On Thor: Ragnarok, editors Zene Baker and Joel Negron worked with director Taika Waititi to breathe a new and undeniably hilarious life into the franchise’s third installment. In the film, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds himself having to get back to Asgard to stop the destruction of his homeworld and the end of civilization there, at the hands of the scarily powerful Hela (Cate Blanchett). Utilizing a refreshing level of humor and fun throughout the story, Thor must get his duplicitous adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and the fierce warrior Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) all fighting on the same side, if they’re even going to have a chance at being victorious.
During a press day at Marvel Studios to discuss some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of the Thor world, Collider got the opportunity to sit down with editor Zene Baker to talk about how he got the job editing Thor: Ragnarok, editing the humor with so many alternative jokes to choose from, the 90-minute runtime rumor, why he thinks re-shoots are an important part of the process, what you can learn from test screenings, and deleted scenes. He also talked about his experience on Observe and Report and the crazy amount of deleted scenes that he hopes might see the light of day, some day.
ZENE BAKER: I’m a big fan of Collider, by the way!
Collider: Well, I was a big fan of this movie!
BAKER: You guys have always typically liked the movies that I’ve done.
My boss is a very big fan of Observe and Report, in particular.
BAKER: Really?! I’m so glad he said that! I don’t really like to brag about former work because I’ve never really liked how that sounds, but that one is one of my favorites. It’s underrated. It’s a really weird, dark gem. That’s so random that he would pick Observe and Report, but I’m glad he did.
He actually wanted me to ask you about editing and working on that film, and what you remember about that experience.
BAKER: It was my first major studio movie, so I was really nervous. Jody Hill, the director, awesomely fought for me to edit the movie. I had to go into this, for lack of a better term, gauntlet style first interview with Warner Bros.’ head of post, and it was really an intimidating room. There were six people in there, and Jody, and they all didn’t think I could edit the movie ‘cause I’d never done a studio movie before, so there was all that bullshit. A movie is a movie is a movie, but I get the business side of it. They have to protect their investment. And Jody, thankfully, said to all of these guys in the room, “We wouldn’t be here right now without Zene. We wouldn’t be having this conversation, at all. Zene cut The Foot Fist Way, and that’s the whole reason why we’re here. I want Zene. Zene should be the one.” And I was like, “That’s awesome, dude! Thank you!” It was fantastic! It was a great experience.
Do you remember if there are still deleted scenes that have never seen the light of day?
BAKER: Tons! They may one day see the light of day. Maybe we’ll have a 20th anniversary of Observe and Report. That would be amazing! Our first cut was three hours and 45 minutes, so there’s a lot of stuff.
After all the movies you’ve done with Seth Rogen, is he your career muse?
BAKER: I love Seth! I wish he would do a Marvel movie. That would be so sick! Could you imagine Seth and Evan [Goldberg] doing a Marvel movie? I would love to see that! I have to call those guys and be like, “Come on, let’s do this! Let’s do it!”
You haven’t edited a movie like Thor: Ragnarok before. Had you thought about doing something like this for awhile?
BAKER: Oh, yeah! I’d been working on trying to get a Marvel movie for a year and a half.
How crazy was it to actually edit this one?
BAKER: I really, really like challenging myself. I’ve been on the movie for a year, and I started the process three years ago. Marvel is one of the biggest games in town. I thought, “If I could do a Marvel movie, I’d be king of the world!” To a certain extent, that might be true, but I wanted to challenge myself with a giant movie, just to see if I could do it. An odd set of circumstances came up, and I’ll thank my wife, heavily, for making a large part of that happen, to get a meeting. It was supposed to be a general meeting, just to get some face time with some people at Marvel. And then, my agent said, “Oh, it’s not just a general meeting. It’s a meeting for Thor. They’re considering you for Thor: Ragnarok.” I was like, “Get outta here!” I didn’t believe it. So, the next morning, I went and met the key players. I met Taika [Waititi], Victoria [Alonso] and Jesse [Torres], the head of post. The next thing I knew, I was working on the movie. It was definitely a surprise.
What’s it like to have to edit the humor, when you have so many alternative jokes?
BAKER: There were definitely a lot of options. We rely on our own instincts, and Taika has got a very good, enthusiastic sense of humor, as does Joel Negron, the other editor. I love him. He’s fantastic! He did The Nice Guys. Not a lot of people know that. He did Transformers movies and he did Pain & Gain. So, we all had our own senses of humor and it was a really good, solid team.
The movie was originally a lot shorter, and then, after re-shoots, stuff got added in.
BAKER: That’s not true. Are you talking about the 90-minute runtime? Taika started this weird rumor that the movie was going to be a 90-minute movie, and I was like, “Where are you getting that from?!” He can hate on me all he wants for dispelling this rumor. I don’t care. It is shorter than most Marvel movies. Story wise, we’re at an hour and 54 minutes, and then there are 10 minutes of credits because a lot of people worked on the film.
Did the re-shoots change the editing process, at all?
BAKER: I don’t want to single out Marvel because I think every movie now allots for additional photography. I think it’s just become standard practice, which I think is great. Woody Allen has been doing it for years. He puts it in the schedule, to go back and do whatever needs to be done. I think it’s a great practice. The idea of additional work got a bad rap for awhile. People were like, “Oh, the movie is in trouble.” I don’t think that signifies anything. Insurance policy isn’t even the right word for it. You want to make the best possible movie you can, and sometimes it requires additional photography. You can make a scene so much better with just one little thing. You can literally shoot for five minutes to make one scene aces, and then put a few days into another scene. We’re all carefully debating everything, throughout the process.
Were there things that you learned from test screenings that impacted film?
BAKER: Definitely! I used to really hate test screenings, especially coming from such an indie background. In indie world, you don’t need to hear anybody else’s voice. You’re trying to make something with its own characteristics. But as you get into these types of movies, they’re invaluable, especially with the comedy aspect of it. You learn really quickly which jokes are gonna tank. There are some jokes that you hate that turn out to be gangbusters and you’re like, “Okay, so I’m not right about everything, and I’m not wrong about everything.” I’ve reached the point now where, comedy wise, they’re invaluable. Story wise, you can get that diamond in the rough who’s like, “I don’t understand this story point,” and if enough people say the same thing, you have to really examine it. To Marvel’s credit, Kevin Feige and Victoria and Lou [D’Esposito], they like to approach each movie, as if no one has seen any of the other movies, but not in a way that over explains anything. It’s just about a little sentence here or there to help you get it. They’re crazy smart, in that regard.
Are there a lot of deleted scenes with this movie, and were there any that you were particularly sad to see go?
BAKER: Some people would probably disagree with me, but I don’t think there’s any that anybody would really miss. There are some little moments. There’s one moment that Joel, the other editor, and I really loved, but it was just a moment, more than anything. It got dropped out of the movie and we tried to get it back in, but it just never happened. It was when Thor sees Val in the pre-fight area and confronts her, and then the guards are dragging him away. They zap him and, in the alternate take, as he’s being dragged away, he’s like, “I hate you! I hate you so much!” We thought it was just hilarious. It was a nice little character moment, more than anything. But, that never made it back in. Every time Joel and I see it, we’re like, “Oh, I miss that so much!” I would love to switch that out for the Blu-ray. If they would just let me do that, that would be amazing!
Thor: Ragnarok is now playing in theaters.