Framestore was proud to bring to life aliens, fighter jets, explosions and cities in ruin for Amazon Prime’s sci-fi action film The Tomorrow War. The studio was involved in the creative process, working with director Chris McKay (The Lego Movie) on the post-apocalyptic Miami Beach, deadly ‘White Spikes’ alien species and an establishing shot of the 2022 Qatar World Cup — all within a three month turnaround.
Starring Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski and J.K. Simmons, the film follows a group of time travelers arriving from the year 2051 to warn mankind that its only hope for survival is to send people from the present to the future in order to fight an alien invasion. Framestore’s VFX Supervisor Stephane Nazé (His Dark Materials) worked alongside Animation Supervisor Kyle Dunlevy (Fantastic Beasts 2) on shots that drew from the studio’s visdev, environments and FX expertise. “It’s always thrilling to leverage our FX and environments skills on a huge film like The Tomorrow War,” says Nazé.
"We just had three months to bring it all together - we came up with a solid plan, tackling the client brief full-force and driving the process in a thought-driven way right up until the final action-packed pixels."Stéphane Nazé - VFX Supervisor
Post-apocalyptic Miami Beach
Based on plates taken from shots in Atlanta, the team was tasked with completely changing the bumpy Atlantan topography to something more in keeping with the Miami-based action. “Miami is very flat so we had to create concepts that gave the look and feel of the city; flattening the streets, replacing palm trees and adding in glass buildings to give it a modern look,” says Nazé. The team drew from its extensive image and photo library of Miami, using the same urban landscape and completely changing the environment. “It was really important for the director that the images bring out a feeling of chaos, so we added in dirty streets filled with destroyed buildings surrounded by floods to bring that home.”
As well as photoreal environment builds, there were, of course explosions - lots of them. This meant Framestore could showcase its talent for action-packed FX work, including an edge-of-the-seat sequence that sees fighter jets bombing Miami Beach. The team called on a real-life pilot to inform them on how a jet realistically moves within a high-action sequence. “We had to make sure the fighter jets looked realistic so that the audience could really get hooked on the massive fight between civilians and aliens,” explains Nazé. Once the napalm bombs hit, the team was tasked with creating embers, floating ashes and gritty deconstructions of the aliens and the city itself.
One of the team’s key challenges involved bringing to life the deadly alien species within a high-thrills sequence, moments before an explosion determines the fate of life as we know it. “We had to show that the ‘White Spikes’ are an intelligent species,” says Dunlevy. “They’re fast and agile, and most importantly they had to look very powerful and threatening. We needed to keep all of that in mind when animating them. They have jaws, tentacles, multiple arms and they can attack from everywhere. They have a strategy, so there's a real choreography in how we animated them.”
To nail the look and feel of this terrifying species, Framestore’s specialized artists worked closely together; the Lookdev team developed multiple tests on the alien’s micro-detailed fragmented skin texture while rigging collaborated with animation to get rapid iterations of their complex movements. “They’re using their body language to communicate so our team nailed it with subtle movements and we get the vibe of the creature quickly,” says Dunlevy.
The Tomorrow War is now streaming globally on Amazon Prime Video.
“I’m thrilled to see the end result - it’s a testament to the outstanding teamwork and high quality effects Framestore is able to produce in such a short amount of time,” concludes Nazé.Stéphane Nazé - VFX Supervisor