Monthly Archives: March 2017

The Hulk Thor Ragnarok Set

I visited the set of Thor: Ragnarok in Australia almost exactly a year ago, during which time I learned the following about the MCU’s seventeenth feature film. If you’re trying to avoid any and all spoilers, even the smallest details, then bookmark this page and come back to read it after you’ve seen the movie.

How Hulk Ended Up on Sakaar

As production designer Dan Hennah explained while I toured the set with other invited journalists, Hulk — who was last seen flying off in a Quinjet at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron — basically ends up on the alien world of Sakaar by chance not design.

“The sky in Sakaar has a number of wormholes that deposit space waste, basically, and if you’re flying though space, you can get caught in a wormhole and you can end up [on Sakaar],” said Hennah. He added later, “Well, he hit one of these wormholes and he ended up here and he became the Grandmaster’s, uh, special toy. He’s the lead punch-up guy.”

As it turns out, Sakaar is literally the crappiest place in the galaxy. Hennah described the planet as “a bit of a sewer. There’s no vegetation in Sakaar. It’s purely made up of space waste. All the food is made from space waste.”

Producer Brad Winderbaum described Sakaar as “like the Island of Lost Souls or It’s the Isle of Misfit Toys.. … We think about a planet as like orbiting a star and having day and night. This is a planet that’s like frozen in space between an incredible quantity of wormholes. They have been spitting things out into this place for eons and eons. And essentially if anything goes wrong in your intergalactic travels in the MCU, you’re going to get spat out into the toilet of the universe which is this planet. And over however long a society run by the Grandmaster has evolved there, it’s based on these giant gladiatorial battles. And it’s like a violent hedonistic culture, but it’s also like a very — you’re living in a place where anything can fall out of the sky at any moment and crush you, so there’s a very kind of ‘seize the day’ kind of aspect to the world there, which is a really great contrast to Asgard.”

Shortly after he lands on Sakaar, Hulk becomes the biggest champion of the gladiatorial games overseen by Sakaar’s ruler, the Grandmaster (played by Jeff Goldblum, who would not start filming his scenes until the week after my set visit). While taking the press on a tour of the Sakaar sets, including a large main plaza, production designer Dan Hennah revealed that the Hulk is basically treated as a celebrity on Sakaar. They even have a festival and parade in his honor through the plaza at one point. (Hennah also revealed there’s a major action set-piece where Hulk chases Thor through the streets of Sakaar.)

Hulk lives like a sports superstar while on Sakaar. Hennah revealed that Hulk has his own suite, which proved challenging to design as a place of comfort and luxury since the Hulk generally doesn’t like anything. “Hulk’s suite is where those rewards are really handed out,” Hennah said. He explained that since the Grandmaster is keeping Hulk here, he’s also “trying to make an environment in which Hulk would be happy, could be happy, and there’s some sort of weird things that we gave him that would sort of make you happy.

Hennah said the Grandmaster only knows Hulk as Hulk and not as Banner — although the audience will see him as Banner — and that he’s been in Hulk mode for two years since his disappearance at the end of Age of Ultron.

Thor and Hulk’s “Love-Hate Relationship”

“(Thor: Ragnarok) gave us an opportunity just to do anything we wanted with our relationship.  Because me and Mark [Ruffalo] on set were like, have we even spoken on the phone?,” Chris Hemsworth said in an interview during a break in filming. “The Avengers stuff is hard because it’s not very personal when you’re — there’s seven of you in a room and it’s, you know, it can be — you have to get across all this information and it feels expositional and so on. And so it’s hard to kinda really have a dynamic. And obviously Tony and Cap have a lot of one-on-one sort of screen time. And I’d always say, like I don’t have that as much, you know? And that’s when you get to really have fun, and as I said, we just kind of went for it in this and, there’s a nice kind of love-hate relationship there.  Rough kind of pairing. But very early on I was saying, let’s do some like Butch and Sundance and tear ‘em up and go on a road trip.”

For Hemsworth, changing the tone of a Thor movie and having fun with the dynamic between Thor and Hulk “has been really enjoyable because it’s kept us on our toes. I think it’s gonna keep audiences on their toes, too. … It’s a whole different energy, look, feel to any of the Thor films we’ve seen before. I think even different to any Marvel films, which is great.”

