THOR: THE DARK WORLD
Defining the Look: Costumes, Makeup, Props & More
Wendy Partridge joined the team as costume designer and was excited at the prospect
of the challenge. She comments, "There's always a creative element for every film you
do, but not to this massive extent, where you have multiple worlds, so many different
personalities and such a diverse cross-section of creative looks needed, so it was really
exciting to come on board."
Working closely with the director, production designer, prop designer and Charlie Wen,
the head of Marvel's visual development, Partridge started developing the costumes
and the look for the characters. "Alan is an unbelievably visual director and he was very
involved and very caring about every single visual element of the film," says Partridge.
"He has a wonderful aesthetic and was very collaborative and it was a professional
delight working with him."
Key among the ideas was to run the aged and weathered look and feel of the film
through to the costumes to help the overall film be as naturalistic as possible and
resonate as a living, breathing world, whether that be on the streets of Asgard or
London, or in the palaces or on the
battlefields. Partridge explains, "In 'Thor'
we didn't see a whole lot of everyday
Asgard, so it meant we could create what
was going on in the streets of Asgard. We
could look at what an everyday Asgardian
might wear when hanging out with the
boys, so that was a really delightful part
of this job to create many, many facets of
a world we had previously just seen a
She continues, "We developed a mandate that said we were going to see what elements
the characters had been through, whether it was age or perhaps their battles, so that
the armor and costumes had just more depth and a little bit more integrity in terms of
their everyday life."
Partridge notes that in terms of armor, this wasn't always easy, as you don't know what
sort of metal you are dealing with in the world of Asgard and the Nine Realms. She
states, "I think one of the key things was that you didn't want to think the gods were
invincible, so there needed to be some sense of vulnerability,
even for Thor."
Chris Hemsworth echoes these thoughts. "The sets, the
costumes, the hair, the makeup -- all of it was about making it
look more realistic. Not having them so much like gods that
they were unrelatable. There's a human quality to them all,
which is wonderful."
Partridge and her design team set about extensive research
prior to designing the costumes, which started with the comic
books and moved on to the mythology that is behind the comic book characters. "There
is solid mythology behind every one of the characters, and I think that's one of the
things that became really intriguing and a favorite part of my research," says Partridge.
"The Thor mythology, which is based on Norse mythology, is based on Celtic mythology,
so I started right back with the earliest Celtic historical information that I could find, so
around 3000 years ago," continues the costume designer. "Considering our Thor gods
are 3-4000 years old, that felt like a great place to start. I got entrenched in the art of
that period, which is called Liten and that's what we based a great deal of our aesthetic
on in this film. There are these circular motifs that are part of that ancient artwork and
they show up in a way in the Kirby comic books."
Of the rich history of visual imagery within the comic books, she notes, "There is a lot of
really beautiful imagery to pull from and you're melding these elements of history with
your own take on it and evolving it. It's a wonderful challenge."
Part of that evolution resulted in the costume department developing all of their own
fabrics for Asgard, which involved lots of ombre (dip dying to achieve a graduated
effect), shading and aging and incorporating the Liten imagery. Wendy Partridge
explains, "The designs on almost all of the fabrics we have were developed within this
Liten, Celtic style and then abstracted into the prints. If you're looking at a dress that
Rene Russo has, all those materials have been printed and then ombred and dyed to
look like that. It's not something that you can go and buy."
For Marvel's "Thor: The Dark World", Wendy Partridge and the filmmakers were also
mandated to develop the costumes to be as functional for the actors as possible, given
the increased fight scenes in this film and the dramatic action and stunt sequences.
Partridge notes, "In 'Thor' they had incredible looking armor that was very, very
restrictive. But they didn't do a ton of fighting, so it wasn't as big a deal. In the sequel,
however, there is way more fighting, so as well as evolving the look of the costumes, we
basically re-engineered all the armor so that there was full mobility."
For the look of Thor, Partridge says,
"Thor has his signature look, and for this
we have introduced a beautiful seamless,
dark blue leather, casual cape. It's cut
very simply but it just drapes beautifully,
so when he's hanging out with the boys
he has all of his Thor amour underneath,
but he just has this beautiful, draped
leather that is elegantly simple, and
which Chris Hemsworth just carries off."
Partridge also notes that her team enjoyed some unusual challenges when developing
Chris Hemsworth's costume. She explains, "Chris really is the quintessential Thor. He has
got a spectacular, proportioned body to just carry the presence of a Super Hero, but he
had lots of issues the first time around, which we tried to solve. He is constantly working
out, so we're faced with the challenge of his muscle tone changing on a daily basis,
which meant we ended up with about 25 sets of armor and 30 plus capes."
