Among the many big-budget projects that will go into production in 2016 are a pair of very different movies that should place largely (if not entirely) outside of Earth. Marvel Studios will commence filming Thor: Ragnarok, the third solo movie vehicle for Chris Hemsworth as the God of Thunder; elsewhere, director Ridley Scott is set to begin principal photography on Alien: Paradise Lost, the followup to his quasi-Alien prequel/spinoff, Prometheus.
Scott was considering Australia as a shooting location for his Prometheus sequel back as 2014, though he's since refrained from clarifying if that remains the plan or not. Similarly, there were also reports of Thor: Ragnarok filming in Australia (where Hemsworth hails from), but the last we had heard was the movie is set to shoot at Pinewood Atlanta Studios only. Fortunately, today we have an official update on the situation for both tentpoles.
Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Communications & Arts Minister Mitch Fifield have now announced that Thor: Ragnarok and Alien: Paradise Lost will film in Australia in 2016, with the news being revealed via a press conference in Canberra. Here is the statement from Bishop on the matter (as reported by Variety):
“Australia’s creative industries are well placed to take advantage of a growing global economy and I have been actively promoting Australia for the production of major international films. Our high quality facilities, leading industry experts, outstanding creative talent and diverse landscapes have given us an exceptional reputation as a world-class destination.”
Meanwhile, Fifield had the following to say about the announcement:
“Attracting these two blockbuster films cements Australia’s place as one of the world’s best filming locations. Australian crews and actors will also gain the skills and experience to further strengthen our capacity to produce high-quality films for Australian and international audiences. We are delighted to secure these two high profile international films that will support economic growth and innovation in Australia’s world-leading local production industry.”
Scott and Hemsworth both sent in video messages to celebrate the news, with Hemsworth in particular noting that for him it is “incredibly excited to be coming back home to work" (all the more so since he and his family live in Australia). The Australia government will provide a total of $34 million to the 20th Century Fox and Marvel Studios projects - which, in turn, are expected to create some 3,000 jobs for locals and bring in $217 million to the Australia economy. It is a situation that recalls how, back in late 2014, the Australian government provided Walt Disney Pictures with a $21.6 million incentive, in order to convince the Mouse House to shoot Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales in the country.
[UPDATE: Marvel has now revealed that Thor: Ragnarok will film in Queensland, with pre-production beginning in January 2016 and filming kicking off in June 2016. The production will spend over $100 million AUD ($72.2 million USD) in Queensland and employ over 750 local crew members.]
Thor: Ragnarok will revolve around some as-yet unidentified apocalyptic event that threatens the Nine Realms - something Thor had a vision of in Avengers: Age of Ultron, while he was mind-controlled by Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). Beyond that, details from the initial Ragnarok script draft penned by Craig Kyle (the 2011 animated film Thor: Tales of Asgard) and Christopher Yost (the live-action sequel Thor: The Dark World) remain under-wraps.
What We Do in the Shadows helmsman Taika Waititi is in talks to direct the third Thor solo adventure, and it's rumored the comedy filmmaker was brought onboard to help lighten the mood of the darkest Thor adventure Marvel Studios will have made to date. It has also emerged that Ragnarok is going to be a superhero buddy adventure of sorts, as Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) reportedly plays a key role - fittingly too since he and Thor are not going to be part of Captain America: Civil War in 2016 - and the popular theory is that the realm of Muspelheim (home of Surtur and the Fire Demons) will be seen in the film, among other places in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Australia's natural landscapes may thus be helping to bring Muspelheim to life (among other worlds in the Nine Realms), in addition to the Engineers' planet - a place that Scott has said will be revealed in his Prometheus sequel. It remains to be seen if any other extraterrestrial worlds are explored in the film, though Scott may already have plans to continue the Prometheus storyline in a third installment - one that could fully tie-into the events of his original Alien film, at that.
The Alien: Paradise Lost script written by Jake Paglen (Transcendence) and Michael Green (Blade Runner 2) follows the human scientist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and the android David (Michael Fassbender), as the pair encounter other space travelers on their journey to find the Engineers' home world in Alien: Paradise Lost too, though the latter roles have yet to be filled. The film's subtitle alludes to the thematic parallels between Scott's movie and John Milton's Paradise Lost poem, while "Alien" is meant to better link the film to the larger Alien franchise, including director Neill Blomkamp's upcoming (and currently untitled) Alien 5 project.
Captain America: Civil War will release on May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man – July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on May 1, July 10 and November 6, 2020.
Alien: Paradise Lost and Neill Blomkamp's Alien 5 do not currently have official release dates.