Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is nothing if not a master innovator. After every single battle he's had in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the character has used his book smarts and technical wherewithal to better his suit so that it can defend against any threat the Avengers may run into. That includes the introduction of yet another suit in Avengers: Endgame after his first nano-tech based armor was destroyed in the Battle of Titan that took place in Avengers: Infinity War.
Weta Digital was the team behind crafting Stark's layered nano-tech armor in addition to the third-act Endgame battle where we saw the majority of its capabilities. Recently, we had the chance to speak with Weta's visual effects supervisor Matt Aitken, who helped detail what all went into making the latest iteration of Iron Man armor.
"Here in Infinity War, and then subsequently in Endgame, he's got the Bleeding Edge nano-tech that he's developed," Aitken recounts. " And that's about this idea that the suit is actually made up of these nanoparticles that can kind of form a fluid and move around on the surface of the suit, and reform different weapons, and then kind of solidify and crystallize into a rigid, metal suit. We developed that tech for Infinity War, and then really extended it for Endgame for two particular sequences."
After explaining how the nano-tech armor is layered to mimic a human body, skelton, flesh, and all, Aitken then took us to the massive third-act faceoff between Stark and Thanos (Josh Brolin) and all the goodies that came with the fight.
"There's the fight with Thanos towards the start of the third act, where he's generating a device we called the Lightning Refocuser," Aitken says. "Something that is able to capture Thor's lightning energy and then convert it into like a super blast of Iron Man repulsor energy, which he uses to attack Thanos. So that was nanotech and we got to contribute to the design of that particular manifestation of the suit's tech."
Aitken details that the biggest change in the armor comes towards the very end of the film, during Stark's infamous "I am Iron Man" snap.
"The suit's trying to protect Tony from this energy and it's sort of trying to repulse the energy back, but the energy's too strong, and so the suit's getting damaged," remembers Aitken. "We worked up quite a complex simulation where we see the energy surging through the suit, and then the suit's repulsing it back, and these big kind of gouges being gouged out of the suit. We showed a version of that to the studio, and they said it was doing all the right things, but it was just there was too much going on."
With so much going on, the studio and Weta decided to scale back so that the audience would focus on Tony's painful reactions during that moment rather than a jaw-dropping Infinity Gauntlet forming.
"It was definitely a balancing act because we had to realize that what was going on here was ultimately going to prove to be fatal to Tony," the VFX boss says. "It couldn't just look like he was able to brush this off and we'd already seen the effect of the stones on Thanos and on the Hulk in the movie."
Aitken says that to his knowledge, those shots were the last visual effects ever delivered for the film, bringing post-production to a close.
What'd you think of Tony Stark's fatal story arc? Let us know your thoughts either in the comments below or by hitting me up on Twitter at @AdamBarnhardt to chat all things MCU!
Avengers: Endgame is now in theaters. It will be followed by Spider-Man: Far From Home on July 2nd.