The Benefits of Performance-Capture

“There is nobody on the planet who’s better at being the Hulk than Mark Ruffalo,” declared Thor: Ragnarok visual effects supervisor Jake Morrison as he explained how the performance-capture process has improved and helps both the actor and the VFX artists. “When (Ruffalo) first arrived here we set him up with all the active markers and … we got these cool, cool tricks that we picked up over the years where he puts on like, you know, the heavy hands thing that you use when you work out. So it makes his body like a bit heavier for him. It slows down his motion a little bit.”

“And then we took a big monitor just like this and you sort of virtually set the world up. So for (Ruffalo) it’s actually a mirror,” Morrison explained. “So it’s amazing watching the transformation as each circuit he does of the room gradually you see him loosen up and then he goes into slightly light, light pose and then he gets– hunkers down and you can see him just watching the mirror as he’s going past and the character gets more and more Hulk and then after that, you know, a half an hour he’s found the Hulk again. It’s just pretty cool.”

Morrison had nothing but praise for the current state of performance-capture technology: “I think it’s great and of course the whole point of this stuff is it’s all actor-driven. Like it’s all about performance, and the quicker you can get the performance on the screen the quicker that we can all see it and Taika [Waititi, the director] can decide that that’s the perfect take given the new frame and the new shape of the scene. So it’s come along a long way and it’s really helpful.”

The series premiere of The Orville

The series premiere of The Orville, “Old Wounds,” quickly establishes a world that isn’t just an homage to Star Trek, and more specifically Star Trek: The Next Generation, but is very clearly an attempt to mimic the feel and look of that show. While The Orville is a comedy, it is not a parody of Star Trek and it does not lean as heavily into the humor as some may expect from a MacFarlane project. Indeed, the show can be as earnest, in its way, as TNG itself, and in fact former Star Trek producer Brannon Braga is an executive producer on The Orville. (David A. Goodman, who has written and/or produced for Family Guy, Futurama, and Star Trek: Enterprise, is also an EP.)

 The show is set 400 years in the future, with MacFarlane starring as Ed Mercer, an otherwise regular-Joe seeming guy who is given command of the exploratory vessel the Orville. He gets the job not due to some Captain Kirkian feat of bravery, but because the Planetary Union just needs bodies. “The truth is, you’re nobody’s first choice for this job,” says a guest-starring Victor Garber as Admiral Halsey.

One reason Mercer hasn’t gotten a command earlier is because he’s kind of gone off the rails since he caught his wife cheating on him (with a blue alien) a year earlier. Adrianne Palicki costars as this ex, Kelly Grayson, who winds up serving as the executive officer on the Orville because… well, because one of the main dramatic cruxes of the series will be a focus on the pair’s broken relationship.

It’s interesting sitting down to watch this pilot episode, as there are maybe two jokes in the first five minutes, neither of which really land. By the time Mercer visits his old pal Gordon (Scott Grimes) in a holodeck-type-place (there are a lot of Star Trek-type-places in this show), The Orville does prove that it can find the right balance between humor and its setting. Gordon is sparring with a holographic ogre, but they take a break to talk with Mercer. The ogre turns out to be a chatty, friendly bro who is really psyched for Gordon that he’s been offered the helmsman job on the Orville. And then Gordon just cuts the ogre’s head off while a “You win” display lights up. Poor ogre.

Seth MacFarlane leads the cast of The Orville.

But that balance isn’t struck very often in this first episode, which seems more interested than anything else in recreating the feel of TNG circa 1990. Written by MacFarlane and directed by Iron Man and The Jungle Book’s Jon Favreau himself, the pilot is shot, lit, costumed, and designed to look and feel like it’s set on another ship that was also flying around at the same time as Captain Picard… only we never saw it. Of the first two episodes I’ve viewed so far, there are shuttle craft, tractor beams, replicators, and, of course, foreheads of the week aplenty.

For fans of Star Trek, the result can be a kind of charming nostalgia trip. But certainly in the television landscape of 2017, where indeed a new Star Trek (Discovery) is also launching and doing its best to chart a new course that breaks that mold, The Orville can also feel… quaint.

