With Spider-Man: Far From Home now on Digital and a Blu-ray release out this Tuesday, Fandom recently took part in a behind-the-scenes look at the movie-making magic that went into bringing the film to life.
Spider-Man: Far From Home finds our high school hero, Peter Parker (Tom Holland), attempting to pick up the pieces from the events of Avengers: Endgame. To disconnect himself from the great responsibilities that come with being a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, Parker decides to go on a school field trip to Europe with the rest of his class. But, as you may expect, trouble soon follows. And while we fortunately managed to avoid the trouble, our day was themed after a school field trip.
With Far From Home cast members Martin Starr (“Mr. Harrington”) and J.B. Smoove (“Mr. Dell“) along as our guides, just as they are in the film, our group hopped onto a bus for a field trip around Los Angeles, California. We made three stops in our six-hour jaunt: The Third Floor, the digital effects company that created the movie’s graphic effects; Ironhead Studio, the fabrication house that designed the costumes; and Hollywood, California’s iconic landmark, The Magic Castle, where illusionist Jason Latimer mixed science with magic in an intimate stage show for the group.
On the Bus!
Much like a typical high school field trip, we poured onto a bus — signing individual NDAs as if they were our own personal permission slips — and settled in for the ride. Starr and Smoove posted up in the back of the bus, where random interviews took place, and soon, we were off.
The first stop of the day was The Third Floor Visualization. During a Powerpoint presentation, the group settled in for a dissertation on the company’s credits — they’ve worked on a bunch of genre heavy-hitters, from Game of Thrones to Godzilla: King of the Monsters to, yep, you guessed it, Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Intro to CGI Effects, Spidey Edition
Big-budget action sequences, like every other storytelling idea, begin on the page. Third Floor’s work is no different. But their ideas, once storyboarded, help visualize the mind-blowing effects that have put Marvel Studios — they’ve worked on blockbusters like Black Panther and Doctor Strange — on the map. Third Floor began as a team, literally working on the third floor of Skywalker Ranch. Their first project with Lucasfilm was Revenge of the Sith, and they’ve since revisited the Star Wars universe, doing digital effects work on projects like Rogue One and Solo. During our meeting, CEO and Founder, Chris Edwards, broke down the different layers of production work he and his team are responsible for.
“Previs,” or previsualization, is a term that was mentioned a bunch during the presentation. This is the step in the production where a group of key artists digitally map out scripted scenes for the screen. Once the digital rendering is complete, the previs step continues with the project’s camera crew shooting background plates — shots of the physical environment the scene will take place in, where the CGI effects will be rendered later — to help fill out the world in the most realistic-looking way possible.
The intricate, artistic, and supremely creative input The Third Floor Visualization puts into their work makes watching Spider-Man: Far From Home (and so many other movies and TV shows) a whole other experience entirely. Getting an inside look at the development of Spidey’s — err, the Night Monkey’s — European battle with Mysterio’s Molten Man added a magical component to this often unseen side of the movie-making process.
Before we knew it, our group was shuffling back onto the bus. Our next stop was all the way across town, from mid-city to the depths of the San Fernando Valley. It was the longest portion of the journey, but thankfully we were each given individual boxed lunches which included a ham and cheese sandwich, a cup of fruit, and a juice box.
Our Chaperones Speak
Starr and Smoove also made the drive through traffic bearable. During our bus-ride, the actors continually workshopped a comedic bit involving their teacher characters acquiring superpowers. “Mr. Dell and Mr. Harrington would join forces and become ‘Dellington’,” Smoove joked. “We’d call him, ‘Latte Man.’ Light and dark, together. You can have him hot or cold.”
The levity the duo brings to Spider-Man: Far From Home is a welcome change of tone from the deeply-emotional events that transpired in Avengers: Endgame. According to Starr, he and Smoove were given the freedom to improvise on set and find the laugh-worthy material that was both on and off the page.
“[Director] Jon Watts and everyone, you know, the producers, and the executives behind-the-scenes, are all big fans of what we do,” Starr revealed. “So, they gave us a lot of freedom to find moments that were already in the script, expand moments that were in the script, play with moments that were in the script, and try totally new things and see what else was out there.”
Case in point: There’s a scene early on in Far From Home that finds Mr. Harrington lamenting to Peter over the disappearance of his wife. He initially thought she was one of the many victims of Thanos’ snap. It turns out, she was cheating on him the entire time. According to the actor, this bit was a scripted scene that was initially meant for the first film.
“The seed of that was in the first movie but it got cut,” he said. “The first movie, a lot of the beats that ended up at Homecoming were either improvised or kind of found on the fly, as we were going through with the writers. I met Jon and that — the scripted bit about me and my wife going through a very serious divorce and going through issues at home — ended up getting cut because it felt so dark. But they loved it so much, that they put it into Far From Home. They found just little ways to add it in.
“When comedy comes from a place, as dark as it may be,” he added, “I think that’s when it’s the funniest.”
The humor was dark, but the trip to Europe to shoot the film, according to Smoove, was simply delightful. “Let me tell you something, man … that was something else. We stayed in London, what, almost two to three months?” he said. “Prague, and then Venice was just beautiful. Wet. And just gorgeous.”
Costuming the Comic Book World
As if that was our cue, the bus soon arrived in the dry and just industrial part of Van Nuys, California. We had arrived at Ironhead Studio. Here, we got an inside look at the crafting work that goes into making some of the big screen’s most iconic costumes. Aside from designing Spidey’s costume — they first worked on the Andrew Garfield suit from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 — Ironhead’s big boss Jose Fernandez revealed his process in designing the caped crusader’s turnable cowl in Batman v. Superman, Black Panther’s iconic helmet, and the intricate upgrades they put in place for Tom Holland’s Spidey suit.
Unfortunately, there was a whole slew of goodies we were shown that we can’t discuss here. This stop was definitely a highlight, though. Not only did Smoove get to wear Magneto’s helmet from one of the X-Men films, quickly talking Starr into donning Loki’s horned helmet for a photo opp (as seen above), the duo posed for a 3-D scan — a quick process that helps to digitally render actors into the facility’s computer system in order to streamline the costume molding process — bringing their superhero dream of Latte Man to life.
The Illusion of Knowledge
The third and final stop was The Magic Castle. After partaking in appetizers and treats — which included a platter of cute Mysterio-themed cupcakes that sported red fondant capes and blue cotton candy heads — the crew was moved into an intimate theater where World Champion magician, Jason Latimer, inspired us to question the impossible.
During the show, he wowed us with a twist on the classic cups and ball trick (he used clear cups for this, so we could watch the ball – which still inexplicably vanished). Smoove was brought on stage to form water into solid shapes. Then, to close the show, Latimer showcased his signature laser trick — he bent a beam of light, hung his jacket on it, pulled the beam from its source to hold in his hand, and spun it around like a skilled Jedi.
When the performance was through, he sat with us and talked about his craft and how he has used it to address the trend he calls “The Illusion of Knowledge.” Referencing Mysterio‘s (Jake Gyllenhaal) role in the Far From Home story, and how he used video trickery to sway the public’s perception for his gain, Latimer said, “Right now, people will believe anything.” And while the movie is indeed a work of fiction, in this era of social media immediacy where likes and clicks dictate the popularity of a piece of information — whether it’s factual or otherwise — this statement rings true.
“Who came up with the word ‘impossible’, us or the universe?” he asked, as our field trip came to an end. We drove off into the Los Angeles sunset, suddenly overwhelmed with a newfound respect for the great responsibility that great power brings. Pssh … and y’all thought this was just a light-hearted comic book movie.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is now available on Digital and on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and DVD on October 1st.