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Larger Than Life: Fall 2017 VFX Preview

Futuristic sci-fi worlds, environmental disasters, competing teams of super heroes, and a new Stars Wars movie all march into theaters this fall.

With supernatural horror adaptation It now in theaters, the fall season is officially underway. VFX house Rodeo FX pulled out all the stops for the surprise blockbuster, which made a whopping $123.4 million for its domestic debut for distributor Warner Bros. and has now earned $217.8 million to date worldwide.

Based on the novel by the same name by Stephen King and directed by Andres Muschietti, It tells the story of seven youngsters, self-named The Losers, who come of age while confronting a shape-shifting evil presence known as Pennywise the dancing clown, in small-town Derry, Maine.

Produced by New Line under a budget of $35 million, the screenplay for It was written by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman. Rodeo FX created many of the most complex visual effects for the film, completing a total of 95 shots. Led by VFX Supervisor Arnaud Brisebois, the Montreal-based studio was tasked with creating a number of CG assets to either enhance or even completely replace actor Bill Skarsgård’s character, who takes multiple shapes to personify each of the kids’ individual fears. Rodeo FX was also responsible for creating the heart of Pennywise’s lair, a giant abandoned cistern where the final confrontation between The Loser’s and Pennywise takes place.

-- Read Coming to a Theater Near You: Fall 2017 Animation Preview on ANIMATIONWorld --

Here’s a look at some of the biggest VFX-driven films coming to theaters through the rest of the season:

Kingsman: The Golden Circle – September 22

Kingsman: The Secret Service introduced the world to Kingsman -- an independent, international intelligence agency operating at the highest level of discretion, whose ultimate goal is to keep the world safe. In Kingsman: The Golden Circle, our heroes face a new challenge. When their headquarters are destroyed and the world is held hostage, their journey leads them to the discovery of an allied spy organization in the U.S. called Statesman in a new adventure that tests their agents’ strength and wits to the limit.

Director Matthew Vaughn returned to helm the sequel, and once again wrote the script alongside writing partner Jane Goldman. The film, which is set for release by 20th Century Fox on September 22 in 2D and IMAX formats, stars Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Halle Berry, Elton John, Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges.

The visuals for Kingsman: The Golden Circle were created by Sony Pictures Imageworks, Framestore, BUF, MPC, Milk VFX, The Senate VFX and Blind Ltd., with previs provided by The Third Floor, under production VFX Supervisor is Angus Bickerton.

Blade Runner 2049 – October 6

In what has got to be the most highly anticipated film of the year for sci-fi fans and cinema buffs alike, Blade Runner 2049, the follow-up to director Ridley Scott’s classic 1982 movie, was already generating a lot of buzz well before it ever went into production.

In the film, Officer K (played by Ryan Gosling), a new blade runner for the Los Angeles Police Department, unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. His discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former blade runner who’s been missing for 30 years.

For this newest chapter in the replicant saga, director Denis Villeneuve teamed with Production VFX Supervisor John Nelson and visual effects houses Double Negative, Framestore, MPC, Atomic Fiction, BUF, Rodeo FX, UPP and Territory Studio to deliver a futuristic sci-fi world that would pay homage to concept artist Syd Mead’s iconic designs for the original film. Blade Runner 2049 arrives from Warner Bros. on October 6, and, frankly, we can’t wait.

Geostorm – October 20

Arriving on October 20 from Warner Bros., environmental disaster sci-fi action film Geostorm is co-written, produced and directed by Dean Devlin (producer & writer on TV’s Stargate and Independence Day) as his feature debut. The film, about a satellite designer who tries to save the world from a storm of epic proportions caused by malfunctioning climate-controlling satellites, stars Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Alexandra Maria Lara, Daniel Wu, Eugenio Derbez, Ed Harris and Andy García.

While principal production was completed in 2014, last year the reportedly big-budget feature went through a pricy round of re-shoots helmed by CSI alum Danny Cannon and overseen by producer Jerry Bruckheimer over a two-week period at a cost of $15 million.

Geostorm promises glorious destruction on a global level, with visuals provided by VFX houses located all around the world including Double Negative, Flash Film Works, Framestore, Hydraulx, Ingenuity Studios, Method Studios, Rising Sun Pictures,Soho VFX and The Third Floor. The production VFX supervisors are Chris Watts and Jeffrey A. Okun.

