Just like Iron Man’s armor, Captain America’s shield and the Hulk’s impossibly stretchy purple pants, Thor’s hammer Mjolnir has become synonymous with Chris Hemsworth’s Asgardian Avenger.
And while it may not be as flashy as Tony Stark’s anthropomorphic hot rod suit, the mystical hammer packs a mean punch — remember when it dented the rampaging Hulk’s jaw in “Marvel’s the Avengers”? With Thor returning this November in “Thor: The Dark World,” Mjolnir will be right at his side, ready to uppercut giant rock monsters. But just like it will take an army to fight off the film’s new villains, it took a smaller army to make Thor’s hammer and all of its impossible abilities come to life.
Prop master Barry Gibbs revealed to MTV News during our “Thor: The Dark World” set visit that the Mjolnir we see onscreen is actually portrayed by a number of different identical hammers — kind of like Michelle Tanner on “Full House.” “In all our scenes, we have various qualities of hammer,” revealed Gibbs. “So, we have a hero [hammer for close-ups], and we normally have a light weight [hammer] and a soft [hammer].”
Each hammer variation fulfills a different role during the course of filming. The soft and light weight ones are constructed so that Hemsworth can catch and throw it with ease, and a rubber hammer was created to be nearly indestructible and thus able to survive taking part in the film’s big budget battles. And then there’s the Mjolnir that Thor carries at his side at all times — the “hero” hammer.
“[You have a] hero one, so it’s in the shot all the time,” said Gibbs. “So you want a weight or a certain carriage, so it doesn’t look as if it’s a candy cotton ball.”
While Mjolnir may look nothing like a candy cotton ball, astute viewers might notice that the hammer does look a bit different than it did during its last movie appearance.
“On the first [’Thor’], it was quite plain and had a very simple leather handle,” recounted Gibbs. “And then on ’The Avengers,’ it took on a little bit more high tech [look], a little bit more detailed and so they increased the size of the head and they also put more detail into the handle.” While many hammers were created for “Thor: The Dark World,” Gibbs pointed out one new Mjolnir that echoed the film’s overall darker feel. “This one has actually got some patternation, so it looks as if it’s been through, you know, battles and it’s got some age to it.”
When it came time to put the hammer into action, visual effects supervisor Jake Morrison revealed that this superhero movie still has to account for real world physics — at least partially.
“The fact that [Thor is] somebody who throws a hammer and catches it and flies with that is a leap of faith for sure,” said Morrison, explaining Thor’s unique method of getting airborne. “I tend to think while we bend the laws of physics fairly brutally in [superhero] films, I do think there’s a point where you can lose the audience. And so trying to be as honest as possible with physics — or at least let people believe that it could happen — I think is important.”
Much like Mjolnir, Morrison admitted that the look of Thor’s hammer-powered flight will be more in line with how it was portrayed in “The Avengers” than in 2011’s less physics-driven “Thor,” and that they’re even taking cues from some old school “Thor” comics. “The classic poses in the comic books really work better when he’s on an arc… So I think we’re trying to get more of that in [’Thor: The Dark World’], when he’s jumping to attack somebody, it should be more of a lift and land rather than necessarily a straight-line drive.”
Creating Thor’s takeoff scenes didn’t rest solely on the visual effects team’s mighty shoulders, though, as the Gibb’s prop department also provided a necessary component. “We’ve made some [hammers] which are just a handle,” said Gibbs, “because otherwise it does hit [Hemsworth when he swings it].”
Let that be a note to all who seek to sling hammers with Thor-like accuracy: It takes a visual effects team to pull it off safely.
“Thor: The Dark World” opens in theaters on November 8.