Modern superhero films often take ample visual inspiration from the comic book source material, but someone still needs to bring them to life on the big screen. That's where concept artists like Andy Park come in. The longtime comic book artist has developed conceptual designs for Marvel Studios for years (dating all the way back to the original Thor), and he has been responsible for achieving some of the coolest Marvel looks ever committed to celluloid. That said, it's not always a piece of cake, and Park recently admitted to CinemaBlend -- during a chat about his work on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ahead of that film's Blu-ray release -- that designing Malekith's Dark Elves from Thor: The Dark World was one of his hardest tasks to date. Park elaborated:
I think the hardest one was The Dark Elves, strangely enough, from Thor: The Dark World. Like one of the easiest ones was Ant-Man from Civil War where I literally did only three paintings and it got approved. They picked one from the very first meeting. Something like The Dark Elves, it was me, Charlie Wen, and Justin Sweet, three of us, we spent six to nine months doing designs on The Dark Elves. We did over 300 designs between the three of us and yeah it took forever to get that one look that you see in the movie, so it really. It's so subjective right? It's not about 'what's the best design?' It's up to the director, to Kevin Feige, to the execs, and then everyone has to agree. It's not just one person deciding, so it's a challenge.
They can't all be as smooth and straightforward as Captain America: Civil War's version of Ant-Man, can they? To date, The Dark Elves from Thor: The Dark World remain one of the most bizarre concepts to ever enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Creating an alien aesthetic to match the vibe of the Thor films while also grounding them within the world and rules established by the MCU apparently proved incredibly difficult for Andy Park and the rest of the design team working on the film. It all comes down to a collaborative process between Park, the Art Department, and the higher ups at Marvel to discern which design will work best for the given movie.
The task of adapting The Dark Elves becomes even more daunting when we consider how outlandish they can look in the pages of Marvel Comics. The fantastical race of warriors has changed fairly drastically over the years (these are comics, after all), and some versions have even shown them to be far more Orc-ish than the sterile, Stormtrooper-esque soldiers seen in Thor: The Dark World.
In the end, even though Thor: The Dark World wasn't the most well-received Marvel movie to date, I think it's safe to say that Andy Park earned his paycheck. Pretty much every character design in the film (particularly The Dark Elves) looks good, and it once again shows what Marvel Studios can visually accomplish when everyone fires on all cylinders. With Ragnarok, Black Panther, and (of course) Infinity War on the horizon, we will just have to wait and see what the studio will come up with next.
Make sure to check out Andy Park's next contributions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe aesthetic when Thor: Ragnarok smashes its way into theaters later this year on November 3, 2017. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will be available digitally on August 8, and the Blu-ray, 4K, and DVD versions of the film will hit shelves two weeks later on August 22.