The costume department's team of leather workers also worked hard to ensure there
were no episodes of trouser splitting. "We did a lot with stretch leathers in the trousers
so that we didn't have things like crotches that split, which is a permanent leather
trouser issue," explains Partridge. "So we try to use different products so that those
things don't happen and yet they still look amazing."
The Mighty Thor's look would not be
complete without one of the film's
icons -- his hammer Mjolnir. Forged from
the heart of a dying star, it can summon
lightning and control the elements as
well as give Thor the ability to fly. The
weapon is intrinsic to his power as well
as the traditional and comic book look of
the character. It is a weapon and prop
that the filmmakers discussed at length.
Director Alan Taylor liked elements of the
hammer from "Thor," as well as the size of the hammer in "Marvel's The Avengers," so
the team looked at amalgamating the two. With key input from the producers and
Charlie Wen, the design went through multiple versions, taking in various design
Property master Barry Gibbs notes, "It's about 10% bigger than in 'Thor.' We've changed
the leatherwork on the handle to suit the costume, so that as it fitted into his hand
there was a flow to the rings on it. We also achieved a great finish on Mjolnir. We went
down the route of 3D prototyping it, which works, but it doesn't have the handmade
touch. It's almost a little too manufactured, so we've used a lot of acid etching in our
processes, so that if we produce something in aluminum, we can get not only a great
patina on the product, but also good aging on it and it looks particularly natural."
There were about 30 hammers made for Thor of various
weights for different uses. The master hammer is made
from aluminum but it is replicated in different materials and
weights, including a "soft" stunt version. Of the 30, five
versions are used most often, including the "lit hammer,"
which emits light when lightning strikes.
Chris Hemsworth felt that by giving Mjolnir a more realistic
feel it would help audiences relate more to the film. He comments, "The hammer has
been taken and roughed up and beaten a bit and scratched, so it looks like it has been
through thousands of years of war and battle and it's not straight off the rack."
The makeup designer Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou, in conjunction with wardrobe,
prosthetics and the other departments also worked hard to bring through the realism of
the characters with a more naturalistic approach. She explains, "Alan wanted to make
these people more realistic, so we broke them down a little bit more and actually gave
them contours and made them sweat; things you wouldn't normally see in a big Super
Hero. In this film Thor is bleeding and has been punched and you can actually see it, and
actually feel that this is a person, not just a Super Hero."
When creating the look for Odin, the team wanted to ensure that his look, stance, and
overall appearance were very powerful and strong, although Partridge notes, "Anthony
Hopkins already has the ability to do that in his sweat pants!" Working with the
legendary actor was a pleasure for the team and the costume designer adds, "He's
incredibly appreciative of all the elements that we can bring together to help him pull
that performance ability off."
Odin's armor, like many of the characters, is made almost
entirely of leather to give it a more grounded feeling. Also
the elements that go around his signature disks all have
beautiful embossing on them and the overall costume has
had a subtle amount of aging and breakdown to give it a
worn and also loved feeling. Partridge describes key details
of his costumes, "He has three or four outfits of different
scales of armor in terms of how much metal armor is on it.
It's real metal, so it has a beautiful luster to it and all the
textiles are just incredibly rich, making sure that everything
about him feels completely regal and in control and
Complementing Odin's stature and status, the props team also developed his staff from
the first film. Barry Gibbs notes, "He has Gungir, which is his golden staff, and we took
the original design and tried to add some history to it. If you can read it, there is a
message in the runes that are down the shaft of the staff."
For Thor's fellow warriors, the Warriors Three, Partridge and her team had fun
developing and evolving their look from the first film, again simplifying and toning down
some of the detail. Hogun has a dark navy blue tone and slight Asian look to his
costume, while Fandral's signature color is green, but notably different to that of Loki's
green costume. Partridge elaborates, "In this film Fandral's costume is a little bit greyer.
We took it further away from Loki than they did in the first film and made it a more
subtle shade. The character has definitely got the flair of someone who loves himself
and there is more flair and panache in his costume and we give him big high-bucket
Actor Zachary Levi, who plays Fandral, felt very strongly that his character should
embody some of the key comic book traits, one of which is blond hair. The director and
hair designer Luca Vannella were keen to keep Fandral blond but Levi's very dark hair
was an issue for them. Levi comments, "I naturally have really dark brown hair and we
weren't sure if we could dye it or if it would work and there was discussion about it
possibly being a lighter brown and I said, 'no, no, no, no, he's blond, he's blond.' The
only things I have ever wanted to say regarding input towards the character are to stay
true to the characters as they are represented in the comic books."
