‘Thor’ and ‘Captain America’ will be 3-D films

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LOS ANGELES
— It’s official: The hammer of Thor and the shield of Captain America
will fly straight at moviegoers in 3-D, which is really no surprise
considering the current stereoscopic craze on the studios lots of Hollywood. What is unusual is the eagerness of each film’s director to take his case for 3-D directly to the fans at Comic-Con International.

On July 24, Marvel Studios has the final studio presentation in the expo’s biggest room, Hall H, and “Thor” director Kenneth Branagh will use that climactic slot not just to introduce some of his cast — a cast that includes Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins, although it’s unlikely that all three will be in San Diego
— but also to persuade skeptical fans that 3-D will add new dimensions
to the 2011 blockbuster, and not just in the obvious way.

“We came to feel that in our case 3-D could be the
very good friend of story and character for a different kind of
experience,” Branagh said, taking a break from post-production. The
filmmaker said the terminology of the 3-D process initially made him
cringe — at first, it was “math and physics and way over my head,” he
said with a chuckle — but then he started to pulse with the unexpected
artistic opportunities.

“It’s another draft of the story that can reveal
itself in a different way,” he said. “I had a healthy degree of
skepticism up front … I’ve become somebody extremely excited about
working with possibilities of doing it this way.”

“Thor” is a version of the old Norse myths that’s
been heavily processed by the cosmic dream factory known as the Marvel
Comics universe. The film’s title character spends part of the film in
Asgard, a celestial kingdom, and part in a Hopper-esque town in New Mexico, where Thor (Hemsworth) is exiled by his father and monarch, Odin (Hopkins). The film is due May 6, 2011.

Branagh said he changed his approach with some
scenes to maximize the 3-D benefits. “A pretty careful conversation is
what we’ve been having for quite some time about what we know has to be
the most sensible decision: Is it led by story? Can this offer a
different type of experience and exploit what we have in the story? It
absolutely can … we travel very long distances in the movie and the
opportunity to export and exploit the journey of the hero is really
offered up as a great potential enhancement here.”

“Thor” will be the first Marvel film in 3-D. The second will be “Captain America: The First Avenger,” due July 22. The director of that film, Joe Johnston,
has experience with stories of the fantastic (his credits include
“Jurassic Park 3” and “The Wolfman”), but he said he was also skeptical
of 3-D after seeing some recent films make missteps.

“I think it tends to be overused and can be a little bit gimmicky,” said Johnston, who began shooting last week in London but will travel to San Diego
for Marvel’s Comic-Con panel. “A lot of people are using 3-D now
because they feel have they have to … that will come and go and the
pictures that deserve to be in 3-D will continue to be. When it’s done
bad, it can make you carsick.”

Johnston did a one-day test shooting with a 3-D rig
— as opposed to shooting in 3-D and converting — and said it was “a
nightmare” due to bulky gear, calibration issues and restricted
filmmaking options. He said he’s a firm believer, though, in the
conversion approach if done right and he’s enthused to move forward.
“It’s a new challenge and it’s exciting,” Johnston said.

Both “Captain America” and “Thor” use 2-D for
principal photography, but the considerable special effects for the
films were conceived and executed from the beginning in 3-D, something
that will help them avoid certain pitfalls, said Marvel Studios
President Kevin Feige.

Feige and Branagh were interviewed together in a
conference call with the Los Angeles Times. They acknowledged a
negative stigma to 3-D, at least in the eyes of savvy fans like those
who attend Comic-Con.

??”I’d say there’s not a great feeling out there for
conversion based on some of the films that may have succeeded
financially but had their artistry come under fire,” Feige said, not
naming names but most likely referring to “Clash of the Titans,” the Warner Bros. release that surpassed $490 million
in worldwide box office but was savaged by critics for a rushed 3-D
conversion that many saw as especially clumsy, distracting and
ill-advised.

Feige, in London
for “Captain America,” pledged that “an unprecedented amount of time”
would be devoted to the conversion process. He also said the films will
benefit from the fact that the 3-D choice was made early on with
passion and planning and not in post-production, as was the case with a
flurry of films that came on the heels of “Avatar” and its historic
box-office success.

“In being able to think in 3-D from the start — and
having every bit of our special effects rendered in true 3-D — we have
the opportunity to do it right,” Feige said. “When you’re working with
a director like Ken Branagh or Joe Johnston,
they’re not going to settle for less than perfect image. They’re not
going to settle for something that isn’t up to the artistry of
everything else they’ve done on the film … they’re not going to put
on some overlay in the last 10 to 12 weeks of post-production for a
fiscal reason.”

With “Thor,” especially, Feige said, the citadels of
Asgard and the rainbow bridge at its gates lend themselves to 3-D.
“It’s one of those maybe rare times where 3-D accentuates the story and
the way the viewer is brought into this new world. That’s what ‘Avatar’
and ‘Alice in Wonderland’ were all about — going into new realms, new
worlds … I think with the “Harry Potter” films and ours you’re about
to see a slew of movies where 3-D was done by people who had the time.”

Marvel Studios arrives at Comic-Con this year with a
bit of wheel wobble on its brightly colored bandwagon. “Iron Man 2,”
released in May, was clearly a hit but the reviews didn’t match the
franchise’s first installment. The real concern, however, is whether
the upstart outfit can deliver a heroic box-office performance with a
movie that doesn’t star Robert Downey Jr., who
hard-wired the humor that got 2008’s “Iron Man” off the ground and made
the studio’s first released film a signature success.

Marvel will drop some bombshell announcements in San Diego about “The Avengers,” the 2012 film that, reportedly, will be directed by Joss Whedon.
The creative force behind “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” will get a long,
loud cheer if he is indeed introduced during the panel, but Feige will
also have use some stage time for damage control, too, considering the
indelicate public banishment of actor Edward Norton from the Marvel Universe.

The two-time Oscar nominee portrayed Bruce Banner,
the transmogrifying central character in “The Incredible Hulk,” Marvel
Studio’s other 2008 release, and he was expected to reprise the role in
“The Avengers” until the sour split. Marvel insiders say a “name”
replacement will be announced at Comic-Con or sooner but they wouldn’t
speak to rumor roulette that has mentioned Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, Nathan Fillion and David Tennant as the man who has been (or should be) picked to lead the new green movement.

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