again, they are white, which is a nod to the original Spider-Man 2 when Otto first puts his arms on.
Something that Kelly Port, the senior VFX supervisor, had told us about from talking to Alfred on the set to No way home is that Alfred actually named the arms way back in time so he could give them personality in his own head like, you know. So the top two arms were Moe and Flo, and the bottom two halves were Larry and Harry. The idea we ran with is that Moe and Flo – the top two arms – are a little more planning-oriented. They are the ones who really communicate with Otto because they are the smart ones. You can see moments in the bridge fight where you notice that they are looking around and maybe talking to him or planning with each other what to do.
You can see some of it with Otto when everyone is gathered in Happy’s apartment.
It’s a little bit more subtle, but yes, you kind of see the interplay between Moe and Flo and Doc Ock. The tentacles are attentive, but they also look and almost make eye contact with Doc Ock. Moe and Flo follow what’s going on in the room, but Larry and Harry – the guys at the bottom – are like just down or on the ground, taking care of balance. Larry and Harry look more like the muscle and they execute the plan. They’re really normal what’s going on with him, and many times when things get thrown or crushed, it’s Larry and Harry doing that kind of work.
With a project like this where there is so much blue shielding, there are so many different moving parts that all have to fit together to create a false reality. Is the potential for meme at all part of your creative process?
I wish I could say we had time to really consider a lot of it, but when you’re in it, there’s so little time and you’re just in this little box. Our main focus is to make it all look as real as possible. You wear these blinders and you try to make it look as real and as cool as you can make it. I think if you’re aware of something, then it’s just “that movement does not look good” or “he does not feel right” or “this character would not do it.” But when it comes to thinking so far as to what memes can come out of it, we just do not.
We don’t really get to see fans reaction or think about them before the thing comes out. However, it’s fun to see people react to trailers and come up with theories about things because you’re in it. You make those scenes and you release those trailer pieces and sometimes they are not finished. Sometimes it will not even be the same action picture that comes with the final film. But you hear these theories about where Doc Ock got the nanotechnology. “What is he doing with all that nanotechnology on his arms? He obviously took it from Tony Stark. He wants to make himself a lot stronger and it’s going to be so cool!” Meanwhile, we sit there all the time like, “No, Spider-Man just takes control of his body.”