‘Avengers: Infinity War’: Designing Thanos to be an Emotional Villain

Lauren Gallaway
Movies Marvel
Movies Marvel MCU

There’s no doubt that Marvel’s most ambitious and successful film is Avengers: Infinity War. The box-office juggernaut packs an all-star lineup of over 20 beloved Marvel heroes and features Marvel’s deadliest foe yet — Thanos.

The Mad Titan nearly wiped out an entire ship of refugees and two main characters before the title card for Infinity War even appeared on the screen. This guy was hellbent on achieving his goal, and if you saw the film, you know that he did.

Thanos was voiced and portrayed by actor Josh Brolin. Brolin brought an intensity to Thanos that made every character in his presence fear him. And yet, Brolin also brought a surprising amount of emotional depth to the character. This Mad Titan not only smiled and laughed during the film, he also cried, felt pain, and experienced remorse.

So how did this emotional performance come together? FANDOM sat down with Digital Domain VFX Supervisor Kelly Port to talk about his work on the film — specifically how the VFX studio created such a life-like, terrifying, and emotional villain like Thanos.

Keeping the Actors Together

Digital Domain Avengers Infinity War Black Order

The first key to capturing Brolin’s performance in Infinity War was to free him from the motion capture booth. He may have done some work alone, for detailed scans, but during filming, Brolin was on set with the cast to ensure his lines and reactions could be captured in the moment.

“Normally, when you do any kind of motion capture or body capture it’s oftentimes done in a separate venue, not on a set, actually,” said Port. “In this particular film we used a great technique that integrated the cameras into the set. It allowed the performers to interact with other actors on the set, so we could motion capture multiple characters at the same time, both body and face capture.”

Capturing Josh Brolin’s Performance

“If Thanos didn’t work, then we wouldn’t have a movie,” Port said, and it’s true. Thanos needed to work for Infinity War to make any kind of sense or impact.

“Dan DeLeeuw, the head of VFX at Marvel; the directors, the Russo brothers; and the Marvel executives could not have stressed the importance enough of making sure that the character and Josh Brolin’s performance came through,” Port said.

“We wanted to get as much of the facial performance [as possible], especially the subtleties [of it]. We tested that for a few months and then presented it to Marvel,” said Port. “They breathed a huge sigh of relief. We focused on the eyes. We got beyond pore-level detail for the face. It’s something that everyone on our team was super proud of.”

Favorite Scenes to Work On

Port had a number of favorite shots, most of which were really emotional and painful. He joked that Digital Domain only got to work on the sad moments.

“There were so many beautiful shots,” said Port. “Because our focus was on Thanos, and a lot of [his] dramatic moments, Digital Domain was responsible for these super depressing shots, like Gamora dying or the flashback to little Gamora. We did all of those scenes. We joked with Marvel to give us something funny.”

One of Port’s favorite shots to design was on Vormir. “The slow-mo shot of Thanos dragging Gamora and throwing her over the cliffs of Vormir,” was Port’s favorite. He also loved working on “The close-ups in that scene,” and “the towers, the snow, the cloud formations,” on Vormir. “As it becomes clear that Thanos’ tears are not for him, you see that the snow begins to drift upwards, which culminates in the big concussion blast and the inverted cloud. Then, you cut to him down in the water.”

Port also loved working on Thanos’ opening shot on the Asgardian ship. “And I really like the reveal shot in the opening scene, where Thanos is walking through some mist and you start to see the light on his face. Then, we see the gauntlet. That’s really the first reveal of him.”

Digital Domain Avengers Infinity War Thanos

Port’s last bit of detail revolved around a subtle Easter egg. Apparently, in the final shot, when Thanos is walking through the grass, just before he sits down, you can see his heavy Titan armor on a scarecrow. “It’s right in his front yard there, where he’s walking out before he sits down. You see it on the right, out in the yard, in the grass.”

Did you catch the Thanos scarecrow? What were some of your favorite VFX shots in the film? Did you find the emotions of Thanos believable? Let us know on social @getFANDOM.

Avengers: Infinity War is currently in theaters.

Lauren Gallaway
TV editor at FANDOM. Creator of The Marvel Report. Journalist, Comic-Con reporter, Podcaster.
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