Over the years, Marvel Studios have become quietly notorious for their ‘invisible’ CGI enhancements. To give just a few examples from Avengers: Endgame: the white time-traveling suits were entirely CGI, Captain Marvel’s hair in the opening sequence was, too, and so was Captain America’s cowl in the Cap v Cap fight scene. But they’ve been pulling tricks like this for a while, and today fans are losing their minds over a revelation that some scenes in Iron Man 3 contain a computer-generated Robert Downey Jr.
The story begins with the actor injuring his ankle on set. This resulted in a six-week delay to filming while he recovered, which threatened to delay the movie from its crucial May 3rd release date. Things looked bad for the pic, but what if Marvel were to create a CGI Downey Jr. and disguise it as the real thing? Oh ho ho, delightfully devilish!
And so, production continued with a body double standing in for Downey Jr. in key scenes. When he’d recuperated, WETA Digital facially captured his performance and composited it onto the double. The results were seamless, to the point where fans now learning about it are shocked.
my entire life is a lie
— ✰ may (@astcny) April 15, 2020
wait a damn minute
— jade misses tony stark ✰ (@peterxmjxmcu) April 15, 2020
— m a t t ? | ?????? ?????? ?????s (@__killpop01) April 15, 2020
um i have no words. it’s one of my favorite scenes and now i can’t look at it the same way i’m
— rachel (@capswinters) April 16, 2020
This is one of my fav scenes in IM3….I feel betrayed
— Simone Chalabi ??? (@s_chalabi422) April 15, 2020
MY LIFE IS A SHAM
— ceo of spideytorch (@bvckleyparkcr) April 15, 2020
— Sonia ? (@unoriginalSonia) April 15, 2020
It’s a pretty damn impressive feat of CGI, especially as it went by unremarked at the time. One distinction I think that needs to be made though is that while this is a CGI Downey Jr., it looks so good because it’s composited together from real-life elements. That’s not an easy job to pull off, but it’s magnitudes simpler than using a fully CGI actor, as shown by Peter Cushing in Rogue One not looking quite right.
Still, it’s going to be difficult watching Iron Man 3 again and trying to work out if we’re seeing Downey Jr. or his CGI doppelgänger. Then again, perhaps this is all too appropriate in a movie where some characters are not who they appear to be.