Set Photos That'll Change How You See MCU Movies

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a pop culture phenomenon unlike any other. The interconnected world woven by its films has introduced the likes of Hulk, Thor, and Iron Man to a worldwide audience and has given the characters far more room for growth than any single movie could allow. As of 2020, Avengers: Endgame is the highest-grossing film of all time, and two more Avengers films are hanging out in the top 10, according to Box Office Mojo. The MCU is modern-day mythology, and its heroes are a modern-day pantheon.

Of course, no matter how successful the MCU is, and no matter how many other franchises try to imitate it, it's still a product of Hollywood magic, and a tour of a Marvel movie set would look less like a nerd's dream pilgrimage and more like someone played patty-cake with the Infinity Gauntlet. Luckily, you don't have to be a Lamborghini-driving producer to catch a glimpse of this, as the internet is awash with behind-the-scenes photos, often courtesy of the actors' social media accounts. Here are some set photos that'll change how you see the MCU movies.

Thor: Ragnarok gave the Hulk big shoes to fill

The Hulk is a nigh-unstoppable force, leaping tall buildings in a single bound and then smashing them for being in his way. His alter ego Bruce Banner, on the other hand, is pretty unremarkable in the physicality department, though he's undeniably movie genius-level smart. Obviously, Banner's actor, Mark Ruffalo, isn't an eight-foot-plus muscleman in real life, so a hefty dose of post-production CGI is required to bring Hulk to life on the big screen, a luxury not afforded to the actors during filming.

In 2017, Ruffalo shared a photo from the set of Thor: Ragnarok on his Instagram which illustrates this disparity well. In it, the actor, clad in a motion-capture suit, sits on Hulk's jawbone bed in his eclectically-furnished apartment in the Grandmaster's tower. Ruffalo is essentially dwarfed by his own costume, the tennis ball mounted on his back showing where Hulk's face will be in the final scene. Apparently cognizant of the vaguely humorous look of the picture, Ruffalo invited his followers to caption it, and quite a few fans obliged.

Will the real Guardians of the Galaxy please stand up?

Some actors very famously do their own stunts, and that includes MCU cast members as well. For example, an oft-repeated bit of trivia is that Zoe Saldana almost broke a few of Chris Pratt's ribs while filming a fight scene for Guardians of the Galaxy. Saldana, however, would later tell Hollywood Reporter that she actually kicked Pratt ... below the belt and was treated to the sight of a high-pitched Star Lord insisting that he was fine.

Nevertheless, some sequences are just too potentially dangerous for the actors, and that's where the stunt doubles come in. These skillful individuals can crash a car, catch fire, and be kicked through a wall and do it all while looking like bona fide action stars. On top of that, in a franchise with as literally colorful of a cast as Guardians of the Galaxy, they might just have to go through hours of makeup, as well.

Tony McFarr, Chris Pratt's stunt double, took a moment in 2017 to recognize his fellow stunt workers with an Instagram photo from the filming of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. In it, he stands with an equally stunt-ready Gamora, Mantis, Nebula, and Drax. The group shot has a bit of an uncanny valley feel, but there's quite a bit of talent packed into the picture.

Catching up on Avengers: Endgame

Filming a movie is typically a grueling experience, with long hours, take after take of the same scene, and maybe a crazy director, so with all that stress, finding ways to enjoy the downtime between shots is a must. Courtesy of Mark Ruffalo's Twitter feed, we got a photo in 2019 of Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans playing on a pair of linked Game Boys on the set of Avengers: Endgame.

The two appear to be enjoying whatever they're playing, as hard as it is to imagine Captain America and Black Widow hanging around the Avengers' headquarters partaking in old video games. Cap, after all, is notoriously behind on pop culture, such that in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, he'd taken to keeping a list of important things to catch up on, which, as detailed by Yahoo Entertainment, actually varied depending on which country the movie was showing in. The First Avenger might eventually make it to the Game Boy, though.

Where's Spidey's suit?

Hear or read the name "Spider-Man," and you'll probably imagine an agile web-slinger in a red and blue suit. Said suit is a well-established element of the character, but he got an upgrade in the MCU: Item 17A, also known as the Iron Spider Armor. This shiny new adornment, still featuring the classic colors, can do important things like protect Spidey's body from bullets and keep him from asphyxiating when oxygen becomes scarce, and it can deploy some stabby extra limbs for good measure.

