When Thanos snapped his fingers in Avengers: Infinity War and wiped out half the universe the damage felt unprecedented, but the final Snap in Endgame is even bigger — at least from a special effects perspective. In an interview with the VFX team behind Marvel’s biggest movies, Weta Digital visual effects supervisor Matt Aitken reveals what went into the moment when Iron Man snapped his fingers and defeated Thanos.
“It was a longer, more lingering, more complex than anything we did for Infinity War,” Aitken tells Inverse.
What changed specifically? Well, from a storytelling perspective, Thanos’ initial Snap may have done more damage, but visually, the one in Endgame is way more important.
“In Infinity War, we got to see all these individual personal Snap events,” Aitken says, referring to the apparent death of Spider-Man, Black Panther, Bucky Barnes, and more. “But with Endgame, we had to blip out the whole of Thanos’ army.”
That includes thousands of alien soldiers, those giant flying Chitauri whales, and even entire spaceships. “We had to come up with some modifications to the system so that it would work at that scale,” he says.
The moment when Thanos turns to dust — or “blips,” as the Endgame VFX team calls it — was also a leap forward from what we saw in Infinity War. That’s because the Mad Titan manages to hold on for longer than anyone else who gets blipped. He even fights it for longer than Spider-Man, who seemed to cling to reality in Infinity War as his body turned to dust.
"Thanos himself blipping was actually more of a long lingering blip than anything we did for Infinity War.
“Thanos himself blipping was actually more of a long lingering blip than anything we did for Infinity War,” Aitken says. “We figured out a way to add some extra complexity to make that more natural. The camera comes around onto Thanos and he’s got this very complex, subtle range of emotions playing across his face. He’s thinking, ‘Oh, could I have done anything different to avoid this?’ Because he’s done it before to other people so he knows exactly what’s going to happen. It’s just a beautiful piece of reference performance from Josh Brolin.”
One of the most memorable moments in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe is without a doubt the final defeat of Thanos. But, ultimately, for Marvel’s team of VFX experts, Endgame was a step up in almost every way.
“Everything in Endgame was bigger than Infinity War,” Aitken says.
Avengers: Endgame is streaming now on Disney+.