Resident Evil Gets the Uber Licker
"We also decided very early on that we didn't want to go with a naturalistic lighting approach," suggests Harrell. "We wanted to go with a graphic approach that exploited the creature's silhouette. We have the silhouette, his mouth, his tongue and his brain to exploit. We chose a very graphic lighting aesthetic that wouldn't be out of place on comic book covers. And there's a balance to be found to have it fit in with live action stuff but I think it was pretty effective.
"We did creature design during previs and during principal photography, so we were able to take some of the plates that were shot and start throwing the creature in and doing our look development in the actual environment that he was going to be living in. We found out that you can't use huge lights on a huge creature because it makes him look small. You have to use very small point light. We settled again on that very graphic approach with heavy rim light; high key but allowing him to always fall into shadow. You've got this implausible creature that we have to make plausible and have to convince the audience that he could move like that. He has weight; he's appearing in the scene with our heroes and attacking them.
Because of Mr. X's previs experience, they could get the look and range of motions dialed in early. There's a sequence when the Uber Licker is chasing a Rolls Royce Phantom down an escalator and into the subways of Moscow (there was a second unit shoot in Moscow along with 2.5D projection for Red Square) And trying to get this huge, beefy creature down a steep incline was quite a balancing act between keeping him aggressive and mean and preventing him from looking clumsy.
The in-house muscle system helped solve some of those aspects. This creature is nothing but a ball of muscle straight out of gym class and the animators had control over individual muscle contractions. After that, the creature would be sent and simmed in Maya, where extra jiggle and muscle weight would be added and dialed in later. There was also finaling to bulge it out and get some veins to pop out.
"Seeing the same character using very different motion cycles is really quite fascinating because I think it can tell the story of its motivation," adds VFX supervisor Eric Robinson. "To help keep him scary, we added digital slime, spit and breath effects. He's also got a pretty long tongue that he can use as a weapon. We have a few beats in the film where he's roaring and menacing the camera, trying to get a strong, domineering pose. It was important to get those moments right, not only in a 2-D compositional sense but also in 3-D so that on the big screen you get the sense that this creature is huge and literally over you."
Bill Desowitz is former senior editor of AWN and VFXWorld. He's the owner of the Immersed in Movies blog (www.billdesowitz.com), a columnist for Thompson on Hollywood at Indiewire and author of James Bond Unmasked (www.jamesbondunmasked.com), which chronicles the 50-year evolution of 007 on screen, featuring interviews with all six actors.