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Welcome To The Land Of Enchantment
As "Thor” fans know (and as moviegoers will come to know), the gods travel from one realm to another via a celestial portal (or, as Jane Foster would call it, "a wormhole.”) They launch from Heimdall's Observatory at the edge of Asgard, in a blast of Bifrost energy. That's how Thor and his small band of warriors get themselves to Jotunheim (seeking revenge), and how Thor ends up in New Mexico (paying the price). As writer of the comic The Mighty Thor for two years, J. Michael Straczynski was the first to drop the super hero into the Land of Enchantment. "There was a time in Greek and Roman mythology when gods and humans walked side by side,” Straczynski offers. "They were part of each other's everyday life. So the idea of rooting Thor in New Mexico seemed like a natural thing to round out the character. To see that development grow and how this film has given life to that idea is immensely gratifying.”

The mountain came to Mohammed with the creation of both Asgard and Jotunheim on soundstages (and inside computers)—but filmmakers took the journey to New Mexico for about six weeks of location filming in the early spring of 2010 to film the scenes on Earth. Anyone familiar with the state's climates also knows that to call March and April ‘spring' by no means conjures weather conducive to location filming. The cast and crew encountered snow, hail and heavy winds on a regular basis—but the experience seemed to only add to the communal ‘magic' on the set.

For Branagh, the nature of the state and its people added an intriguing layer to the film. He muses, "We're in a part of the world where people do watch the skies. If you're from another world, and you'd like the possibility of a welcome upon arrival on Earth, it's a good place to land.”

Welch liked the thought of that, too. "We decided early on that because the celestial realms are causing disturbances in the sky, we wanted a Midgard location that allowed shots with massive amounts of sky. That suggested desert, so a small town in a vast desert with a big sky became the concept.”

The screenplay of "Thor” also suggested one more set of circumstances that lodged itself in Welch's thinking. He describes, "The final confrontation between Thor and the Destroyer reads to me like a showdown in the Old West. That led me to the Tom Ford ranch where such films as ‘Silverado,' ‘Wyatt Earp' and ‘3:10 to Yuma' were shot. Our showdown is an updated take on a classic shoot-out that takes place on the main street in the center of a small town in the wild, wild West.”

The fictitious town that came to be Puente Antiguo is located on Ford's 24,000-acre ranch outside Galisteo, New Mexico, about 25 miles south of Santa Fe. (An old-fashioned Western movie town already existed on Ford's land, to which Welch and his team made extensive changes.)

While early screenplay development toyed with the idea of Thor being plonked down in the Old West of the 1850's, it was decided that engagement to the story was dependent upon relating to not only the characters, but also the environment in which they find themselves. According to Welch: "Instead of filming it as an 1850s period town, we decided to make it real. I wanted it to feel like a character, so you'd feel empathy for its inhabitants when the Destroyer begins blowing it up.”

Zambarloukos describes the resulting style of Puente Antiguo as, "Edward Hopper-ish Americana, which Ken, Bo and I really loved. We always tried to have a fluffy cloud in the blue sky, and layers in our vistas, with something man-made and constructed in the foreground, and perfect nature in the background.”

Welch also wanted to evoke a hint of Asgard in Puente Antiguo. "Heimdall's Observatory is the entrance to Asgard, across the Rainbow Bridge, to a central palace flanked by buildings,” he explains. "In Puente Antiguo [literally "old bridge” in Spanish], we have one street that comes out of the desert, flanked by buildings, and leading to an old car dealership. Smith Motors, in a weird way, echoes the shape of the Asgard palace…but it's a much more modest, and a kind of heart-breaking, version.”

After designing the fantasy-heavy environs of Asgard, Jotunheim, Heimdall's Observatory and the Rainbow Bridge, Welch felt that working on Puente Antiguo "was like a holiday. Nevertheless, it had to fit into the universe of the film, and somehow, dovetail into the other realms.”

Those familiar with sites that are supposed landing places of crafts and beings from other worlds acknowledge that every craft (and pilot), no matter what universe or planet they are from, requires some kind of landing place. So, a bi-frost landing site was designed by Welch and his team—a stencil (inspired by ancient runes and Celtic designs) was created. Once this was applied to the approximately 20-foot-across site (ground lava rocks were sprinkled into the lines set down from the stencil), a circular patch of the desert floor was transformed into a place fit for an Asgardian landing.

Assistant art director Richard Bloom was in charge of applying the stencil. He and assistant Megg Fleck would arrive at the location before sunrise, while the greens crew prepared the ground. "We always entered the circle wearing shoes without treads to try and keep the design pristine,” tells Bloom. "But the winds usually had us re-setting throughout the day.”

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