The Oscar-winning visual effects designer, John Dykstra offers insight into Marvel's latest Mutant adventure, available Friday, September 9th
X-Men: First Class will be the first summer movie of 2011 to hit home on Blu-ray and DVD, arriving this Friday, September 9th. Received well by both critics and fans alike, Matthew Vaughn directs this latest X-Men adventure, offering a prequel that reveals how Professor Charles Xavier joined Erik Lensherr to create and form a band of evil-fighting mutants, only to have a difference of opinion tear them apart forever. It also introduces the devilishly fun Hellfire Club to the X-Men theatrical franchise.
Fans who pick up the Blu-ray this Friday will be able to choose from two different premium collectable covers, one featuring Professor X (James McAvoy) and his X-Men, the other featuring Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and the Hellfire Club. This Blu-ray also gives access to two hours of exclusive interactive special features, plus ten Marvel X-Men digital comics which revelas a never-before-seen X-Men: First Class backstory.
The movie achieves a great deal of its charm from the extraordinary talents of Visual Effects Supervisor John Dykstra, a legend in the business who has worked on such timeless classics as Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, to Spider-Man, to Inglourious Basterds. We recently caught up with John at the X-Men: First Class Blu-ray launch party, and chatted with him about the film.
Maybe a little too modest about his own place in the history of cinema, John Dykstra offered insight into the creation of January Jones's Emma Frost, whose mutant powers allow her to morph into diamond form. It was perhaps the most challenging effect to achieve for the movie. He also spoke about CGI verses reality, and how audiences are now starting to confuse the two. He also let us know what he thinks about the recent tweaks George Lucas has made to A New Hope for the upcoming Star Wars: The Complete Saga Blu-ray.
Here is our conversation.
Take us through the difficulties in creating January Jones' Diamond form for the character of Emma Frost
John Dykstra: That was really hard. We went through an immense amount of artwork. The guys at Rhythm and Hues did many, many manifestations and simulations of what diamond would actually look like in real environments. It's huge, because you are reflecting and refracting, and you have to differentiate between the two in terms of the motion, the color, and the contrast. The sharpness of the line determines whether it looks like crystal, or glass, or plastic. Coming up with a means to create a form that is tessellated, like polygons, that didn't look like a computer-generated character, was really a difficult challenge.
There is one scene towards the end of the movie, where Nicholas Hoult, as Beast, delivers a line, and the make-up doesn't quite move with his mouth. What keeps you from going in during post to fix that? Me, I think it's rather charming to see that...
John Dykstra: It really comes down to a case-by-case basis. Matthew Vaughn, as a matter of choice, prefers to do as much stuff practical as he can. As a matter of course on this movie, our efforts at animation were informed by the actor's original performance. Much more so than perhaps the execution of things you may see in a Spider-Man movie. Where you have to make the guy do some sort of super human feat that you simply can't try to have a stuntman do. Because they can't do it. They would turn into a puddle of blood and flesh. We definitely looked for the anomalies that gave a sense of reality. That is something the computer doesn't do very well.
Nowadays, when we see a movie like X-Men: First Class, we tend to assume that everything on screen is a CGI manifestation. When actually its not. It's actually a real, practical set that we are looking at. Have you had any feedback in response to what people were surprised to learn was actually real and not computer generated?
John Dykstra: That would suggest that I have spoken to a broad range of people about what is CG and what is not in this film. I think the CG stuff...Look, when you see something you know cannot happen, it triggers an alarm in your brain. We are so familiar with the human form, and especially the expressive movements of the human form, that when you start doing facial features in CGI, it's almost always a giveaway. You just cannot be as subtle as a real actor can be. Not even in the really well executed films. I thought Avatar did a terrific job. But even then, you knew there were no blue people that are 8 feet tall. It all comes down to if it's a misdirection, or, not misdirection, but whether you understand that it's CG because of some technical execution, or because your brain goes, "I don't know that that could happen." Now, the fleet at the end of the movie? A lot of people have asked us where we got war ships. To do that. Of course there are no war ships. Of course not all of the shots are going to be practical. Because, you wouldn't be able to get a fleet of ships. There are a couple of real ship shots in there. When the guys are jumping off, and having the fight on deck. But, the big wide shots are all CG. I think they did a great job of making those look realistic.
Before you go, can I get your thoughts on George Lucas once again changing Star Wars: A New Hope for its Blu-ray release next week?
John Dykstra: God love him! He should tweak it until his heart's content. You never finish a movie. It is always pried from your grasping hands. There is always something you can fix. Does it always make it better? Mmm...That is questionable. I think executing something, you make decisions as you execute, in terms of priority. Sometimes those priorities are formed by more than just whether or not it was a good technical execution.