Just over ten years ago, the Marvel Cinematic Universe launched with Jon Favreau's Iron Man. What started as one movie starring Robert Downey Jr. blossomed into an intricately-woven shared cinematic universe and one Hollywood's biggest franchises. Fast forward to Avengers: Endgame some 22 films later, and the story arcs for many characters fans have come to know and love in the past decade have come to an end.
While characters like Captain America (Chris Evans) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) were able to get their happily ever after, Iron Man ended up paying the ultimate sacrifice. For an actor like Downey, who's been the heart and soul of this particular entertainment world, the whole sequence surrounding his death will likely end up going down as one of the most iconic moments in the MCU.
Stark's "I Am Iron Man" snap was the last thing Marvel Studios filmed for the production and once shot, it was sent to Matt Aitken and the team at Weta Digital in New Zealand to make it screen-ready. ComicBook.com spoke with Aitken this week about the pressures of having to help craft such an important moment in the film.
"There was a balancing act to achieve there," Aitken says about Stark's death. "We had to make sure that his wounds looked severe enough to be fatal, there couldn't be any doubts about that, that's the whole point of his sacrifice. But we had to allow him to keep his dignity through that sequence, that was something that the filmmakers made very clear to us, that they didn't want it to be so over the top gory that it lost its seriousness."
Aitken explains there was a fine line between keeping the injuries believable without going overboard. In fact, he says that if they overdid it, it would have turned into a farce.
"We approached it initially through concept art and we worked up lots of different levels of damage through concept art and reviewed that with the filmmakers at Marvel," the visual effects supervisor continued. "Then we worked that up in CG as a digital prosthetic. That was great because that gave us the opportunity to review the level of damage in the cast and make changes accordingly."
The biggest pressure point, as Aitken tells us, was the need to keep this particular sequence under lock and key. Though there's never been a leak out of Weta Digital, Aitken was still concerned about other workers at Weta catching wind of what was being worked on, only for the ending of the film to be spoiled for them.
"Nothing has ever leaked out of Weta Digital, so I wasn't too terribly concerned about that, but just for people in the facility who weren't necessarily working on that sequence," he recounts. "I didn't want to spoil the ending of the film for them, so we kept that sequence very much under wraps. It's great to be able to talk about it now because for the longest time I couldn't talk about it at all."
Avengers: Endgame is now in theaters.