Big budget tentpole films sometimes add scenes in trailers that don’t find their way into the films that they are promoting. Many times it’s a misdirection so major plot points of a film don’t get out and spoil the audience and other times it just doesn’t flow with the final cut of the film. Thor: Ragnarok is a victim of the latter as VFX Supervisor, Jake Morrison explained to That Hashtag Show.
Jake also confirms some easter eggs in the third Thor film and talks about what character he’d like to work on next. He also shares a lot of insight of the inner workings of Marvel Studios and how they made the Hulk funny.
THS: Thor is something near and dear to your heart. You’ve been there since the first one.
Jake Morrison: Yeah. I was never by design to become the Thor person. There was this super weird moment when we were prepping this picture and at one of those big tables at the production meeting with 40 people there, I was like, “They keep asking me things,” and then I went, “oh my god! I’ve become the Thor expert. [Laughs] Yeah. It’s really helpful and it’s obviously cathartic to finish the third one. It’s pretty exciting.
THS: From Thor 1 to Dark World, and now to Ragnarok, how have you seen the scope of the franchise grow, because they all have slightly different looks. The third one being completely different than the first two.
Jake Morrison: Well, it’s interesting. To me, they’re such unique pieces. I mean, the first one was a lot more contained. There was a lot of stuff that was in camera, weirdly enough. There obviously was a lot of stuff at the observatory and the rest sort of wasn’t, and the Odinhiem wasn’t, but it was relatively contained. The second one, we shot in London and we got the ability to use some locations a lot more since a lot of it was supposed to be in London so we can shoot in Greenwich and we had some incredible sets there as well. And the third one is obviously, the chains are off. Like it literally you could be traveling anywhere so now it’s like the most Kirby version of any of the Asgard’s and obviously, Sakaar is 100% like Kirby inspired world as well, so to me, it just got bigger, bigger, and bigger, and it’s from a practical point of view. I think right now our shot count is nearly 2,700 shots which mean like 98% of the movie has gone through the VFX.
Jake Morrison: Yeah! It’s the nature of the business. We got more shots in it than Ultron right now. It’s a big picture.
THS: The trailer show Hela destroying Mjilnor somewhere else than it does in the film. Why was that change made?
Jake Morrison: We shot that entire scene in an alleyway in Brisbane actually. So the first version of it, that’s where you saw like Odin, in the sort of hobo garb. I think it’s one of those ones where we got all of the pieces back, right? They all worked. It was all cool stuff. The acting was great, the set looked good, and all the rest of it, but then as you put the whole thing together we looked at it and were like, this is a really busy place for what’s supposed to be a really serene moment. It’s kind of a pivotal moment in the sense that this is there dad passing, and it’s an elective thing. He knows that it’s the path he’s on and when he does pass the portal is going to open up and he’s the only thing holding her (Hela) back. That a part of the situation. I think Taika said it best recently. He was like, “It’s not the right scene to do when you got a thousand freaking yellow cabs honking at you, which you kind of have to do because it’s New York. So you gotta do that. It wasn’t an easy decision, but when we work with the reshoots or additional photography in Atlanta, it was one of those ones where it was a great opportunity to grab again. The best thing about additional photography is that surgically go back and get the bits and pieces. You know, when you put these things together it an evolving document always. The script is an evolving document because of the way that Marvel works with plussing. I’m sure you’ve heard of this. Any idea that someone comes up with is actually like, if it’s better, they’ll do it regardless of what’s come before. There’s never kind of like, “they said it wouldn’t be like that”.
THS: So that’s a real thing?
Jake Morrison: That’s a real thing. Oh, it’s 100% real. It keeps me on my toes. It brings a very jazz mentality to the whole thing because it’s a lot of improv.
THS: That’s actually a great point. The jazz mentality because that’s what this movie kind of is. How exciting is it to tackle the new phase of Marvel movies like cosmic Elements oppose to the more grounded films of the MCU like Iron man 2?