Other members of the ship’s crew include: Peter Macon as Bortus, a sort of Klingon type alien who hails from a single-gendered species; Mark Jackson as Isaac, a robot who thinks humans are lesser lifeforms; J. Lee as navigator John LaMarr; Penny Johnson Jerald (a Deep Space Nine vet herself) as Doctor Finn; and Halston Sage as the super-strong, super-young security officer Alara Kitan. Again, all familiar types… not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The War of Jokes and Riddles where Batman

This whole war started because Joker and Riddler couldn’t decide who should be the one to kill Batman. Things escalated quickly, with Gotham City supervillains big and small taking a side in what became a massive, city-wide turf war.

With the number of civilian casualties skyrocketing, most notably during an extended face-off between master assassins Deadshot and Deathstroke, Batman used the power and influence of Bruce Wayne to call a meeting between the two crime bosses. Over the course of what was the most tense and awkward dinner of all time, Bruce heard arguments from both sides as to why he should pledge his support, and therefore Batman’s

We learned his decision in Issue #30, which shows Batman sporting a green Riddler armband as he helps take out the villains on Joker’s side, including Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Scarface and the Ventriloquist, Man-Bat, Mr. Freeze, and, finally, Kite Man. Riddler and Batman purposely left Kite Man to be the last villain standing because they knew he’d be the easiest to break in order to learn the Joker’s whereabouts.

It’s no surprise to see Batman pick Riddler over Joker. While Riddler is a murderous manipulator, there’s at least a method to his madness. The Joker, on the other hand, is wildly unpredictable, an agent of chaos who wouldn’t abide by any rules or agreements enforced on him, not when there’s mayhem to be had. This point was driven home last issue where both Riddler and Joker took civilian hostages to guarantee that they wouldn’t be arrested during the dinner. The Riddler set his hostages free after the meeting ended, whereas Joker killed all of his before he even got there.

With Riddler and Batman now in a position of power, Joker has been backed into a corner without any allies to back him up. Of course, like a wild animal, Joker is likely to be most deadly when turning to his last resort to survive and take out his enemies.

The big question looming over this war isn’t who wins, but what it cost Batman to bring it to an end. The story is being told as a flashback, with Batman explaining what happened Catwoman, all so he can reveal his darkest secret to her before she responds to his marriage proposal. We’ll have to wait to see what happens as the War of Jokes and Riddles continues in Batman #31 and then reaches the finale in Batman #32.

Reach Max Level

There are two meters that you can level up in Destiny 2: your Power level and your Character level.

  • Character Level is the measure of your current experience tally, and is currently set at level 20. As you increase your Character Level, you’ll unlock new abilities for your Subclass and access to new weapons, armor and gear.
  • Power Level is the measure of the quality and capability of your gear. Similar to a Guardian’s Light level from the original Destiny, this is what determines how combat-ready you are, and what types of enemies you’ll be able to defeat in battle. Increase it by acquire gear with a higher power rating.

Reaching Level 20

The progression to Level 20 will come from experience points. You can gain experience points by completing campaign missions, adventures, public events, quests, and even just defeating enemies.

COMPLETE CAMPAIGN MISSIONS

Campaign missions will provide the most experience points out of all the activities and will unlock more adventures and quests upon completion. Campaign missions do have level requirements, though, so you might need to partake in a couple of activities to meet the level requirement.

GRIND HEROIC PUBLIC EVENTS

Next to Campaign missions, the best way to earn experience is from completing Public Events with the heroic modifier active. Not only is the XP reward significantly higher than it is from the standard event, but you also stand a much better chance of receiving more gear to boost your power level as well.

This modifier is triggered by performing specific actions during each Public Event – you can find all of the Heroic Event triggers we know of so far here.

Increasing Your Power Level

Your Power Level will inevitably increase as you progress throughout the campaign and obtain loot and engrams, but there are a few ways you can speed up the grind.

PURCHASE NEW ITEMS (BELOW LV. 20)

 The most efficient way to increase your power level before level 20 is to use your glimmer to purchase the armor and weapons. The NPC’s you encounter on the different worlds and social places will sell you common gear that have a max power level of 200.
 Use your glimmer to purchase items for slots in which you have the lowest power level. Fortunately, you do not have to equip your highest power leveled gear when obtaining new loot.