Thor: Ragnarok – November 3

Marvel Studios is pulling out all the stops for the latest Avengers installment, Thor: Ragnarok. Imprisoned on the other side of the universe, the mighty Thor finds himself in a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits him against The Hulk, his former ally and fellow Avenger. Thor’s quest for survival leads him in a race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home world and the Asgardian civilization.

Directed by Taika Waititi, the visual effects for the blockbuster feature were created by VFX powerhouse Industrial Light & Magic under the leadership of Production VFX Supervisor Jake Morrison, who is known for his work on The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), Ant-Man (2015) and The Avengers (2012). Alongside ILM, additional VFX houses include Framestore, Double Negative, Luma Pictures, Method Studios, Rising Sun Pictures, Trixter, Craft Apes and The Third Floor.

Thor: Ragnarok crashes into theaters on November 3rd.

Justice League – November 17

As we approach the holidays, director Zack Snyder is set to deliver the fifth installment in the DC Extended Universe with Justice League, written by Joss Whedon and Chris Terrio, and produced for a whopping $220 million.

Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s (Henry Cavill) selfless act in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) enlists newfound ally Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) to face an even greater threat. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to recruit a team to stand against this newly awakened enemy. Despite the formation of an unprecedented league of heroes -- Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and the Flash -- it may be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions. The ensemble cast also includes Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Ciarán Hinds, Amy Adams, Willem Dafoe, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen and J. K. Simmons.

The visual effects are by Double Negative, MPC, Scanline VFX, Weta Digital, Rodeo FX, The Third Floor and Blind Ltd, under Production VFX Supervisor John ‘D.J.’ DesJardin.

Distributed by Warner Bros., Justice League arrives in theaters in 2D and IMAX formats on November 17th.

The Shape of Water – December 8

Director Guillermo del Toro goes back to his blood-curdling roots with The Shape of Water, a timeless horror story that has been hailed by critics as the director’s richest film since his 2006 Spanish-language masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth.

An imaginative and offbeat love story, the film is billed as “an other-worldly fairy tale” that follows the relationship between a mute woman and a merman-like sea creature played by Doug Jones.

Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is a mute, isolated woman who works as a cleaning lady in a hidden, high-security government laboratory in 1962 Baltimore. Her life changes forever when she discovers the lab’s classified secret -- a mysterious, scaled creature from South America that lives in a water tank. As Elisa develops a unique bond with her new friend, she soon learns that its fate and very survival lies in the hands of a hostile government agent and a marine biologist.

Written by del Toro alongside Vanessa Taylor, The Shape of Water will be the director’s first film since 2015’s Crimson Peak. Visual effects for the movie are created by Mr. X under the guidance of production VFX supervisor Dennis Berardi (Crimson Peak, Mama, Fight Club).

From Fox Searchlight Pictures, The Shape of Water arrives in theaters on December 8th.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – December 15 (Lucasfilm/ILM)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (also known as Star Wars: Episode VIII) is the second film in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, following 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Directed by Rian Johnson, this next chapter in the Skywalker Saga is produced by Lucasfilm and stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie and Andy Serkis in returning roles. New cast members include Benicio del Toro, Laura Dern and Kelly Marie Tran. Fisher died in December 2016, making The Last Jedi her final film role.

The visual effects for the film were created by ILM and overseen by Production VFX Supervisor Ben Morris with assistance from One of Us and Blind Ltd. Previsualization was provided by The Third Floor.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi arrives in theaters in 2D, 3D and IMAX formats from Disney on December 15th.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – December 20

Get ready for the sequel to 1995’s Jumanji, directed by Jake Kasdan and written by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg and Jeff Pinkner. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle stars Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas and Bobby Cannavale. The film is also a tribute to Robin Williams who died on August 11, 2014.

In the movie, four high school kids discover an old video game console and are drawn into the game’s jungle setting, literally becoming the adult avatars they chose. What they discover is that you don’t just play Jumanji -- you must survive it. To beat the game and return to the real world, they’ll have to go on the most dangerous adventure of their lives, discover what Alan Parrish left 20 years ago, and change the way they think about themselves -- or they’ll be stuck in the game forever.

Overseen by VFX Supervisors Jerome Chen and Robert Winter, the visuals for the film were created by MPC, Iloura, The Third Floor, Rocket Science 3D, Ollin Studio, Rodeo FX, Quantum Creation FX and Crafty Apes.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle arrives from Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2D, 3D and IMAX formats on December 20th.

Jennifer Wolfe's picture

Formerly Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network, Jennifer Wolfe has worked in the Media & Entertainment industry as a writer and PR professional since 2003.

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