Fans of the Marvel world got their first glimpse of another realm in 2011's "Thor," which pulled the Marvel universe far from Iron Man's comfortable Malibu digs and all the way to the literally out-of-this-world Asgard.
The filmmakers created their own version of the Norse religion's home base, populated with super-powered gods like Loki, Odin, and Avenger-to-be Thor, including visuals that were seemingly pulled right out of Thor co-creator Jack Kirby's lovingly and elaborately rendered comic book pages.
But this year's upcoming "Thor: The Dark World" will see an entirely new influence leaving its mark on the franchise: that of the popular HBO dark fantasy drama "Game of Thrones." The dirt and grit comes courtesy of director Alan Taylor, one of the minds behind the show's first two seasons. And despite the differences in medium, origin and tone, from what we can tell, the aesthetic marriage of these gigantic properties has created a big-screen interpretation of Asgard unlike any we've seen before.
"Coming off 'Game of Thrones,' where we sort of enjoyed combining fantasy with some sense of three-dimensionality and real life, that's what I tried to bring in here," Taylor explained to MTV News during our set visit. "It's a funny balancing act because you have to be funny in the way that Marvel [movies are] funny, and you have to be true to some pretty absurd things — like elves in spaceships. But then [you have] to try to make that relatable and real and textured and rich and stuff."
This slightly skewed Asgard means that the film will journey to corners of the realm that have previously been shrouded in darkness. "We're seeing the back streets of Asgard rather than the shiny, golden palace, and we go into some shiny palace rooms, but we tend to blow them up this time."
The "Thrones"-inspired overhaul affected more than just the shiny sets, according to "Thor: The Dark World" prop-master Barry Gibbs. "[We're] working with the original 'Thor' [part 1] props and trying to give them a little bit more history and patternation," he explained. "In the first one, they'd been very clean. This time they wanted to get some aging into it and that isn't always as easy as just putting a coat of paint over it. A lot of the props have been remade from scratch and re-designed."
One thing that hasn't been overhauled for the sequel: the relationships. As the first fantasy work on his extensive résumé, one that also includes episodes of "The Sopranos" and "Mad Men," Taylor admitted that the far-fetched setting only highlighted his strengths.
"When I started [directing 'Game of Thrones'], I really started to love it. [I] started to realize that some of the things I'm naturally drawn to, like, a kind of an epic-scale imagery, it's also grounded in these new relationships," Taylor said. "And that's sort of what you can find in 'Thor' as well."
If all of this Asgard makeover talk has longtime fans of the comics worried, producer Craig Kyle made sure to mention that the big-screen version of Thor's hometown still contains plenty of the Kirby krackle that debuted way back in 1962.
"[Marvel's Asgard is] this beautiful fusion of the Viking culture with wonderful advanced technologies and the science fiction element always seems to be present," Kyle said "So, in the pub you see wooden tables, and glasses of mead and families. And then if you look around the room, the lighting elements are completely otherworldly. ... The advancements of Asgard are always present to just keep that science fiction light alive, always."
"Thor: The Dark World" arrives on Midgard on November 8.