Kevin Feige is used to making Marvel superhero movies that are just brimming with VFX. Before she took the job directing Eternals, Chloe Zhao was not. Feige probably wasn’t surprised by her desire to use practical locations when possible, but he was surprised by how amazing they looked.
According to a Variety feature profiling the newly Academy Award-winning director, when Zhao sent some early footage from Eternals for the Disney powers-to-be to watch, Feige says he was blown away. From the article:
“And I had to keep saying, ‘This is right out of a camera; there’s no VFX work to this at all!’” Feige says. “Because it was a beautiful sunset, with perfect waves and mist coming up from the shore on this giant cliffside — really impressive stuff.” Later, watching Zhao’s Nomadland, he saw similar shots. “Oh! That is not just what she wanted to bring to Marvel,” he remembers thinking. “This is a signature style.”
Given how cosmic and bizarre the Eternals characters and premise are, having practical locations sounds like a great way to help literally and figuratively ground the movie. Marvel really lucked out by getting Zhao to do the film — not just for that, of course, but for those Best Director and Best Picture Oscars she just picked up for the critically acclaimed Nomadland.
Of course, VFX have come a long, long way since Ewan McGregor was forced to stand on bare blue Star Wars stages and imagine where the hell he was and what he was looking at, which did his acting no favours, as he said in a recent interview. These days, technology like StageCraft helps give actors on almost entirely CG sets, like on series like The Mandalorian, something to see. But there’s still nothing quite as powerful as seeing the real world to make you feel like what you’re seeing is real, even if it’s a bunch of people in superhero costumes.