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Angelina Jolie’s Eternals Training Highlights How Blockbusters Changed Hollywood

Angelina Jolie’s remarks on filming Eternals shine a light on the evolution of Hollywood blockbusters and the inherent skill required of their actors.

Angelina Jolie’s recent comments about filming combat scenes in Eternals without physical weapons evoke the manner in which CGI-heavy blockbusters have impacted Hollywood and the ability required of their actors. Jolie, who plays Thena in Marvel’s upcoming movie, is no stranger to big-budget projects, as the actor has previously appeared in VFX-reliant films such as 2007’s Beowulf, 2014’s Maleficent, as well as its 2019 sequel Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. However, the logistics of shooting Eternals presented a new challenge for the experienced Jolie, disproving a myth regarding acting prestige in tentpole movies.

Eternals will arrive in theaters on November 5 as the third movie in the MCU’s Phase 4 lineup. The film centers on a new group of superheroes—immortal cosmic beings known as the Eternals—tasked with defending Earth from villainous outside invaders called Deviants. Eternals’ pair of trailers showcase an emphatic usage of CGI on the part of Academy-Award-winning director Chloé Zhao. From Richard Madden’s Ikaris shooting laser beams out of his eyes to Jolie’s Thena dual-wielding a luminous golden sword and shield, post-production effects evidently lie at the heart of Zhao’s artistic vision for Eternals.

Mainstream blockbusters have undoubtedly evolved since the genre’s inception with the 1975 movie Jaws, as green screens and post-production visual effects today have taken up a more prominent presence in coordination with actors. Jolie’s shooting circumstances in Eternals contradict a Hollywood myth that the most demanding roles exist in indie and drama films and are headlined by the highest-caliber talent, while tentpole blockbusters, especially comic book and superhero movies, don’t require nearly as much skill and are reserved for lesser-talented actors. Also supported by Jodie Comer’s recollection of the shooting process for Free Guy, it’s time blockbuster actors earn the same recognition as Hollywood’s best for their ability to make fake look undeniably real.

Speaking to EW, Jolie detailed her training process for Eternals, as she took ballet lessons and learned to imitate fighting with various weapons without actually holding them. At the time of filming, Jolie did not know which weapons would be added in post-production. The actor described the challenge of using her imagination in fight scenes as, “You’re just throwing your hand out as if you’re thinking, ‘Is that a sword? Is that a spear? Is it a lasso? What am I doing?’ Then you get into it and it gets really fun, but it’s a puzzle.” Jolie’s unconventional experience contradicts the notion that high-budget blockbusters, like MCU films, are a pure spectacle devoid of any compelling acting performances. In actuality, such projects require a great amount of skill on the part of actors due to the lack of a natural environment or tangible props during shooting, as the final product relies heavily on the addition of effects. With the vast improvement of technology in movies over the years, green screens, CGI, and VFX pose a challenge to actors involved in blockbuster films today like never before, which demands adaptability to new circumstances that even the most seasoned performers like Jolie have yet to undertake.

Jolie’s remarks echo a similar sentiment to those of Comer, who recently spoke to Collider about filming Free Guy using a green screen, as the movie’s fictional video game setting challenged the actor. Comer admitted that she had rarely worked with green screens before Free Guy, defining her experience as, “This was like somedays going into a big, green box of a studio, and having to act very physical things, you know, you’re having to use your imagination a lot.” Comer highlights an often-overlooked aspect of shooting high-budget blockbusters. When watching the final cut of a film, it’s easy to forget that its real-life set looked completely different, making performances in CGI-heavy films all the more impressive, considering actors had to rely on their ingenuity alone to deliver each scene.

The level of inventiveness required to act in superhero movies like Eternals or VFX-reliant pictures like Free Guy proves a defining characteristic of Hollywood’s brightest stars. As big-budget blockbusters remain at the forefront of the industry’s most popular films, so will the versatility and adaptability expected of actors. Accordingly, the more performers try their hand at tentpole films the redefinition of a top-tier movie star will evolve to include those adorning the big screen alongside an abundance of CGI.

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