|No photos were allowed in the exhibit.
All pictures via alternate sources.
Gordon Smith has been working in special effects makeup for thirty years, his work on display in movies such as Born on the Fourth of July, Jacob's Ladder, and five separate films directed by Oliver Stone, as well as several Canadian television series. His greatest recognition came when he was hired to bring the X-Men to life in Bryan Singer's X-Men and X2 films. This exhibition, made up mostly of Smith's privately owned materials left over after the completion of the films, highlights the creation of seven characters, and explores how the imagination of Marvel comics was initially brought to life.
Hit the jump for the review, which has a wicked tongue.
The exhibit is small, but that doesn't diminish the effectiveness. Plus, it's free, so what do you want? The exhibit opens subtly, with several concept drawings and sketches of the designs of the major prosthetic-requiring characters, and those that formed the bulk of the exhibit: Mystique, played by Rebecca Romijn; Nightcrawler, played by Alan Cummings; and Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman. Before entering the main gallery, a cabinet of contact lens greets visitors, and was honestly one of the more fascinating things in the exhibit. Many characters in X2 featured at least one scene with silver eyes, the effects of the mind control, while others like Romjin or Cummings, wore contacts throughout the majority of their performances. Most unsettling, at the base of the display were two molds of Ian McKellen's eyes, looking up at the viewer.
Smith was also responsible for creating the less intensive prosthetics for the film, including Lady Deathstrike's fingernails, Wolverine's blades, and Sabertooth's claws, each of which was on display. Sometimes we forget about the little things that are altered, like wigs or hair lines, and so it can be a little curious at first to see alongside a set of ten inch Ginsu knuckle-knives, a tuft of hair that functioned as a side burn, or an eyebrow. Exhibits like this a wonderful reminders of exactly how much goes into the minutia of movie building that attention is rarely drawn to, yet make the experience all the more real.
The literal centrepiece of the exhibit were three head casts, one of Jackman, one of Kelly Hu, and one of Bruce Davison. The level of detail and life like quality, though less so on Jackman's then the others, was astonishing, but expected, considering that they were expected to fill in for the actors without us realising. Davison's bust was used to slide his head between the bar's of Magneto's fortress, a scene I was, again, certain was digitally created. I felt the need to rewatch the films after seeing this exhibit, to reconstruct my notions of what was real and what wasn't, with the knowledge that, as before, I'm probably still wrong.
Each stage of the process was given focus, starting with a simple mold of Romijn's arm, which Smith used to develop the texture of the makeup, and to build the hand prints to her specifications. Next was the development of the skin itself, created in fillet like sections, applied in turn and joined together with more standard colouring. The process, and the exhibit, culminated with a life sized mannequin, with the full makeup applied. It looks good on film, but it looks stunning in person. The individual scales don't give you the impression they would feel like rubber, and I assure you that each individual scale was detailed.
It doesn't take long to wander through, but if you are fans of the X-Men films, or just a fan of movie magic, there are certainly less productive ways to spend some extra time. Especially if you're already down stairs for the Designing Bond exhibit (more on that later this week). X-Men Master: Gordon Smith is free at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, in Toronto, until March 31st. I recommend it.
For information, visit TIFF.