Director Alan Taylor Deepens Norse Mythology of THOR: THE DARK WORLD

THOR: THE DARK WORLD director Alan Taylor has plenty of experience with epic character arcs from his creative role in television series such as The Sopranos and Game of Thrones.  In 1999, Alan Taylor won a Primetime Emmy for “Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series” for The Sopranos.  However, stepping into the director role for Marvel’s THOR: THE DARK WORLD presented Taylor with an entirely new set of challenges.  Continue reading below to understand how Alan Taylor embraced the Norse mythology for THOR: THE DARK WORLD, and click here for even more images, clips, and trailers for THOR: THE DARK WORLD opening in theaters November 8, 2013.

THOR: THE DARK WORLD

THOR: THE DARK WORLD Director Alan Taylor. Photo by Jay Maidment © 2013 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2013 Marvel. All Rights Reserved. Image Courtesy of Marvel Studios

From Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Acclaimed Emmy-winning director Alan Taylor, known for his work on HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” brings his style and love of “epic language” to Marvel’s “Thor: The Dark World.”  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.”

THOR: THE DARK WORLD

L to R: Thor (Chris Hemsworth) on set with Director Alan Taylor. Photo by Jay Maidment © 2013 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2013 Marvel. All Rights Reserved. Image Courtesy of Marvel Studios

 

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.”

THOR: THE DARK WORLD

Film frame from THOR: THE DARK WORLD L to R: Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Heimdall (Idris Elba) © 2013 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2013 Marvel. All Rights Reserved. Image Courtesy of Marvel Studios

 

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.”

THOR: THE DARK WORLD

Film frame from THOR: THE DARK WORLD with the Dark Elves © 2013 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2013 Marvel. All Rights Reserved. Image Courtesy of Marvel Studios

 

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.”

THOR: THE DARK WORLD

Behind The Scenes with Director Alan Taylor. Photo by Jay Maidment © 2013 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2013 Marvel. All Rights Reserved. Image Courtesy of Marvel Studios

 

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.”

THOR: THE DARK WORLD

Film frame from THOR: THE DARK WORLD Loki (Tom Hiddleston) © 2013 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2013 Marvel. All Rights Reserved. Image Courtesy of Marvel Studios

 

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,” says 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.”

THOR: THE DARK WORLD

Behind the scenes photo from THOR: THE DARK WORLD by Jay Maidment © 2013 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2013 Marvel. All Rights Reserved. Image Courtesy of Marvel Studios

 

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About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.