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Wednesday July 17th 2024

Thor: The Dark World | 2013

Thor: The Dark World filming location: Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London
Thor: The Dark World location: the giant ship comes to Earth: Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London

After the Avengers team trashed (apparently) the heart of New York, it’s London’s turn to get pummeled by warring characters from the Marvelverse.

But before we get to London, poor old leafy Surrey gets some harsh treatment during the opening battle, as Thor (Chris Hemsworth) quickly reduces a hulking rock giant to gravel. Isn’t the spot starting to look perhaps a little too familiar, though? Didn’t we see Maximus Decimus Meridius unleash hell here in Gladiator? And Robin Hood attack a French castle? And War Horse head to the muddy trenches of WWI? And The Wolfman stalk its glades? Yes, it’s Bourne Woods, southeast of Farnham in Surrey.

Thor: The Dark World location: Bourne Woods, Farnham, Surrey
Thor: The Dark World location: the opening battle brings peace to the Nine Realms: Bourne Wood, Farnham, Surrey

On a more mundane level, poor Richard (Chris O’Dowd) is sidelined as Jane (Natalie Portman) is distracted by memories of Thor and by her intern, who has news of something very strange going on in the city. The glass-walled restaurant with its great views across London is the OXO Brasserie, on the eighth floor of the OXO Tower, Oxo Tower Wharf, Barge House Street, SE1, on the South Bank.

When illuminated advertising signs were strictly regulated, the Oxo company (makers of the famous beef stock cubes) imaginatively designed the windows of its Tower in the shapes of a circle, a cross and another circle. Which happened to spell out OXO across the city. Neat, eh?

Things start adding up when Jane recognises the naked guy on TV, arrested for cavorting around Stonehenge as Dr Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard). And, yes, that will get you arrested. There was a time, many years ago, when you could walk freely around the mysterious ancient monument on Wiltshire’s Salisbury Plain, but damage to the precious stones mean that it’s now strictly off-limits – though you can pre-book Stone Circle Access, out of usual opening hours. The long-awaited new visitor centre opens in December 2013.

She’s soon tracking down some kind of anomaly (that old cinematic staple, along with force fields and portals) in a deserted industrial estate, which is the Old Vinyl Factory on Blyth Road in Hayes, West London. Check out the sites fascinating history.

If you have any vinyl albums by artists on the EMI label (such as classic Beatles records), you’ll be subliminally familiar with the words ‘Manufactured in Hayes’ on the label. This is where they were made.

The factory was built in 1907 for the Gramophone and Typewriter Company, an American manufacturer of those exciting new precursors of the iPod, gramophones. As the company grew, it began to press its own vinyl records and released them under the label His Master’s Voice (named after a painting of a white terrier, Nipper, that became the company’s famous logo). In 1931, the Gramophone Company merged with its main rival, Columbia, to create Electric and Musical Industries Ltd – EMI – which went on to sign many of the big names of the Sixties. The site (which was made to appear derelict for the film) is now being imaginatively redeveloped as offices, flats, restaurants and even a museum.

A conjunction of the Nine Realms which, as we all know, occurs every five thousand years, is opening up – for want of a better word – a portal to the long-buried and extremely dangerous Aether. And, oh no, Jane’s only gone and absorbed it, and its release has wakened Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), leader of the Dark Elves.

The black sand landscape of ‘Svartalfheim’, the Dark Elves realm (yes, it’s all getting a bit Lord Of The Rings) is around Landmannalaugar, near the volcano Hekla in southern Iceland.

The area of multicoloured rhyolite mountains and expansive lava fields is a popular spot for tourists and hikers, during summer months from June through late September, after which time the road is closed. There’s a mountain lodge, located near the natural geothermal hot springs, which provide another popular attraction.

With Malekith threatening to bring darkness to the Universe, Thor is obliged to recruit help in the unlikely form of treacherous half-brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Commandeering a craft of the Elves, they escape Asgard.

Iceland also provides the mountains and lakes of Asgard, where an aerial unit captured spectacular shots of the Dettifoss falls in Vatnajökull National Park, the most powerful waterfall in Europe, along with views of the Lofoten Islands, off the coast of northern Norway.

Thor: The Dark World filming location: Blythe House, Blythe Road, London W14
Thor: The Dark World location: bailing Dr Selvig: Blythe House, Blythe Road, London W14

The institution, from which Jane and co. bail Dr Selvig and where a flock of starlings erupts from the ground, is Blythe House, 23 Blythe Road, West Kensington W14. Did you recognise it as The Circus from Tomas Alfredson’s 2011 film of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy? As the 'Coventry' safe-house in The Hitman's Bodyguard? Or as the clinic from which Lili (Eddie Redmayne) has to make an escape in The Danish Girl. The building is currently used as storage space for the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington.

The convergence of the Realms turns out to centre on – where else would it be? – Greenwich, southeast London. It’s good to see intergalactic laws properly recognising the Royal Observatory ’s Prime Meridian.

With the final confrontation focusing on the capital, there’s a moment of screentime for the city’s newest signifier, The Shard, 32 London Bridge Street, the pointy 87-story skyscraper forming part of the London Bridge Quarter development.

Thor: The Dark World location: Gherkin – Swiss Re Tower, St Mary Axe, London EC3
Thor: The Dark World location: Thor and Malekith fight: the ‘Gherkin’, St Mary Axe, London EC3

Malekith’s huge vertical craft cuts into the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich, its spectacular Painted Hall seemingly transformed into a library.

As more anomalies begin to open up, there’s a chance to include more London landmarks, with cars raining down in front of St Paul’s Cathedral, while Thor and Malekith scrap with each other as they slide down the curved walls of the absurdly phallic Swiss Re Tower, 30 St Mary Axe, EC3 – commonly called The Gherkin (US, read Pickle).

Greenwich seems to be left in a bit of a state, but it survived the Parisian riots of Les Misérables, as well as appearances in Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Cruella, The Wolfman, The Mummy Returns, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and the other version of The Avengers (the 1998 film of the Sixties TV show) among many others, so I’m sure it’ll soon be patched up to feature in plenty more films.