To Asgard and Beyond
Wasting no time at all on the trip, upon landing on the ground at Heathrow Airport we took a long van ride out to Surrey where we got our first glimpse of the production at Longcross Studios. Entering into an expansive section that the crew had nicknamed “The Medina Set” (a name that didn’t seem to have any real meaning) we had our first chance to truly step into Asgard. Dusty and sand colored, the first area of the huge set was described to us as a training ground where the soldiers of the realm would learn to use their weapons and prepare for battle.
But as the film’s director would explain to us the next day, Thor: The Dark World aims to open up the world of Asgard and show it as a multi-dimensional place, which was an element also on display on the Medina Set. Overlooking the training ground is a pub where the audience gets the chance to see the people of the kingdom act as a community. The space had wooden walls and columns, and was beautifully decorated with stone and gold archways and golden fabric that hung from the ceiling. In one scene in the film we will see the burly Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) being merry and recounting tales of combat in the pub, and also Thor out of his war armor and in his downtime clothes. It all delivered the sense of not just being in another world, but in another century.
From the Medina Set we moved to another area of Longcross, this time inside one of the studio’s giant stages. Described to us as the Asgardian dungeon, the set was constructed almost entirely out of intimidating dark gray stone… with the exception of the prison cells. Instead those were pure white and glowing with light. The far side of the giant dungeon was a big blue screen, but on our side we stood alongside a pair of detailed columns as well as a massive, ornate door. As we’ve seen in the trailer and stills, this will be the home of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) for at least part of the movie.
While on the dungeon set we got to see second unit director John Mahaffie (who also worked on The Avengers) film a scene involving featured a new group of characters that will be introduced in Thor: The Dark World: the marauders. Covered in black armor and spikes that made them look monstrous and dangerous, the group was described to us as being nomad space pirates who are armed weaponry they’ve picked up from all across the universe - from maces and axes to Chitauri blasters. In the scene we saw them film, a small group of four marauders charged down the hallway of the dungeon towards the giant door, and they were followed by a giant group of more marauders that poured out of one of the cells after them. We weren’t told explicitly what they were doing in the dungeon, but it didn’t seem as though they were keeping the peace.
Our adventures in Asgard didn’t end there, as we got to see two more areas of the golden alien world on second day of the trip at Shepperton Studios (the legendary studio where they filmed classics such as Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Alien, and Blade Runner). The first set we saw was made to double as two different locations, The Hall of Science and the chambers of Thor’s mother, Frigga (Rene Russo). Continuing the pattern from the previous day, the stage was enormous and lavish, decorated in gold and featuring incredibly detailed markings along the walls. At the center was a large, octagonal planter we were told would eventually be the location of the Tree of Yggdrasil. The space was so big that it even had four rooms that branched off from the middle section.
The other set we got to walk through was one we have seen on the big screen before: the Asgardian throne room. Fans should remember that the palatial space was featured throughout the first Thor movie, but for the sequel they were forced to build it all once more from scratch, using the designs from the first film. The setup was built in Stage H, which is not only the largest stage at Shepperton, but also the most famous: it was previously the home of the awards ceremony scene at the end of Star Wars . To give you a sense of scale for the room, the entire place was littered with 35 foot tall columns that will be extended to 75 feet with the help of CGI in the finished film.