Marvel’s sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron is a big, big movie, but it could’ve been even bigger. Joss Whedon previously revealed that the first cut of the film was 195 minutes long, so obviously there’s some significant footage missing. You can especially feel some of that lost story when it comes to the characters that get less to do in the movie than others, namely Thor.
Chris Hemsworth’s character certainly has his moments in Age of Ultron, but it’s clear that his arc was streamlined in the editing process. In speaking with the Empire Podcast, Whedon revealed just exactly what Thor was originally doing in that cave, and it’s a fairly intricate subplot:
“There was a 195-minute cut of this movie. [As concerns the Thor / Erik subplot], the original scene was that Thor went to speak to the Norn and how it would work was that he’d go in the pool and the Norn possess him, basically, and Erik Selvig asks all the questions, and the Norn, speaking through Thor, give the answers. So Chris [Hemsworth] got to do something different, and he really threw himself into it, and he did a beautiful job, but it wasn’t well regarded by the test audiences and I feel it’s probably largely because it was a rough cut with no effects, but also because it’s something that in a Thor movie would work brilliantly, but in this movie is just a little too left of centre.”
Whedon has said that they shot footage of Tom Hiddleston as Loki in Thor’s dream sequence, but Marvel thought things were already complicated enough without then bringing back a fan favorite character an hour into the movie. Speaking with Empire, he elaborated a bit on the dream sequence and Thor’s subplot:
“I do feel like they threw out the baby with the pond water, because I tried to set it up so people would accept it when it happens. Instead, we split the dream up, and then we had Loki in the second part of the dream, but then they were like, ‘That doesn’t work, do we want to introduce Loki now, this late?’”
But cutting down Thor’s cave excursion was a compromise that Whedon had to make with Marvel in return for keeping the sequences on Hawkeye’s farm, which is some of the best stuff in the film:
“The dreams were not an executive favourite. The dreams, the farmhouse, these were things I fought [for]. With the cave, they pointed a gun at the farm’s head and ‘Give us the cave’. They got the farm. In a civilised way – I respect these guys, but that’s when it got really unpleasant. There was a point when there was going to be no cave, and Thor was going to leave and come back and say, ‘I figured some stuff out.’ And at that point I was so beaten down, I was like, ‘Sure, okay… what movie is this?’ The editors were like, ‘No no, you have to show the thing, you just can’t say it.’ I was like, ‘Okay, thank you, we can figure this out!’ You can tell it was beaten down, but it was hard won.”
It’s clear through all of this that the post-production on Age of Ultron was a contentious process, and while I do think the finished film works really well, it’s clear that some of the movie’s issues would’ve been cleaned up had a bit of this excised material made it into the film. Hopefully most of that footage surfaces on the Blu-ray.