By the end of the year, we will be ten films deep in Marvel Studios mythology, which is quite a feat by any standard. While not every film can be the billion-dollar blockbuster like The Avengers or Iron Man 3, the smaller ones still make plenty of money worldwide and provide a substantial amount of connective tissue in the overall universe.
In November 2013, Thor: The Dark World came out, performing about as well as its predecessor (which is to say good, but not great). The film wraps up a lot of Loki’s storyline from Thor and The Avengers, but more importantly, the mid-credits sequence leads into The Guardians of the Galaxy, due out in August 2014.
For the DVD and Blu-ray release, director Alan Taylor sits down with Marvel guru Kevin Feige, villainous heartthrob Tom Hiddleston, and cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau to talk about the film and reveal the behind-the-scenes process of not just making a superhero film, but making an installment in a much larger franchise.
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Commentators: Alan Taylor (director), Kevin Feige (producer), Tom Hiddleston (actor), Kramer Morgenthau (cinematographer)
1. This was the first film released with only the Marvel Studios logo at the head.
2. Originally, the film did not have a prologue. After test audiences wanted to know more about Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), a prologue was created during post-production, featuring mostly CGI action and only a few practical shots of the key actors in close-up.
3. The stone giant that Thor (Chris Hemsworth) faces off against at the battle of Vanaheim is Korg, also known as the Stone Man from Saturn. Although this version looks a bit different, this is the first enemy that Thor fought in his first comic issue.
4. The first scene of the film that was shot was the news footage of Stellan Skarsgård running around naked at Stonehenge.
5. Storage containers can be seen stacked like the Stonehenge structures location where Jane (Natalie Portman) and Darcy (Kat Dennings) find the gravity anomalies.
6. The kids in the warehouse with the gravity anomalies were cast because they could all speak Farsi. Originally they were to be speaking their language to each other to show the cosmopolitan view of London.
7. Natalie Portman came up with the idea for Jane to slap Thor when she first sees him because he had been away for so long (and because he had been back to Earth and didn’t look her up).
8. Asgardian technology always has gold color on it somewhere, where Elven technology is always dark or colored black.
9. Not only was Jane brought to Asgard to give her the fish-out-of-water story that Thor had in the first film, it was also done so Portman and Anthony Hopkins could share the screen together.
10. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) tossing the cup in the air and catching it while lying on his prison bunk was a nod to Steve McQueen tossing a baseball in solitary in The Great Escape.
11. When Heimdall (Idris Elba) runs out of the observatory to take down an Elven ship, a crack is visible on the bridge. This is where the Asgardians had repaired the Bifrost.
12. The throne room where the Elven ship crashes was a practical set. It was built on the same stage as the Hydra facility in Captain America: The First Avenger, the medal ceremony in Star Wars, and the moon base monolith excavation in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
13. Christopher Eccleston had to wake up at 3:00 a.m. each morning in order to go through make-up for a 10:00 a.m. call time.
14. Zachary Levi was originally approached to play Fandral in Thor, but he was unavailable due to schedule conflicts with his television series Chuck. Josh Dallas took over the role, but then he ended up with a TV show of his own (Once Upon a Time), which made him unavailable for this sequel, leaving Zachary Levi in the position to take over.
15. Before shooting the scene in which Loki shape-shifts into Captain America, Tom Hiddleston put on the Captain America outfit and did his own over-the-top impression of Chris Evans. When it came time to shoot, Evans imitated Hiddleston’s impression of himself.
16. There were five takes of Jane hitting Loki when she first sees him. On the fifth take, she actually connected.
17. Alan Taylor’s nine-year-old daughter was cast in the role of Loki in a school play. Tom Hiddleston made a video for her that gave her several pointers about playing the character. His biggest piece of advice was to remember that Loki is never not having fun.
18. The Svartalfheim scenes were shot in Iceland, which is the area of the world where the characters of Thor and Loki originated in written form.
19. The original ending of the final battle had Thor bringing lightning from all nine realms to destroy Malekith. Since that didn’t use help from other characters like Jane, Erik, and Darcy, the part about the gravity spikes were added so everyone could contribute to Malekith’s demise.
20. The production originally planned to cause more destruction to St. Paul’s Cathedral, but the people in charge of the location requested it be left intact since it was one of the few buildings that managed to remain standing at the end of World War II.
21. Feige admits that he puts the tags at the end of the Marvel movies partially because he wants people to stick around and acknowledge the people who worked on the film. He was inspired by this when he saw Ferris Bueller’s Day Off , which caused him to watch the end of all credits for movies he saw when he was younger.
22. The final shot of Thor kissing Jane was shot in Hong Kong with Chris Hemsworth and his wife Elsa, who was wearing a Jane wig.
Best in Commentary
- Hiddleston: “The Mighty Chris Hemsworth. My brother from another mother.”
- Feige: “It’s always fun when your very first scene in a movie can involve a naked Stellan Skarsgård running around a historic landmark.” Taylor: “You can keep cutting to Stellan Skarsgård with no pants on, and it’s a crowd-pleaser.”
- Feige: “So at the completion of three films, it is revealed that, in fact it has been a Loki trilogy all along.”
I happened to like this sequel much more than the original film. It’s not that this movie is overly dark (in spite of what the name suggests), but rather it’s less bright and shiny. It also takes place in an existing universe, so there wasn’t too much time spent on origin stories and other background elements which were plentiful in Thor.
Taylor and Feige monopolize much of the commentary, and they give overall good insights about the production. Hiddleston tends to wax poetic about acting techniques and stating somewhat obvious character moments as they take place on screen. Sure, Hiddleston is smooth to listen to, but the meat of his commentary contributions is a bit light. To be honest, I cannot remember Kramer Morgenthau chiming in at all, except at the beginning of the movie to introduce himself.
The most interesting part of the commentary is to hear Kevin Feige talk about the overall scope of the Marvel cinematic universe and how this film fits in. Things get a bit corny as they overly promote Guardians of the Galaxy near the end of the film (in particular during the mid-credit sequence with The Collector), but overall, this was an entertaining and informative commentary.