Canvassing the Dark World: Thor’s Barry Gibbs

Marvel's Thor: The Dark World

By Zack Zeigler

Unless the film genre is comedy, supplying an A-list cast with B-grade props will do two things: get laughs in all the wrong places, and derail the story. So while the heat is on for actors to bring emotion and realism to their respective roles, behind-the-scenes departments like wardrobe and props must level-up their games to make a film complete.

“Thor: The Dark World” hits theaters November 8

“We had a team of people…working on the original ‘Thor’ props trying to give them a little more history,” said Emmy-nominated props master Barry Gibbs. “This time they wanted to get some aging into [the props], and that isn’t always as easy as putting a coat of paint over them. So a lot of the props have been remade from scratch and redesigned.”

This is Gibbs’ second stint as property master with Marvel Studios. His first go-around was 2011’s “Captain America: The First Avenger,” a period piece that called for reimagining life in the 1940s. The objective in terms of props focused heavily on WWII-era weaponry. In “Thor: The Dark World,” much of the attention shifted to creating makeshift bladed weapons instead of high-powered artillery.

“We didn’t want to have everyone with machine or laser guns because they would just kill our heroes,” he revealed. “So we had to do a mix of weapons.”

Many of the hybrids created were conceived through imagination and improvisation from recognizable weapons like Gatlin guns, Indian rampart guns and rocket launchers.

Thor wields Mjolnir against a Kronan

“We took molds of certain weapons and then burned them to other shafts,” explained Gibbs. “We made things…[so] someone could have an axe, a club, an axe and a dagger, a sword and a dagger, [or] a spear and a morning staff. We made things up as we went along, really.” 

Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer, may not look like an intricate prop to fabricate, but multiple variations were crafted to find a delicate balance between aesthetics and durability.

“In all of our scenes, we have various qualities of [Thor’s] hammer,” he said. “[Some] are lightweight and soft. On other occasions it might call for a very soft or a very light one so that Thor can catch it, or throw it. So it needs to be more balanced.”

Mjolnir’s design also underwent a facelift.

Director Alan Taylor on set of “Thor: The Dark World” with a Dark Elf wielding his weapon

“[In] the first movie it was quite plain and had a very simple leather handle,” he said. “In [‘Marvel’s] The Avengers’ it [was] a little bit more detailed, so they increased the size of the head and put more detail into the handle. In [‘Thor: The Dark World’], we tried retaining the head size but we wanted to change the handle.”

With items like swords, knives, and axes, a margin of error had to be factored into their production so they’d hold up during action sequences but still keep the cast safe if a mishap occurred.

“We try to do it in three versions,” he elaborated. “There’s the hero quality, which is normally done in steel. Then you machine the same blade in bamboo, which is good because it’s lightweight and strong. And then we always take a mold and cast another, and they’re done in either hard rubber or soft rubber. We try to make all of the blades so that they [can] bend.”

To provide certain blades with the appearance of being larger or bulkier without adding additional size or weight, Gibbs had a trick up his sleeve.

“What we tried to do with a lot of these weapons, particularly for Sif and on Heimdall, [was] thicken the blade so it looks as if it’s a lot heavier,” he revealed.

Get your tickets now for Marvel’s “Thor: The Dark World,” only in theaters November 8, and for the latest on the Mighty Avenger’s new big screen adventure keep your eyes on, like the official Thor Facebook page and follow @ThorMovies on Twitter!