The recent barrage of comic book-related TV adaptations has helped keep the genre in the forefront of the film news blogosphere (not that it needed any help). Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series premiere made a couple of indirect references to characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – as well a specific one regarding a certain Norse god of Asgard, whose adventures are to continue later this year in Games of Thrones director Alan Taylor’s Thor: The Dark World.
We have updates from the director, along with new comments from Guardians of the Galaxy star Djimon Hounsou about his role as Korath the Pursuer in the intergalactic extravaganza.
Taylor recently talked about the Thor sequel in advance of the last leg of the film’s press before its premiere. Speaking to Total Film (via CBM), Taylor reflects on how much the landscape has changed since he began work on The Dark World:
“When I started this thing, ‘The Avengers’ hadn’t come out and ‘Iron Man 3’ hadn’t made a billion dollars, so the [Marvel] universe was changing as we added ourselves to it, which is daunting in some ways but also exciting to have the momentum.”
Momentum indeed – not to mention the extraordinary pressure. Also, it turns out that the film’s subtitle was nearly an afterthought, but deciding upon it confirmed the tonal shift from the original, while maintaining the relatively light tone (compared to, say, The Dark Knight Rises) that the Marvel films have established.
According to Taylor:
“Halfway through shooting, someone at Disney proposed the title ‘The Dark World’ and that really seemed to confirm the movie we were making and label our tonal intention. So we are the darker chapter, but I think we’re doing the right balancing act of remaining within the tone of Marvel to advance that character’s story but it also has to fit in because every few years all the characters have to join the party and be in ‘Avengers’ movies.”
Following the events of The Avengers, Thor now finds himself permanently involved with the ever-escalating super hero goings-on of Earth, even as he’s expected to remain the guardian of Asgard. Taylor had this to say about Thor’s evolving obligations:
“Thor’s world is colliding with Earth, so there’s fun to be had with where his responsibilities lie, but this delves into the bigger universe, outside of what happened on Earth with ‘Avengers.’ “
One of the most anticipated aspects of Thor: The Dark World is the introduction of the newest supervillain to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Malekith the Accursed, ruler of the Dark Elves of Svartalfheim. Hannibal star Mads Mikkelsen was to originally play the role, but scheduling difficulties led to the casting of Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who).
Alan Taylor was frank about the uphill task Eccleston faced, not only in following bad-guy-for-the-ages Loki (Tom Hiddleston), but also in taking on the villain role in a Marvel movie:
“Finding a way to be a villain in these movies is a really tricky thing. Christopher has been very articulate and useful. There’s a default position which is very easy, you cackle madly and laugh! I think we’ve done a lot of work to make Malekith a three-dimensional character who has an understandable back-story and a motive for what he’s doing.”
Eccleston himself spoke about the preparations involved in taking the role, which included learning an all new Elven language, in a particularly uncomfortable short span of time.
According to Eccleston, the language was:
“Created by a very talented man, but I’m not sure he’s absolutely a people person that knows the language has to be spoken! So bringing it to life in a short space of time created some tension, but I think that is a supreme example of Alan trying to ground actors in reality. In an odd way, it may provide these villainous guys some pathos; it may just humanize them.”
Alan Taylor lauded Eccelston’s dedication, saying that while donning a rubber suit and speaking Elven can seem ridiculous, “if you do it with conviction, hopefully you can be full on, and he gave it his all.” The new blood in the Thor universe in the form of Taylor and Eccelston is an exciting addition to the saga of a character who, despite finding himself earthbound throughout The Avengers, still stands apart from our world.
Taylor’s early episodes of Game of Thrones were instrumental in establishing that show’s otherworldly-yet-familiar tone, and his touch will prove essential in re-immersing an audience into Thor’s world.
Marvel’s other foray into the realm of the space-bound fantastical is Guardians of the Galaxy. Written and directed by maverick oddball James Gunn (Slither), Guardians will be the final Phase II film before The Avengers: Age of Ultron in 2015. We’ve heard quite a few insights from director James Gunn’s cast, including Benicio del Toro (who plays The Collector), Michael Rooker (blue-skinned alien hunter Yondu) and Chris Pratt (Peter Quill, aka “Star-Lord”).
Oscar-nominee Djimon Hounsou (for his role in Blood Diamond) talked candidly at Comic-Con 2013 about his choice to take the role in Guardians after his son had expressed a desire to be light-skinned so he could someday play Spider-Man. Our own Kofi Outlaw touched on the noted lack of diversity in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Hounsou clearly sees that the MCU could stand to introduce some new and interesting characters.
Talking to Screen Crush, Hounsou said:
“I mean, obviously it’s been disturbing me for some time that my son said that. So I’ve been on a journey to try to show him other superheroes that are of our color, that are diverse, and I find it difficult to find something online. The only thing I found was my own voiceover of ‘Black Panther’ that I did for an animation for BET some time ago. But it was interesting to be there for that and remembering that my son once said that. That was the first thing that shocked me and realized that we as a minority don’t have heroes. Yeah, that shocked me.”
Hounsou went on to state that shooting’s been “great,” and he appears to be almost finished. He offered vague insights about the physicality of the action (“quite a bit” but “not that much”) compared to some of his other roles. His comments on his place as an actor and now a character within the Marvel universe are more interesting.
When asked if Guardians of the Galaxy‘s relative obscurity gives him more leeway to make the character his own, Hounsou responded:
“Not really, creatively not. I think that’s what you’re saying. Creatively not, but at the same time, it is a great place to be. [These are the] vehicles of today, making films of that nature – nobody’s making nice, human stories anymore, it’s all about superheroes. And I guess it’s a period that we’re going through, and that’s all right – it’s not to be cursed anyway. But at the same time, I’ve been wanting to enter the Marvel Comics world, and this was a nice opportunity, shooting this. And certainly my character in ‘Guardians’ is pretty cool. So I like that.”
While Hounsou sounds like he’s on board with what it means to be a part of this particular brand of cinematic universe, it appears that there is only so much flexibility with what the actors can bring into the situation.
Given director Gunn’s bizarre sense of humor (he wrote the Troma Team “classic” Tromeo & Juliet), Hounsou was asked about whether or not he’s bringing the comic touch he’s revealed here and there (most recently in the rom-com Baggage Claim), and offered a similar answer:
“Well, yeah. I’m not really concentrating or thinking about the comedy aspect. I’m just thinking about the variety of flavorful work, if you will. And again, the Marvel world always is interesting for anybody, really. And for your son to see you almost like a superhero, I mean I’m not playing a superhero but like, you know, to see you in that sort of like world is quite fun. And it’s fun for us as grownups as well to be playing tough boys. At the end of the day it’s all about cowboys and Indians.”
As limited as Hounsou might be, the man is a talented actor, with such a strong, charismatic presence, and is an ideal fit with the Marvel Universe. His insights illuminate some things about these franchises that fans perhaps don’t think about enough.
Thor: The Dark World releases on November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 31, 2015, and unannounced films for May 6 2016, July 8 2016 and May 5 2017.