The premiere episode of Netflix’s “Jupiter’s Legacy” ends with an epic hilltop battle between the superhero group known as the Union and villain Blackstar (Tyler Mane). The members of the Union live by a simple but strict moral code of never killing bad guys, but this fight tests the strength of that resolve. Blackstar not only has superhuman speed and stamina, but also a giant anti-matter battery that powers his suit and allows him to release explosive energy capable of taking out everyone and everything in his path. What plays out on-screen is a stunning stunt- and VFX-heavy sequence that is made even more special by the fact that most of the key artists putting it together behind the scenes were women.
“When I first got the scene, it was bits of green screen with no heart, soul, or energy because it was all being put together. But 95% of the vocals in that scene are looped, and since we started looping at the beginning of COVID, it came with challenges. I’d break it down into sections for each character to do their efforts and breaths. The challenge is the artifice of being in a studio: people withhold, but you have to get that energy, the intent and that emotion right. You also have to know whether they are on the offense or defense. An aggressive punch is different to getting punched. I also had three females in one frame and so they each had to sound different; otherwise, they would disappear. They had to sound authentic to that character and whatever that character was doing. It’s a long scene — about eight minutes — and Blackstar goes through different phases. We augmented the original actor’s vocals by hiring a voice actor who specializes in the kind of monstrous voices and character voices. And we introduced that as Blackstar went through his different phases.”
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“We had to determine, what are the superpowers for each of these characters and what do they look like? Which part of the body do they use? We storyboarded the hilltop so we could figure out how many shots there were — VFX touched every shot in that scene. My colleague Jim Mitchell thought it would be good if this part of Blackstar’s costume allowed him to fly. So, we did a lot of research and development and it meant we could have a fight between him and the Utopian in the air which would give the fight more dimension and you could see the environment, and that gave us more things to play with in post-production. We ended up creating a lot of these characters as digital doubles because some of those shots were impossible for the actors to do. We had a lot of visual manipulation to do. We also needed to completely replace the actors so we could have more control over how they moved and how they could fall. We could control how they connected with other body parts for that sequence.”
“The idea was that it would be wall-to-wall music, and it was a pinnacle scene where the orchestra would be a big part of it. I knew in planning the sound palette that [the] orchestra was going to be a big part of it. I knew there was going to be blaring brass; I knew there was going to be guitars, big percussion and lots of synths. I watched the scene over and over and listened to it without sound. I could feel the pacing of the editing. Every moment was doing something interesting. The music couldn’t be doing that; it needed to be telling the overarching story. How do we keep the pace? How do we make it exciting? How do we make it feel brutal? And how do we make it feel personal? That was the biggest thing. I needed the music to step it up when it felt it was getting urgent. I needed it to carve emotional space when things were not going their way. Blackstar didn’t have a theme. He has this stinger sound that follows him around, and I wanted him to feel dangerous. So, it’s a big synth that sounds like a siren sometimes, and there’s a big distorted sound on him. The main theme of the show ended up being Sheldon/The Utopian’s theme. I wrote it specifically for him. I used a lot of French horn and big brass and big orchestra. I set him up with this big sound and then subverted him. We have it on guitar and the piano. On the hilltop, he has this big heroic theme and he has a moment where he saves Grace and there’s a big push to destroy Blackstar, and you hear it there.”
“The concept for Blackstar was a sinewy look — and this is going to sound insane [but] it proves that inspiration can come from anywhere — we were starting his development and I was watching a show on breadmaking and someone was pulling the dough apart and kneading it. All I saw was someone with pulled skin. The next morning, I ran to the visual-effects department and told them, ‘We have to look at bread texture and raw dough,’ and that’s how it came together. We started adding the mantles. He is a character who experiments on himself and with him, you could see the pain on the outside of him. So, that’s how his costume began and the inspiration for him. We used Nike’s Flyknit material, sneaker technology, to build the costumes. And we incorporated this muscular structure and integrated that into the suit itself.”
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