In Marvel's "Thor: The Dark World" all characters see increased action and fighting
sequences, so the weaponry has been altered to be more practical and fit for purposes
within big choreographed fights scenes, as well as
complementing the film's aesthetic. The director also wanted
to add a sense of history to the established props and a
worn, organic feel to those being developed. In fact due to
the number of battles within the film, with warriors from
across the different realms, the props department developed
140 different styles of weapons (outside of the main
characters and elf weaponry), requiring 18 technicians,
including sculptors and metal workers, who individualized
When it came to Hogun's weaponry, the props team loved the mace from "Thor,"!but
made some minor upgrades. Gibbs comments, "Hogun's mace is such a great prop. We
changed very little on it, basically just the handle. We had problems with the spikes
breaking so we developed a different system for fitting those. We tweaked it, making it
more balanced, so it would make Hogun look more fluid with his movements."
For the larger-than-life Volstagg, Wendy Partridge notes that the team brought his
costume a little closer to that of his character in the comic books. She notes, "Everything
about that character is just hearty and jovial, but the same things apply. We were
evolving from the first film, so we simplified some of the elements, and brought in more
brown and pink elements. In the comic book he's fuchsia and we have brought a rose
tone to his costume, which is really lovely."
The props team also worked on a simpler design for Volstagg's axe, making it a double-
headed axe, with a new shaft grafted onto it. Volstagg's sizable costume has also
evolved to make it more maneuverable for actor Ray Stevenson as well as having a hi-
tech cooling device fitted within it, to stop Stevenson from overheating. He comments,
"The costume this time is a bit more user friendly. There are movable sections to it, the
way it is interlocked, so you've got a lot more dynamic within the costume itself. The
chain mail and certain elements of the outer costume are lighter to reduce the weight."
On his character's size, Stevenson adds, "We actually increased Volstagg's girth and the
fat suit extends from the wrist to the ankles to the neck. I then wear a big woolly hat of
a hairpiece and a big pashmina of a beard. When you've got the costume on and the
armor on, there is nowhere for the heat to go. So they have this vest, which has thin
tubes coursing around the whole torso and I have these ungainly pipes that can come
out of the costume and plug into a circulating device of ice water, so between takes I
Wendy Partridge admits that the costume for Lady Sif is one of her favorites. "I've done
a number of Super Hero women and I was really looking forward to working with Jaimie
Alexander. She is such a spectacularly beautiful woman and I wanted to absolutely
capture the most femininity we could there and yet bring full warrior to her, so she can
be out there kicking ass and giving every bit as much as The Warriors Three."
Jaimie Alexander appreciated the
costume development and comments,
"Wendy is fantastic. She really listens to
you and for me, she really knows the
female body and it helped a lot. She said
to us all, 'What can we do to make this
better-' A lot of my movement in this film
is based on martial arts and flexibility
rather than just blunt trauma hits and the
costume allows me to have just
tremendous agility, which is great. I can high kick up to my ears if I wanted to, whilst
looking like I'm wearing the toughest armor you've ever seen."
Barry Gibbs also enjoyed working on Sif's weaponry and notes that her shield is one of
his favorite props. Using the same processes for manufacturing and finishing the shield
as they did for Mjolnir, Gibbs comments, "We achieved a great finish on Mjolnir but it
doesn't look handmade, so we've used a lot of acid etching in our processes, so that if
we produce something in aluminum, we can get not only a great patina on the product,
but also good aging on it and it looks particularly natural. Sif's shield is stunning."
He also notes that the materials they used for Sif's shield were completely different, in
order to look like steel and leather. Sif's complex sword, which can double as a staff,
was also developed further to make it adapt from a single sword into two and then
connect up to become a staff. It is also able to be single blade and spin around into a
fighting stick and also break down into two swords.
Queen Frigga, Odin's wife, played by Rene Russo, was the other key female Asgardian
character for Partridge to design for and she enjoyed bringing the Norse and Celtic
imagery through in her costume. She notes, "As part of the melding of historical
elements from the comic books and from our research, we created this aesthetic armor
for the ladies, which is an evolution of armor to jewelry, so for Frigga (and Jane in
Asgard) we have these beautiful sculpted armor pieces, with pieces of artwork engraved
into them. So we didn't just take ancient Celtic verbatim, it was about evolving it into
something that potentially our gods could have evolved into that was also really
beautiful and unusual."
Dressing the human women of Jane and Darcy, Wendy Partridge notes that their style
from the first film was something the team wanted to continue on with. She notes, "We
really wanted to follow through that they're the same personalities, but they have been
in England for a couple of years. So, you're not taking on the full British style, just a
sense that they've been morphing here for a while and still have their quirky
personalities, particularly Darcy."
Although one would think that dressing Jane Foster for a date, which is an early scene in
the film, would be simple, Partridge notes that those scenes can be the most
challenging. "I think we probably bought 50 outfits to look at what would be right for
Jane as a fish out of water on a date, so she doesn't feel quite right. It's a fine line
between too dressy and not dressy enough; that doesn't feel sexy enough, or doesn't
feel Jane enough. Those things are incredible challenges because it really personifies
where the character is at that moment."
