Peter Sciretta on the set of Thor: The Dark World

Last year, I traveled to London to visit the set of the Marvel sequel Thor 2: The Dark World. The photo above is me holding Mjölnir, Thor’s iconic hammer – it’s actually heavier than it looks — in the massive weapon room of the film’s production offices. After the jump you can read about the many things that I learned while on set, and watch a video blog reaction I recorded after the visit. Later this week we’ll be publishing some of the interviews we conducted on set with the talent and crew, so be on the look out for them as well.

Video blog with Frosty from Collider:

50 things I learned on the set of Thor: The Dark World:

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The Worlds:

The scope of this film is intended to feel massive. Thor 2 is set in both Asgard and Midgard (i.e. our Earth), but we do see more of Asgard and the nine realms than we did in Thor. The story will be half based on Earth and half set in Asgaurd and other worlds. While the story does involve Earth in a big way, SHIELD doesn’t have much of a presence in this film.

Earth will feel the presence of “the singularity,” a flex in the universe. Fault lines across the universe contract every few thousand years, and this is the first time it’s felt on Earth. We saw concept art of kids running around an abandoned warehouse where they see a cement truck rotating in the air.

Asgard was is built by Thor’s great grandfather, grandfather and father, and each location has many layers of history. A real effort was made to make the Asgard sets multilayered and highly textured, using as much practically-built sets and real locations as possible, mixed with digital set extensions which will be added by artists in post. The set design is grounded in a more organic design sense than that of the original film, kind of like how Game of Thrones is set in a reality-based world with fantasy overtones.

Jake Morrison, the visual effects supervisor, pushed to shoot base footage whenever possible — to shoot basic plates and aerial work used to insert visual effect augmentation, rather than create full shots in the computer.

Marvel traveled to Iceland early in the shoot, filming seven days in the freezing cold. The filming included volcanic lava-capped mountains. Svartalfheim looks very otherworldly and they shot on location in Iceland to archive some of the exteriors.

They also shot on location in London. Huge action scenes take place in and around London, featuring some of the big landmarks of the city. Stonehenge also plays into the storyline. Marvel shot on location at Stonehenge instead of recreating it on stage.

The advancements of Asgard are always present in every scene in that world, to keep the science fiction angle front and center so that it doesn’t just become another Game of Thrones/Hobbit looking fantasy film.

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We get to see the darker underbelly of Asgard, where the non-royal characters live. We visited second unit production where they were filming Loki in a prison cell in the palace dungeon. The room is made up of primarily charcoal-black bricks, with a 20-foot tall door at the front. There’s a long dungeon hallway, like something out of Dungeons and Dragons, with completely white rooms on either side, reminiscent of 2001. Yellow lighting comes from the front of the rooms, giving the effect of a force field jail wall. The hallway has eight of these rooms. Asgardian patterns line the middle of the hallway. Loki’s cell is furnished with books; gifts from Frigga to make him feel more at home. We watched a rehearsal of a handful of Asgardian guards running around the corner and down the hallway.

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The biggest set of the film is the Medina set, which took 4 months to build. The outside freestanding set features a pub with a big fireplace in the corner. The pub feels like a place warriors have been going after battles for generations, telling tales of their valor. In the background is the Asgardian training grounds, where the warriors train for the battles happening all across the cosmos. Huge 30-foot wide columns stand 25 feet, which will be enlarged with set extensions, and there’s blue screen in the background. A courtyard has brick structures with golden Asgardian designs built into them. Greenery wraps along the structures. A big golden arch rises 20 feet in the air before it stops, to be filled in later by CG set extension. Huge fire goblets are all around.

Production design referenced Jack Kirby‘s designs as Marvel impressed the importance of his work, but much of the architecture in the film is based on a mashup of real-world details.

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Connection To The Marvel Cinematic Universe:

Thor: The Dark World will pick up one year after The Avengers and two years after the first Thor movie.

The film will link up with the second phase of the Marvel universe but is more of a separate story than most of the movies in the first phase.

Feige says that “the threads that will build to the greater threat will always be seeded” but the Avengers films will be an additional payoff, not what is driving these single films.

Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth first talked about the story for the sequel with producers while doing press for The Avengers. Tom thinks that some ideas he provided may have made it into the film.

We visited the set for Jane Foster’s London apartment, which is supposed to be a studio apartment but is actually a huge space complete with a big patio. The many small details in her apartment were impressive. A newspaper clipping on her fridge reads ”Citizen narrowly escapes death on the streets of New York,” with a photo of Thor in the rumble of NYC. There’s another clipping about an “asteroid on a crash course with earth” and saying “particle sheds light on dark matter.” A paper on the coffee table: “Einstein-Rosen Bridge Theory: The New Reality.” Jane has a ton of bookshelves filled with books on science. In the kitchen, I spotted a coffee cup with the lower case letter “j” on it.  On a cork board is an article, “Blurry Photo Captures Epic Battle at Stark Towers”. Who knows if any of these details will even be seen in the film.

Multiple actors refused to answer if the Tesseract was still a factor in this film, so it most likely is.

We will not see inside Odin’s vault again in this sequel.

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