Cinefex Diaries – Thor: Ragnarok

Marvel Studios Thor: Ragnarok. L to R: Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Photo: Film Frame. ©Marvel Studios 2017
Marvel Studios Thor: Ragnarok. L to R: Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Photo: Film Frame. ©Marvel Studios 2017

Cinefex 155 hits the streets in just a few days, with headline coverage of Blade Runner 2049 (plus my own article on The Dark Tower). I’ll talk about that in a separate blog post very soon. Right now, I’m dusting down my desk after submitting my final draft articles for Cinefex 156, which is out just before Christmas, and gearing up for the next issue after that – that’s out in February 2018. The magazine has a long lead time, so we need to plan ahead!

Thor: Ragnarok poster

My first Cinefex 156 assignment – which I began towards the end of August 2017 and worked on through into October – was Thor: Ragnarok. Although I’ve been working at Cinefex for a while now, this is the first Marvel Studios film I’ve covered – and over the years the magazine has covered ‘em all. The article turned out to be the biggest I’ve worked on to date, not least because of the huge number of visual effects vendors involved.

The scale of the task first became apparent when I spoke with Jake Morrison, production visual effects supervisor at Marvel. I told him that I was working from a shortlist of 10 companies. After a pause at the other end of the line, Jake said (I could hear the smile in his voice): “Yeah … we’re up to 18 now.”

That was just the start. Some of those 18 companies offered me interviews with more than one person. Then there were all the other people I needed to speak to – virtual production, special effects, speciality costumes … the list went on. In the end, I conducted 29 interviews, generating over 70,000 words of transcript. Believe me, when you’ve got so much material to work with, the tricky part isn’t what to put in, it’s what to leave out.

In the middle of my interview schedule, I was lucky enough to secure an interview with Victoria Alonso, executive vice president of physical production at Marvel Studios. Shortly afterwards, Victoria arranged for me to see a cut of the film, even though it was only around 65 percent complete. Marvel is fantastically – and unusually – supportive like that. Frequently my colleagues and I have to work blind. I can’t tell you how helpful it is to actually see the film you’re writing about, even when some of the sequences are unfinished – especially then, actually. Viewing a cut that’s littered with previs, postvis and temp shots gives you great insight into what’s really going on behind the curtain.

I also got to speak with Taika Waititi, director of Thor: Ragnarok. Taika was a gem. He emerged bleary-eyed from an all-day shot approval session barely a fortnight before the film was due for delivery, and chatted with me for a full 30 minutes before plunging back into the inky darkness of the screening room. Not only did Taika talk about his approach to directing the film, but he also shared some amusing insights about his experiences wearing a motion capture suit to portray a Kronan rock monster called Korg.

Next time, I’ll tell you about my second article for Cinefex 156 – Guillermo del Toro’s delightful fantasy The Shape of Water. If you’re into romance and monsters, you’re going to love this one!

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