Natalie Portman hopes audiences will enjoy her main look, which is the incredible dress
she is given to wear in Asgard, topped off with a classic British coat. She comments,
"The funny part was combining the Asgardian clothes with a Barbour jacket. I have my
Earth Barbour jacket over the Asgard dress for much of the film, so that's a combination
that always makes people laugh."
For the roller-coaster final
section of the film where we
see Jane in Svartalfheim and
then back on Earth, having
narrowly escaped with her life,
the makeup artists found
themselves with the challenge
of making Natalie Portman less
beautiful and more battle weary. Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou notes, "We kept Jane's
makeup very earthy and natural looking, but she has to look dirty because she's going
through lots of rubble and that's a bit of a struggle when you have a beautiful woman
and you make her up beautifully and then have to dirty it down."
The final key Asgardian characters to design for were Loki and Heimdall. In Marvel's
"Thor: The Dark World" we see Loki at his lowest ebb in his cell. He has two casual cell
costumes, but when he leaves his cell to join Thor's mission, he returns to his signature
look. Partridge explains: "He basically picks up where he left off with The Avengers.
There's certainly more aging to it and the costume is darker. We have slimmed it down a
bit and he has less armor, although Loki has some serious choreography with his fighting
so we needed to make sure he could fight, but also still maintain the incredible elegance
and poise that Loki has."
For Tom Hiddleston, Loki's wardrobe
offered another insight into a character
he loves to play. He explains, "It's really
exciting to see his prison outfit because
there are two shapes to it. One is very
polished and almost lush, as if he's
wearing a very expensive dressing gown,
and the other is when you see him at
rock bottom and he has torn his clothes
and his hair and his face. It's an
incarnation of his own self-hate and his own despair. He's literally ripped at the fabric of
his clothes and that was really exciting to do, because I've never done that, because the
character is so controlled and polished. In the first two films when he's wearing Earth
clothes, he's wearing impeccably tailored suits with beautiful scarves and he's just got
this extraordinary elegance to him, which comes from a kind of vanity. Deconstructing
that vanity was really exciting."
When it came to Loki donning battle fatigues and armor, Hiddleston explains that the
look was again meant to feel aged and worn with a nod to past skirmishes. He explains,
"It was important that the armor Loki had wasn't too new, as if he'd gone into the
armory and cobbled together an outfit that would be suitable for combat but was old.
Because it's not as if public enemy No.1 is going to be given the privileges of new armor
every time, so I like the fact that the forearm plates are still scratched because he got
Hulk-smashed when he was on
Earth fighting The Avengers."
In Marvel's "Thor: The Dark
World," the character of
Heimdall departs from his
stationary post and picks up a lot
of action when he fights to save
the palace from invaders.
Wendy Partridge notes that this meant a substantial departure from his previous
costume. "Idris was another of our really involved engineering feats because in the first
film he had this stunning armor and he basically had to stand in the observatory and be
the eyes of Asgard. He didn't really move and his costume was very restrictive, with very
heavy and dense armor. But this time he takes down a full-on, bad-guy space ship, so he
needed full mobility, and yet still be able to maintain Heimdall's unique appearance. So
we made his costume with many more components. We have a beautiful motif of a tree
on the center of his costume, which is part of the mythology of the tree of life. Again we
kept the tones of his costume golds and bronzes, but gave it that lovely age and we are
saying this is his 'working suit.' We also used a completely different technique for
building the armor, so that everything is about a third of the weight it was on the first
Partridge also went to work on the soles of his shoes. She explains, "One interesting
aspect with his wardrobe was that in a scene where he is running, we actually focus on
the bottoms of his feet. So we went to a great deal of trouble to create his own
particular soles for his shoes, so when you see it, it doesn't say Adidas or Nike on the
The props department also developed Heimdall's weaponry from the first film, so that
the gracious but imposing Heimdall now wields a huge, broad sword. Barry Gibbs
explains, "We took Heimdall's initial sword and beefed it up a little bit, giving it more
weight. We re-sculpted the handle, the pommel and the finger-guard and increased the
blade, which was quite slim in the first movie. We took it up to probably just under half
an inch thick, so it's a really heavy blade." Heimdall also now has two daggers that are
concealed in his costume, which he uses to bring down one of the dark elf harrow ships
during the attack on Asgard.
To achieve the level of costumes required for Marvel's "Thor: The Dark World," even
Wendy Partridge admits that the wardrobe department was enormous. At its peak, she
notes that there were upwards of 120 people working in her department and they made
approximately 1500 costumes.
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