Taylor admits he was excited by the prospect of helming the film, saying, “I’d come to love having one foot in reality and one foot in fantasy. All of those things were coming together in this. Thor is a unique Super Hero because he carries so much weight of history and he carries a mythology. Those things gave him the kind of stature that I found exciting.”
From the beginning of his involvement, Taylor was keen on grounding the film in a sense of reality as the story takes place not only on Earth but on Asgard and other worlds of the Nine Realms as well. It was important for the director to never let the film depart from feeling both real and emotionally connected. “We’re making a big effort to ground it in a sense of ‘history,’ despite the fact that it is a made up world, “ explains Taylor. “It was important to me that Asgard feel like it had been there for centuries, millennia even, that it has its own culture and that it really be a place that you could believe in.”
Although Alan Taylor was not a comic book fan growing up, he became acquainted with the genre’s storytelling ethos with a little help from Marvel. “When I first came into Marvel and was introduced to everybody, they delivered three tomes of the Thor universe on my desk, and I started thinking ‘Oh, God, that’s a lot of homework.’ I started reading through them and by the time I got to the point where Loki was a woman and Thor was a frog, I realized that you can find almost anything in this comic mythology and it was okay to sort of push it aside and decide what movie we were making.”
It was the later Thor imagery in the comics that was the most compelling to Taylor and where he found his direction. “Towards the end it really started developing a real richness and it felt like a saga,” notes Taylor. “It felt like it had one foot firmly in Norse mythology. Trying to balance that with the wacky earlier stuff is one of the balancing challenges of any Thor movie. But for me, it’s pretty obvious that I responded mostly to the material that invoked the mythology.”
Creating the worlds of the film and the beings that inhabit them was a challenge that Taylor looked forward to taking on. “Having a chance to create not just Asgard but Vanaheim and Svartalfheim as well was great. The names are hard to say but the worlds are wonderful to try and envision,” enthuses the director.
“We had to create a race of marauders, which are sort of all-purpose bad guys, and that was very collaborative. Our costume person was working on it; our concept artists were working on it,” states Taylor. “Marvel had very evolved ideas about what was appropriate. But the biggest challenge for the film was the Dark Elves and that’s the part that I feel happiest with and most proud of. Finding Malekith’s look and finding the basic imagery of the Dark Elves was a really fun collaboration.”
Taylor knew the team had succeeded with the look of the Dark Elves when he saw the actors in full costumes and makeup on a shoot in Iceland. “They were walking on the black volcanic sand with some snowcapped peaks in the background and their costumes just felt like they were born in this place. It was great,” recalls Taylor.
The new villain in Marvel’s “Thor: The Dark World” is the dark elf Malekith played by Christopher Eccleston. Describing Malekith, Taylor says, “Thor is not just a Super Hero; he has the weight of history behind him. We needed a villain that had scale and was epic as well, so Malekith’s backstory goes back at least 5,000 years. He and his people have been gone for 5,000 years and they’re coming back, in their minds, to right a terrible wrong. They’re driven by vengeance. But Malekith is a noble creature and he’s committed to his purpose above all. He’s sacrificed absolutely everything to achieve his end. Basically, all he wants is the universe.”
The Marvel Super Hero films always feature building the arc of a reprised character from one film to the next. Taylor explains, “In ‘Thor’ we saw Thor go from an impetuous prince to taking the first steps towards maturing and growing up. In our film that life story continues and he’s maturing, he’s moving closer to actually claiming the power that goes with Odin.”
The director continues, “When we started we knew that Loki was going to be an important part of it because of the brother relationship that was created in the first film and is one of the main engines of the Thor movies. We’ve always been aware of his vulnerability and the fact that he is evil. But there is a conflict in him, so now we get to see that other side of him emerge more fully.”
For Alan Taylor, working on a film with the scale and scope of Marvel’s “Thor: The Dark World” was an entrance into uncharted territory, but working with Marvel proved to be a very positive experience for the director. “Coming in, I thought the effect would be daunting and overwhelming, but the Marvel experience was not what I expected,” concludes Taylor. “Marvel is unique. When you make the decisions, you’re making them with filmmakers who are really excited about the characters and the worlds, so in a way it feels like a very intimate creative process.”
Opening across the Philippines on Oct. 30 in IMAX 3D, Digital 3D, 2D and regular theaters, “Thor: The Dark World” is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International.