Legion: More Than a Wing and a Prayer
The premise of Legion (which opened Friday from Screen Gems) is that a biblical apocalypse descends on the world to destroy mankind. Mankind's only hope is in the hands of a fallen angel (Paul Bettany) and a group of strangers in a remote diner in New Mexico.
Directed by Scott Stewart (Priest), Legion was originally in the vfx hands of The Orphange before the San Francisco-based company disbanded last year. Then Spin VFX of Toronto, which was originally assigned the angel wing shots, took over as the main vendor, with Look FX contributing major 2D and 3D work as well. Joe Bauer (Get Smart) served as production visual effects supervisor.
"I came aboard early in the process when there was some R&D but still had a lot of shots to generate," Bauer suggests. "Spin did everything involved with the angels and final matte paintings of the tent city, the full CG shots and digital doubles in the final battle between Michael and Gabriel [Kevin Durand]. Look's work included The Ice Cream Man [Doug Jones] and the insect cloud."
The wings, of course, proved very challenging because these were no ordinary wings but a weapon. "They have an armor purpose, but, despite what anyone said during R&D, nobody was happy until they looked and acted just like feathers," Bauer continues. "Even though they repelled bullets, they still blew in the wind and had a certain kind of reflection/refraction, softness and a layering quality. I thought Spin did a spectacular job. They did angel wings on Max Payne for Everett Burrell and that's why they got the job. And it's funny to think that originally they had built prosthetic wings that the actors were supposed to wear. Those are the kinds of decisions that made sense in pre-production when the studio is just crunching numbers and not really thinking. And then when they got to the set after the first day's dailies, they trashed the practical wings and it became all-digital after that. There are probably 150 angel wing shots. At first, only Gabriel, because Michael cuts his wings off at the beginning and he returns in the new, re-shot ending and these wings just don't hang there. So there's a lot of performance animation that got easier as the animators got into what Scott expected of them for the wings."