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THOR: THE DARK WORLD

Creating the Look
With Malekith, the otherworldly villain in place, filmmakers were keen to give audiences relatable references and worlds. Director Alan Taylor was chief among those wanting to give the film grounding in reality, with a weathered texture and a grittier feel. Says Taylor, "When I came in, I wanted to get more of a sense of the Norse mythology, the Viking quality, the texture, the history and the weight." As a result, all aspects of Marvel's "Thor: The Dark World," -- from the locations, the vast, largely exterior sets, the costumes, hair and make-up, to the armor, weapons, special and visual effects -- have been carefully crafted to give a worn, humanizing, historical and grounded quality, with more nods to a Viking era than to science fiction.

Alan Taylor felt it was imperative that Thor's home planet Asgard "feels like it has been there for centuries, that it has its own culture, that it really be a place you could believe in." With these marching orders, production designer Charles Wood was tasked with bringing Asgard to life. "One big challenge was to make the film as fantastical as possible, because that's the nature of this type of film, but also to ground the film and make the environments that we created tangible and realistic. We hoped an actor would walk on to any one of these sets and actually believe the environment that they were in."

Wood continues, "In the first film we were generally within the palace, whereas in this film we actually explore the city as well. We wanted to be true to the idea both within the Marvel Universe and within Norse mythology that Asgard was a golden city, but again we wanted to bring a sense of history to this world. We wanted to suggest that Asgard as an environment had been around for many thousands of years."

Kevin Feige adds, "You always want the base level to be as real as it can be and since we wanted Asgard to feel much more real, as well as the Dark World and the other realms, we started from a point of actual location."

Cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau elaborates on the director's/filmmakers' vision for the film. "Alan and I discussed grounding the look of the film much more in reality, with a gritty texture, making it a much more immersive experience for the audience." He adds, "This photographic realism was in collaboration with the production designer, costume designer and all departments -- hair, makeup, props -- just to give a much more naturalistic feeling to the picture, avoiding the more comic-book treatment approaches of some comic book -- orientated action movies."

Chris Hemsworth echoes these comments. "I think very much like the 'Game of Thrones' series, no matter how mythical that world got, it was always grounded in reality. Asgard does look like a place you could see, that exists, not just a set. There is a worn quality to the sets and they look like they have been lived in."

Tom Hiddleston, who reprises his role as Loki, also felt excited by the director's vision for Asgard. "I think Alan wanted to show that Asgard wasn't just where the king, queen and princes lived; it wasn't just the palace and the throne room. He wanted to expand our sense of the world and deepen and shade it. He wanted to give it a kind of grittier feel in the sense that this is the race that the Vikings worshipped. There was a very clear link that felt somehow ancient and Viking and Norse and rugged and salty."

Marvel's "Thor: The Dark World" was conceived as an epic film that spanned the Universe. The filmmakers wanted to transport audiences to the different worlds and make them believe in them and feel the sense of history as well as the everyday life of each of them to help them relate to story and the characters.! To bring Asgard and further worlds within the Nine Realms to reality with texture, grit and believability, the director and filmmakers felt the best way was to use a combination of real locations and expansive, detailed sets, built largely outside. This enabled them to utilize natural light and also shoot the action as much as possible on camera.

Creating Asgard was the biggest challenge of all and also involved the largest number of sets. For their initial inspiration Wood and his team looked to the comic books and at all the material they could find on Thor and the environments that Jack Kirby had produced. They then took their research wider, as Wood explains, "We also looked at images on the Internet, whether architectural or whether it was atmospheric, anything we could find that we felt could have related to the film. We studied all sorts of different historical and modern architectural influences, whether it was Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic, Chinese or Islamic architectural forms. We also studied light and atmosphere. We then went to the studio and met everyone and Alan Taylor and got their take on it and from that point we essentially started conceptualizing."

The Medina set/streets of Asgard set that Wood's team built is the biggest set ever built for a Marvel film and was also one of the longest builds at 3-4 months. One can actually walk around the streets of Asgard and see the shops, the pubs and the training ground. Charles Wood comments, "The Medina set is the most historic part of the film. We're saying it is nestled into the mountains of Asgard and has been around there for hundreds, if not thousands of years. We wanted to mix in earlier architecture, because as the city grows above us it becomes more modern and futuristic."

Similarly the coronation chamber set was a large build for Wood and his team, taking about 20 weeks to build. Wood notes, "We were consciously trying not to actually come up with any particular architectural style for this. It needed to be beautiful and we wanted to create a sense of a golden world, so we looked at all sorts of different architectural references and amalgamated them altogether." He adds, "It also needed to act as one of the biggest environments in the film for the spectacular crash, when the elf ship charges into it, so there were a lot of engineering issues involved with how the ship cuts through the columns." He adds of the sheer size of this set, "We also wanted it simply to be a space that dwarfed the people who were within it."

Another impressive set that is integral to the Asgardian world is the Hall of Science. This would have been the first structure built in Asgard and is the place where the gods do their studies and collect their various technologies. Inside the hall is a massive tree, which is basically a living depiction of Yggdrasil, the World Tree, symbolizing the Nine Realms throughout its branches.

Natalie Portman feels that the scale of the sets harkens back to a different era of filmmaking. She comments, "It's really like the old days of cinema. The sets are incredible and you walk on to set and you think 'wow, we're making a movie'. The scope is just so grand. It's fun to be on that kind of set and see the craftsmanship that goes into it."

Explaining some of his influences for the lighting and feel of Asgard, cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau says, "We wanted a rich feeling to Asgard. It was a combination of a Nordic soft-like feeling, mixed with a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern feeling, with very vibrant colors, strong contrasts, so faces really popped out against the background." He notes artistic influences of pre-Raphaelite paintings, the Dutch Masters and the Orientalist School of Painting.

One of the strangest constructions and challenges for the production designer and his team was creating the harrow space ship. This is a dark elf space ship and the filmmakers wanted to give it a different feel from the other looks within the film, again taking the audiences to another world. Charles Wood comments, "The harrow ship was probably one of the weirdest things we had to build. The design of the ship went through hundreds of different concept drawings and eventually we settled on quite a simple design. We wanted to try and create environments that were different for that, and therein lies the challenge."

Kramer Morgenthau notes that he particularly enjoyed this environment to shoot in. He comments, "The harrow spacecraft is very, very interesting and very different to the sets that you usually come across as a cinematographer. It looks like you're inside an animal and there are no straight lines, no normal walls and windows and it has a very different architecture." He adds, "It has a lot of interactive lighting too, so it was definitely challenging technically and also fun visually to shoot."

London plays a major role within the film, being the current home of astrophysicist Jane Foster, as well as being the epicenter for Malekith's grand destructive strike on the universe and the film's breathtaking, climatic finale. Charles Wood describes the look they were hoping to achieve in London: "We wanted to have a slightly different take on how London has maybe been photographed in the past and because of its history it obviously offers a great deal. We wanted to see the historical side of London but we also wanted to taste the very modern side that we see today, and even the future London as well."

Cinematographer Kramer adds, "The approach to London was also a very naturalistic feeling and Alan wanted certain colors popping out, that to him are iconic of London, such as primary reds and primary blues. This compares to Svartalfheim's very monochromatic feeling, with harsh high-contrasts."

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