THOR: THE DARK WORLD
Locations and the Look
For the location manager Tom Crooke
and supervising location manager Emma
Pill, London was their main location,
providing the backdrop to many of the
key scenes in the film, which came with
some very specific requirements. Creative
executive Eric Carroll notes, "London
plays a huge role in this film. It's almost
like another character in the movie to be
frank. We've taken advantage of being in
this wonderful city and it just makes the
movie feel bigger. It allows our characters to walk around Earth, to ground us, to see
familiar places and remind our audience that this is the world they live in."
Working closely with director Alan Taylor and production designer Charles Wood, the
location team scoured London for one of the film's most challenging locations -- a
factory that could be utilized several times in the film. Emma Pill explains, "I think we
had 110 factories photographed around London, so we could chose the exact one that
worked for all the different scenes. The requirements were quite specific, as the scene
involves a cement truck floating and going up to certain heights. So first and foremost
we needed something visual. We also needed something that looked really great lit."
The team finally settled on a location in Wembley in northwest London. "Wembley had
a great architectural quality to it," notes Pill. "It had fantastic iron pillars, great skylights,
but logistically we had to find somewhere that could fit not only the cement truck but
also the rather large hydraulic rig that it sat on and a lee lifting crane into the building.
Even in the Wembley location we had to take down quite a few walls to get those
vehicles in and had to make sure it was
somewhere that had the right weight
loading on the ground, and didn't have
basements and things like that."
The dramatic scene of a cement mixer
suspended in mid-air was also one of
biggest challenges to the special effects
team, as well as one of the most
satisfying, requiring minimal visual
effects to create the illusion. Special
effects supervisor Paul Corbould explains, "We had a cement mixer on a motion control
rig which revolved and counter revolved in a drum. It was quite a challenging rig to
accomplish and to get right."
He adds, "We worked together with Alan Taylor and visual effects to get the pre-
visualization of the exact animation we wanted to achieve and built that into the rig.
The rig weighed about 22 tons and the truck weighed about 14 tons. And it was
controlled by computer hydraulics so we could match the moves exactly each time.
There were three axis on it, so there was a rotating axis for
the actual truck, a rotating axis for the drum which counter
rotated and there was an up and down."
In postproduction the visual effects team then add their
magic to remove any signs of the support created to hold
the truck in place. The visual effects supervisor, Jake
Morrison, explains, "Special effects and visual effects are
really intertwined and Paul Corbould and myself have
worked closely together from the beginning, because the
way to get the best out of it is to combine the two. I think
the cement rig is a wonderful example of special effects at
its best. It's a massive rig that they picked up and have
floating around effortlessly. It was entirely convincing on the day and what we'll be
doing is removing the extremely large hydraulic system that Paul built, so that when the
audience actually looks at it, they don't see any of that and it looks as if the truck is free-
London's Greenwich was also a key location and the setting for the film's apocalyptic
climax. During the Olympic Games in 2012, the park played host to the equestrian
events and the show jumping arena used the Royal Naval College as its backdrop,
allowing a global audience to enjoy this famous building and setting. In Marvel's "Thor:
The Dark World," we see the landmark once more, as Malekith starts to bring about his
destruction of the universe, firstly
plowing his mighty elf ship, The Ark,
through the Thames and into
Greenwich's college campus.
Capturing this vibrant city of London on
film was something that also excited the
British actor and Londoner, Tom
Hiddleston. He says, "In the first film the
action cut between Asgard and
Earth/New Mexico and in this film, it's
Asgard and London and it's a very contemporary London, which, as a native resident of
London, I recognize and am excited by. No one is going to have seen London in the way
they see it in this film."
The film's script also required shooting at Stonehenge, in Wiltshire, England, which
Emma Pill confesses made her eyeballs roll. She says, "It is one of our most famous
landmarks in the UK!" She contacted English Heritage who oversees the site and
comments, "They wanted to know exactly how it would be portrayed and we had to
wait quite a while to find out whether they would agree to how we wanted to use the
site. Once they got on board with the story they were brilliant to work with."
Working with a 5000 year old national landmark, which is open to the public everyday of
the year, bar two, did come with limitations. The crew could only shoot outside of
visiting hours, giving the director around three hours in the morning to achieve the
close-up scenes. Pill adds, "Obviously being a heritage site,
you're not allowed to touch the stones or walk on the
stones, so there were lots of logistics!"
In complete contrast to Earth, Asgard and Vanahiem, the
fourth major world we visit in Marvel's "Thor: The Dark
World" is Svartalfheim, the world of the dark elves. The
filmmakers wanted a setting in complete contrast to the
other worlds so the locations team looked to Iceland and
its black, volcanic landscapes. Pill explains, "We chose
Iceland because of its amazing, varied landscape. It really
gives us an other-earthly look that the UK just can't give us. We scouted pretty much the
whole of Iceland and then we focused on one area in the center of Iceland, which gave
us this fantastic, volcanic otherworldly look. It is just so visual and epic in scale. It's an
Cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau describes shooting in Iceland as an unforgettable
experience. He comments, "Shooting in Iceland ranks high up there in my lifetime great
experiences as a cinematographer. It was absolutely stunning. We felt like we were
shooting 'Lawrence of Arabia,' but with black sand, and we were certainly inspired by
that wide-screen desert look, where the characters are very tiny in the frame and
they're a part of this huge world around them and the environments themselves
become as much a character as the actors themselves."
In addition to volcanic environments for depiction of the Dark World, another
opportunity to add authenticity came into play in Iceland. An aerial camera crew flew to
the Dettifoss waterfall (Europe's most powerful waterfall) to film the cascading waters
from every angle. Visual effects supervisor Jake Morrison explains, "If you've seen the
first 'Thor,' you know that Asgard itself is basically ringed by waterfalls; the water falls
off of the edge. So it's really one massive waterfall. So we went there with the idea that
we would be building some
waterfall work and cascading
water in the computer to
realistically depict the world.
There is nothing better than to
start with really good source
material that's real."
The beauty and appropriateness of the Icelandic locations were not lost on Tom
Hiddleston. He enthuses, "It was really exciting to shoot the exteriors of Svartalfheim in
Iceland, which of all the places on this planet I think is the most magical. It has an
otherworldly quality to it and looks like another planet. You get purple skies. We were
shooting on a volcanic lava field and you can get big picture, epic footage there, which
you can't get anywhere else. It's a world of ravines and waterfalls and lava and expanses
of black sand and the northern lights. It's a good place for elves to be from!"
Summing up the experience for all, executive producer Craig Kyle says, "Iceland was a
highlight for everyone on this production. We spent eight glorious days there. It is a
place unlike anything else. I have never driven from grasslands to sheer black cliffs to
deserts to glaciers to icebergs rolling out into the sea. It's breathtaking."
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