As revealed by a post on Tom Holland's Instagram in 2018, it's also entirely computer-generated. In the picture, Holland poses alongside Chris Pratt and Karen Gillan on the set of Avengers: Infinity War, but his Iron Spider Armor is noticeably absent, making it seem as though Parker showed up on Titan in his pajamas. To be fair, bringing Item 17A to the big screen with practical effects might have worked about as well as bringing Hulk to life by painting Mark Ruffalo green and putting him on stilts.

So that's how Falcon flies

In 2018, Yahoo Entertainment shared a series of behind-the-scenes photos from various MCU films, including one from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The image in question shows one of the first times that Anthony Mackie, who plays Falcon, was suspended by wires, something he'd have to do quite a lot during filming. Instead of wings and other fancy gadgetry, Mackie is held aloft by four wires and stabilized by a helpful production assistant.

The look of grim determination on Mackie's face might be an indication of an unfortunate circumstance for the actor — the wire-flying was not pleasant. In a 2014 interview, he described the shooting of The Winter Soldier as "painful," specifically where acting while flying was concerned. Being Falcon required a good bit of core strength, with Mackie having to hold his legs in position while on the wires.

Mackie did enough of his own stunts in the film that he was left with bruises and a bulging disc in his back, and he remarked that his early attempts at takeoffs and landings could have been their own comedy about Falcon learning to fly. Hopefully, he can largely leave the wires behind now that he's Captain America.

Doctor Strange: Master of the mystic green screen

Doctor Strange was a literal kaleidoscope of visual effects, with all sorts of flashy magic, reality origami, and Mads Mikkelsen's eyes being messed up yet again. One of the most prominent effects were the sparky portals through which Dr. Strange and other practitioners of the mystic arts traverse the world, free of such earthly concerns as passports and TSA pat-downs. These magical gateways are about as handy as they come, like when you need to rustle up an army to confront a genocidal alien warlord.

In 2017, Framestore released a YouTube video comparing shots in the film with what they looked like behind the camera, including a scene in which Dr. Strange uses a portal to exit a supply closet in his old hospital while Dr. Palmer looks on. In real life, Benedict Cumberbatch stepped through a lit-up hoop onto a raised green area which contrasted greatly with the rest of the closet. Perhaps Dr. Strange, fast learner that he is, has mastered movie magic as well?

The Guardians of the Galaxy's ship has seen better days

In 2018, Insider showed readers a number of photos from the set of Avengers: Infinity War, including one of the Guardians of the Galaxy inside the cockpit of their ship. In this case, however, the Guardians are looking into the cold vacuum of the blue screen, and evenly spaced orange dots are the only stars there to see. Nonetheless, Drax defiantly remains in his seat, heedless of the fact that a large majority of the ship seems to be completely missing.

To be fair, actually filming in space would require more dump trucks full of money than even the MCU can rustle up. It would take a really big name to swing that, someone like ... Tom Cruise. The actor is, in fact, working with NASA to legit film a movie in space, as reported by CNN, though there has been no word on whether NASA has plans to build a ship with the interstellar flight capabilities of the Benatar. Smart money says no.

Black Panther was in much calmer waters

As we saw in Black Panther, a Wakandan coronation is a grand affair. After a preamble of boat-partying, the new king is presented at the edge of a waterfall-filled basin, surrounded by the royal family and representatives of Wakanda's tribes as a host of onlookers cheer from the ridges above. (Clearly, acrophobia does not exist in Wakanda.) The presumptive king comes armed, however, for he can be challenged to ritual combat for the throne during the proceedings, a right M'Baku exercises early in the film.

Later, T'Challa faces his long-lost cousin Erik, aka Killmonger, in another impromptu challenge for leadership, during which Killmonger seemingly defeats and deposes T'Challa by throwing him over the waterfall. The actors, however, were in no danger of plunging to a watery grave, as revealed in a behind-the-scenes video by Movies Extra. The dizzying dropoff in the movie was a simple blue screen, giving the appearance that Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan are fighting for control of a water park rather than the most advanced nation on the planet.

Does that hurt, Dr. Strange?

In 2017, Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi wished Benedict Cumberbatch a happy birthday on Instagram by posting a set photo of the actor in his Dr. Strange costume. The image shows a bemused member of the crew taking a power tool to the cape, with Cumberbatch seemingly acting as if he's being drilled in the heart. In his post, Waititi refers to the actor as an "android" and proclaims that his batteries are being charged.

Whatever was being done to the costume, it's not an image likely to make it into any future Doctor Strange films, as it's probably safe to assume that the master of the mystic arts wouldn't be defeated by something from Home Depot. Furthermore, the next movie is titled Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, not Doctor Strange vs. the Tesseract-Powered Drill, and, per Digital Trends, there has been no indication that the sequel will involve Loki disguising himself as a handyman in order to take revenge for his humiliation at the hands of Dr. Strange in Thor: Ragnarok.

