James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad uses practical effects for one of King Shark’s goriest moments. After the disappointment of the David Ayer-directed 2016 original, the follow-up introduced a fresh tone, a new raft of antiheroes and bucket loads of gore. Arguably no character epitomizes this winning formula better than fan-favorite Nanaue, also known as King Shark.
In the movie, the human-shark hybrid, voiced by actor Sylvester Stallone, combines endearing slow-wittedness with a savage streak that sees him chomp through several unfortunate opponents. In keeping with the rest of the film, King Shark’s kills are unremittingly bloody, with very little left to the imagination. However, somewhat surprisingly, one of the character’s most spectacular executions was not created with extensive CGI but instead relied heavily on practical effects.
During the scene in question, King Shark seizes a member of The Suicide Squad‘s Corto Maltese military, digs his fingers into his chest, and tears him in half from head to toe. Featuring a mass of bloody entrails and dramatic lightning effects, the moment is certainly memorable. But, according to director Gunn, the spectacular set-piece actually involved relatively little in the way of modern FX.
In a Twitter thread detailing much of the backstory around the creation of the King Shark character, Gunn revealed how the scene was achieved without an over-reliance on computers. Highlighting a still from the finished movie, Gunn explained to his Twitter following, “In this bit of footage, the Shark is CG of course, but the person is real. Well, not a real person, but a practical effect by our SFX & prosthetics teams that I shot.” If nothing else, the scene just goes to show what’s possible if one is prepared to stick with hands-on techniques.
Gunn’s preference for practical effects reflects a growing trend in the industry. However, the director hasn’t always prioritized on-set methods over a post-production approach. For instance, as part of the promotional campaign ahead of The Suicide Squad‘s release, Gunn went out of his way to emphasize how the switch to practical set the project apart from one of his previous works in the Guardians Of The Galaxy franchise. The director said of The Suicide Squad, “It’s a much, much, much rougher film than Guardians of the Galaxy. Everything is… it’s almost completely practical… Dan Sudick, who’s doing our special effects was just saying this morning, he’s doing more special effects, more live special effects in this film, than all of the Marvel movies he’s ever done combined.”
Accurately recreating what a half-human-half-shark killing spree might look like is no mean feat. However, Gunn’s successful use of practical effects in The Suicide Squad proves that a scene can still make a significant impact without relying on computers. In fact, it can even improve the quality overall. As the superhero genre continues to look for ways to push boundaries, Gunn’s commitment to hands-on methods might well provide an exciting blueprint.