Set Visit: Thor!

Tom Hiddleston interview / Colm Feore interview / Jamie Alexander interview / Ray Stevenson & Joshua Dallas interview

“THOR is a hard one. When you walk around CAPTAIN AMERICA or IRON MAN, you can get it. With THOR what you’re seeing is only 30% of what the movie will be. THOR is the big question mark and to me that’s what makes it the most exciting. I like it when people don’t exactly know what we’re going to do. I liked it when people said, ‘IRON MAN’s the B-Team. You’re calling out the B-Team!’ We knew it wasn’t. We knew it was going to be great. And that holds true for THOR. Being able to stand in sets like this, having done almost 18 Marvel movies at this point, and knowing that here’s another one that will redefine us and at least raise the bar of what a comic book movie is, for both people who’ve read comics and those who haven’t.”

That was Kevin Feige, president of production for Marvel and a producer on THOR, speaking to us – a group of about fifteen online film writers - atop of a device in the middle of Heimdall’s Observatory. The set is gigantic and beautifully constructed, shaped in an imposing geometric pattern and etched and detailed with the finest of care. The result is something cosmic. And as Feige intimates above, it’s one of the elements that showcases just how different THOR will be when compared to the other films in the Marvel universe.

We arrived one by one at Raleigh Studios in Manhattan Beach, CA - home of Marvel movie magic. It was a chilly March morning, but we were greeted warmly by Kevin and co-producer Craig Kyle, a lovely, knowledgeable, and no bullshit kinda guy. He would be our guide for the entirety of the visit.

We entered the Art Department offices first. “Is Loki going to have a helmet with giant horns on it?” asks Kevin rhetorically while pointing at a piece of particularly cool artwork. I laugh and say “hell yeah,” seriously impressed at the overall look and designs we’re seeing in just the costume art on display.

I used the word "cosmic" before, and that’s the first thing you instantly recognize in the designs of Asgard. As Kevin points out to us, the character and aesthetic influences in THOR come primarily from Jack Kirby/Stan Lee and Walt Simonson, as well as J. Michael Straczynski for some of the earthbound designs. At the time of the set visit, Kevin guessed that the film would maybe be 60% Asgard vs. 40% Earth material, or perhaps split right down the middle after all was said and done (note that the New Mexico portions of the film had not yet been shot). But again… cosmic. A simpleton way of describing this might be that THOR’s Asgard looks kind of like THE LORD OF RINGS by way of science fiction. Actually… we had an article go up back in late March that reported on someone calling the costumes “medieval future tech looking.” Not particularly eloquent, but that does describe Asgard practically to a T.

While still in the Art Department offices, the one thing that REALLY stood out – quite literally… because it was standing – was The Destroyer. If you were quick enough to catch the leaked photo that went around earlier this year, then that model of the Destroyer was pretty much exactly what we saw in the offices. It may have been scaled down in size a bit (it was about Linda Hunt's height), but it was still terrifyingly cool. The end of the THOR Comic Con footage revealed (and leaked) earlier this year also showed the beast in motion, but you’ll also be able to get a destructive glimpse of it in the first official trailer for the film which will go online today.

Next, we got out of the Art Department offices and officially made our way into Asgard. I already touched on Heimdall’s Observatory a bit – truly a work of art by production designer Bo Welch – but co-producer Craig Kyle goes into a bit more detail on how the machinery of the set actually works and what it says about Asgardians:

“Once you step inside, you basically tell Heimdall where you want to go. The sword Heimdall uses is not only used to defend Asgard, but it’s also the key to this device. IRON MAN had holograms and was stepping inside virtual worlds. Asgardians have kind of ‘been there, done that’ when it comes to that kind of stuff. So for them to send you across the universe, it’s as easy as turning a key. It’s why it’s a system of gears and wheels. It’s a machine. Their technology is only as sophisticated as it needs to be to do extraordinary things.”

So we make our way out of the large sound stage where the Observatory rested and then cut through a narrow corridor before entering... an even larger sound stage... housing a portion of the ice world 'Jotunheim'. But just to our left as we were making our way through the hall, we see none other than character actor Colm Feore (THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK, TITUS) sitting, half-naked, enveloped in prosthetics and make-up. The man was slowly being transformed into the Frost Giant ‘Ymir’.

This particular set for the ice world was, once again, huge. It was wall-to-wall green screen but the ground was made to look like the ice floor of a glacier. The ground was broken up into sections that rested on hydraulic mechanisms that would tilt and shift at different angles. This was the setting for a foot chase involving The Warriors Three: Hogun the Grim (Tadanobu Asano), Fandral the Dashing (Joshua Dallas), and Volstagg the Valiant (Ray Stevenson). We watched various takes of the chase from the sidelines, with monitors in place to get a look at what the cameras were catching. We then got a visit from the Props Master, Russell Bobbitt, who brought us some of the various Asgardian weapons being used in the film. As a sword nut, this was particularly awesome for me. And then, of course, came the motherf*cker of all weapons… Mjolnir. Yes, I wielded the Thunder God's favored weapon. We all even had our pictures taken with the giant hammer, but alas, we weren’t able to have them for you today. But believe me, the sucker is massive.

And it’s funny, but “massive” is exactly the way to describe everything we’ve been shown. We later walked into Odin’s Throne Room, a set that was already half taken down, but that was still incredibly enormous… and yet detailed… just everything, even the minutia of what still remained. That’s a dynamic we clearly saw on set in every aspect, not just with a room or a weapon. That philosophy, which always accounts for the best kinds of stories, seemed to be at play in the direction of the film itself - Largeness filled with intimacy. As our time in Jotunheim was coming to a close, THOR director Kenneth Branagh was able to take a little time away from commanding the set and spoke to us about that very subject. I leave you folks now with his words…

“I'm certainly excited by an epic subject. It doesn't particularly frighten me. And I like that moment of going into the dark with two hundred people and a big screen, where you're ready to accept larger than life things. You're ready to accept a heightened reality that is a kind of cathartic release that lets you enjoy vicariously the much greater problems that you'll never have to face because you're not trying to run nine realms across the cosmos.

But nevertheless, there are still central human problems that remain essentially the same. But the size of things is attractive. How do you make that interesting to people? And we're always interested in the lives of great people, what goes on behind closed doors. Sort of like The West Wing, or a series like that, about what happens behind the corridors of power. To see these normal people in the middle of the these epic things like an inauguration or a coronation. How does that human and larger dynamic work?

So I'm practiced in it, but it doesn't make it any easier. But I just find it fun. It's part of an escapism. And I mean that. It's truly cathartic. It truly is fun to be in a world where some of those thing can be discussed in a way that maybe offers insight, but bottom line, offers entertainment. We're trying to make a really entertaining film that doesn't insult the audience but isn't trying to be a secret art film or anything. It's just a big-hearted account of these incredible characters who have lasted for thousands of years in Norse mythology, and the last fifty years of Marvel who raided this mythology so brilliantly and with such imagination. You're just really aware of the fantastic amount of talent behind you which you can go and be inspired by and borrow from and ask questions about at any time. One of the biggest problems with Shakespeare is that you can never give him a ring.”

Source: JoBlo.com



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