What have they done to you, Rocket?

Guardians of the Galaxy marked a major turning point for the MCU, departing from Earth and launching the audience into a wacky sci-fi galaxy filled with unique characters, such as the unforgettable Rocket Raccoon. This diminutive, deadly furball has a tool for every eventuality, a wisecrack for every occasion, and a talking plant for a buddy, and he proves to be an invaluable member of the team.

Of course, the Rocket seen onscreen is a computer-generated creation, so the actors have to interact with various substitutes during filming. Courtesy of Chadwick Boseman's Instagram, we got a look at one such placeholder in 2018, namely a life-size model of the space raccoon which was being used on the set of Avengers: Infinity War. Boseman states in the post that Rocket kept asking for a selfie and then tags Chris Pratt to come pick his teammate up, and the actor's lighthearted banter stands in stark contrast to the model's taxidermied, dead-eyed appearance.

A grim fate for Groot

Arguably the most iconic character from the Guardians of the Galaxy movies is Groot, Rocket's tall, one-line best friend who memorably sacrifices himself to save the team in the first film, only to be reborn as a much more marketable baby for the sequel. In 2014, Business Insider ran a bunch of photos from the filming of the first movie, providing readers with, among other things, a look at what the actors and extras were seeing in the prison scenes. Unsurprisingly, they weren't watching a tree and a raccoon but rather a pair of blue-suited stand-ins.

A seated Sean Gunn, brother of director James Gunn, filled in for Rocket, but Groot's stand-in was decidedly more disturbing. As opposed to Vin Diesel on stilts, Groot's body double is a regular-sized masked performer, and he's wearing a replica of Groot's head above his own so everyone present knows where to look. The actors, being professionals, do not appear to be fazed by the apparent masked killer who's murdered Groot and is now wearing his head.

Who needs sleep, anyway?

In 2014, Hawkeye actor Jeremy Renner posted a bizarre photo on his Facebook page. On the set of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Renner, in costume, had donned an apparent Scarlett Johansson mask and posed for a pic, and the result was pure nightmare fodder. So many questions arise from the image, such as why did he put the mask on, and for that matter, why does the mask exist? Thankfully, the actor provided answers in fairly short order.

While being interviewed on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Renner explained that the mask was used by Johansson's stunt double, and he wanted to try it on, stating, "I was bored on set. We were doing a scene with the stunt double, and she wears this sort of mask. And I wanted to wear the mask. So I put it on." There's no word on whether fans felt that the sneak peek at Hawkeye's Age of Ultron costume was worth the consequent night screams.

The cardboard Thanos

In the MCU, they don't come much badder than Thanos. This cosmic jewelry connoisseur is powerful, ruthless, and cunning, and he thinks he's performing the universe a public service by randomly annihilating half of all life, like an omnipotent Two-Face. He beat the Hulk in a boxing match, held his own against multiple Avengers, and did it all despite being around 1,000 years old. Long story short, Thanos is not to be trifled with.

Courtesy of Insider, we got a behind-the-scenes look at the Mad Titan in 2018 ... and before special effects, he's not very intimidating. For some scenes, such as Avengers: Infinity War's shocking opening on Thor's ship, Josh Brolin sported a back-mounted cardboard cutout of Thanos' head and shoulders above his own. Despite the character's underwhelming pre-CGI appearance, Brolin has stated that he enjoyed playing Thanos and found the motion capture work to be a unique experience which involved much more up-close-and-personal interaction with the other actors than he'd expected.

Where are the Infinity Stones?

Iron Man's decade-plus story arc culminated with a snap in Avengers: Endgame. With his final act of jamming the six infinity stones into his armor and using them against Thanos and his army, Tony Stark completed his transition from a self-centered rich playboy to the self-sacrificing savior of the entire universe, leaving the billionaire with only enough time for a heart-wrenching goodbye to those closest to him. It's arguably the most iconic moment in the MCU to date, and fans aren't likely to forget it anytime soon.

In 2019, Robert Downey Jr. shared a series of photos from the set of Endgame, showing stills of the raw footage from the scene, on his Instagram. The stills' backdrop is a green screen, but that's par for the course where big-budget comic book movies are concerned. More striking is the fact that Stark's improvised Iron Gauntlet is absent, and only the actor's bare hand is on screen. Regardless, Downey Jr. received more than seven million well-deserved likes for the post.