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I, FRANKENSTEIN

VFX and Stunts
To give the shape-shifting gargoyles and demons of I, Frankenstein their own realistic life on screen, Stuart Beattie brought on board visual effects supervisor James McQuaide, known for his visceral work on the Underworld series of films. Collaborating with several Australian effects house, McQuaide oversaw close to 1,000 visual effects shots for the production.

"My objective on I, Frankenstein was to take the great script that Stuart put together and find ways with visual effects to support and enhance the story," says McQuaide.

That process began with a lot of talk about gargoyles - which we usually think of as leering, medieval stone sculptures meant to scare off evil spirits, but in Beattie's vision are a fully animate race and powerful forces for good. Beattie wanted to pluck them from the pinnacles of grand cathedrals, and transform them into eight-foot tall flying creatures with thirty-foot wingspans.

"What I loved about the idea of gargoyles is that they are just so cinematic," says Beattie. "They fly, they have massive wings, they have ferocious claws and teeth, they rip things apart. They're really cool. They're guardians of good, the sentinels on every rooftop, keeping an eye out for evil."

Beattie knew early on that these High Gothic creatures could only come to fruition inside a computer. "I'm a fan of practical effects and prosthetics, but the gargoyle is a creature that would not have been possible to make appear real unless we did it in full CG," he explains.

Much research went into the architectural history and traditional look of gargoyles, but Beattie and his effects team also had other considerations - including the physics of making such huge bodies fly. "Remember we're dealing with a massive creature that is made of stone and quite heavy, but it needs to not only fly itself but also be able to carry humans around. It had to be believable that they could glide like a bird yet have the heft of a mighty, demon-killing warrior," says the director.

The rapid transition of the gargoyles into their human forms was another fun challenge for McQuaide and his team. "I've done lots of transformation work on other films," McQuaide says, "and we've always taken sort of the American Werewolf in London approach where audiences see the geometry and the volume of the creatures changing. But in this picture we wanted to do something different."

McQuaide continues, "These creatures transform by wrapping their wings around themselves, and from those wings, they emerge into human form, sort of like a butterfly coming out of the chrysalis. The wings give way to a human's robes. But it was a heck of a challenge to give the wings the right texture, particularly because they had to feel like stone and then become the texture of a robe and vice versa. I can't think of a picture where I've seen that before."

Working in synchronicity with the effects is the film's stunt work, which was supervised by Chris Anderson, whose feature film credits go back to the original Mad Max. Anderson, who previously worked with Beattie on Tomorrow, When The War Began, was especially enthusiastic about the fact that Aaron Eckhart was in top-notch shape to perform his own stunts. "We had an amazing stunt performer in Aaron," Anderson says. "He trained for four months getting ready for the role. There were many battles to choreograph and we set out to bring something new to each one."

For Beattie, every element of this highly technical shoot was equally essential, whether it was creatively choreographed fight sequences, imaginative design work or clever digital effects. But in the end, he says the most important thing was the strong human story driving everything.

He summarizes: "Getting the action to look real, and photographing it in a way that you can tell that it is our actors and not stunt people in every scene was challenging. And there are so many visual effects transformations, too. We aimed to make every part of the film feel different and fresh and new - but at the heart of it, the film is always driven by Adam's story and his journey from a monster to a man."

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