Jake Morrison: Yeah. I love it. The thing is it seems trite to say it but it’s your imagination, but with that said how often do you get to go, “I’ll tell you what we should do here, do a scene with the Hulk and a 35-foot tall mega wolf fighting in Niagra Falls. You’re like what? You get to do stuff like that which I can only imagine when our vendors first heard, I mean, actually, they were up for it. They were like yeah! This is amazing! But you just couldn’t make that stuff up. It’s hard to see us doing that in Greenwich in Thor 2 or even Ant-Man. Ant-Man as well. Ant-Man was a much more grounded story in a sense, you know, a lot of stuff happened on Earth. Then he went into the Quantum Realm and all that kind of stuff, then it got super wacky. But this is like full on jump on board. I swear it’s more like Flash Gordon 2 then it is Thor 3.
THS: I don’t know if you’re working on Infinity War, but has this helped you at all prep for that?
Jake Morrison: No. Because these things are like 2 years. For me, every one of these is like 2 years, so like that team is already up and rolling.
THS: So you don’t know what’s next for you or you do?
Jake Morrison: I am moving over to Disney for a project. I will be doing Jungle Cruise.
THS: With the Rock!
Jake Morrison: With the Rock! I love that man. He’s a lovely man. I’ve worked with him before so that’s really fun. That, I’m moving on to. Then if the gang at Marvel would have something ready for me and want me back I’d be happy to come back. They’re a great gang. I’ve been working with the team for 8 years now.
THS: Now that you’re going to be on the Jungle Cruise, which is amazing, by the way.
Jake Morrison: It’s going to be fun! I shouldn’t really… Yeah, it’s going to be fun. Our director, Jaume (Collet-Serre) is really top notch.
THS: Well, what Marvel character would you want to tackle when you do hopefully eventually return.
Jake Morrison: Oh, I think there’s a good few. The thing with Marvel is there’s like 5,000 characters, right?
THS: Yeah. Tons.
Jake Morrison: They said that when there was the sale going on. They were like, “5,000 characters!” What’s a good one? There are some really weird characters in there.
THS: Are there any characters you’d want to revisit?
Jake Morrison: You know, weirdly, I kind of think Beta Ray Bill would be really fun to do. Did you catch the Easter egg?
THS: Yeah! On the wall. Was that from you guys or was that one of Taika’s things. Like we need Beta Ray Bill in the Contest of Champions.
Jake Morrison: It’s just a riff. With Marvel, it doesn’t really work that way. It’s not like the edict’s come down. The way it works with Marvel is when I’m presenting visual effects shots for final, everybody’s in the room. Like Taika’s there. Kevin Feige’s there. Victoria Alonso’s there. Louis D’Esposito’s there.And there are thoughts we get them all there and then. It’s a very fun and collaborative way of working. Somebody suggested it. It could have been Taika. I can’t remember who suggested Beta Ray Bill, but everybody was like yeah! It’s awesome! Yeah! We should put it on the building! Yeah! It’s just one of those things. We went through all of these different characters and put them all on. It’s such an amazing piece, that building, anyway. Yeah, it’s cool. I’m pleased you picked up on that.
THS: Yeah! Well, who were the other characters? I know Beta Ray Bill, I’m hoping he comes in the next Guardians Of The Galaxy movie, but who were the other characters on the side of the building?
Jake Morrison: I do. I do. These are Easter eggs though. It’s Man-Thing. Yeah, Man-Thing’s in there. Bi-Beast, and Ares.
THS: The Hulk has continued to evolve with each film. In what ways has the process been streamlined to make bringing him to life more realistic?
Jake Morrison: We went back to the first principles really. The thinking is if the Hulk’s got to talk, he didn’t really have to talk in Avengers. He just said puny god, right? Basically his entire lines in the last two films. So now’s he’s got to talk and we discovered he’s got to tell jokes and it’s Mark Ruffalo playing the character, the first principle is he’s got to be able to move, speak, and articulate kind of with Mark’s face. There’s got to be a bit more of that. So we sort of reasoning from a story point of view that Banner’s been trapped in the Hulk’s head for the last two years. Maybe some of him leaked in, right? Maybe that’s why he can talk. Maybe he can look a little bit more like Banner. The two fused slightly. So we went back to ILM and went back to first principles and said we were going to have to build the whole thing from scratch. We found some early art work from the first Avengers and it was stunning stuff. In the first Avengers picture, for story reasons, they went more brutish, but actually, there was more Mark in there and he did these real, extreme facial poses that were awesome, frankly. And I thought we should go more like that because when Mark delivers the lines the Hulk’s face will be, in technical terms, our model, and he’ll be able to express the language the same way that Mark did.