When it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, fans need to pick a side: Are you Team Thor, or Team Loki?
The cast and crew of "Thor: The Dark World" weighed in on this very heavy subject during a press conference held in London earlier this October. For their part, actors Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston, the Marvel Studios veterans who bring to life Thor and Loki respectively, pledged their allegiance to the other's character -- not at all surprising, given the dynamic the two have established over three films together as the Asgardian siblings.
"There's certainly a shorthand we have from having this being the third film we've shot together now," Hemsworth said. "You don't spend a chunk of your shooting time getting to know one another. We're able to pick up where we left off, and we have developed a great friendship along the way. From the beginning, we were lucky. We just had a chemistry and the same kind of enthusiasm."
"I love you man," Hiddleston traded back to his co-star, pulling back the curtain even further on their relationship. "It's been an amazing adventure for both of us. The two characters define each other and need each other. All acting is about is what happens in the space between people. The more you trust each other, the deeper you can go. And when I'm on set with Chris, whatever he serves, I'll return, and he'll return right back. That's the joy of it, for me."
It's interesting hearing Hemsworth and Hiddleston talk about trusting one another, considering their characters can hardly rely upon each other at all these days -- certainly not after the events of "Thor" and "Marvel's The Avengers," two movies that saw Loki working to bring destruction upon Earth. For his part, Hemsworth relates to the contentious relationship between Thor and Loki, thanks to his own relationship with brothers (and fellow actors) Luke and Liam Hemsworth.
"You understand what it's like to have that kind of love-hate sort of thing, and you'd do anything for them, but at the same time, the simplest things can annoy you," he said. "I certainly try and draw from whatever experiences I've been through or can empathize with, frustration towards one's siblings."
While Thor is obviously the more heroic of the two brothers, it's impossible to deny the fervent following surrounding Loki. The God of Mischief wowed Hall H attendees at Comic-Con International last summer, and many fans have gone on to petition Marvel for a solo "Loki" film.
"I don't know that it was ever the plan to have Loki in this many films," Hemsworth said. "But everything Tom brought to the table in the first one, and how incredible he was, and the mixture of strength and villainous mischief and vulnerability, it was such an access point. You can immediately empathize with this misunderstood guy."
But there is no Loki without his hammer-wielding brother, according to Hiddleston: "I think Loki is defined by Thor. He's defined in opposition to him. They are yin and yang, sort of the sun and the moon. The whole point of them is they are in opposition.
"The popularity of the character has been such an amazing surprise," the actor continued. "I had never expected it in my wildest dreams. I found him a fascinating prospect, because he's a mixture of playfulness and charm and mischief. That's his moniker. He's the God of Mischief, so there's a playfulness to him. But he's such a broken, broken character. He's grief-stricken and bitter and jealous and angry and lonely and proud. So the cocktail of all of his psychological damage and playfulness is, as an actor, just a really interesting thing to inhabit."
Loki isn't the only tortured soul in "The Dark World," of course. New to "Thor" and the greater Marvel Universe is Christopher Eccleston, who steps into "The Dark World" as the villainous Malekith, leader of the Dark Elves.
"My character was completely grounded in vengeance. He's like a maniac for revenge," Eccleston said of playing Malekith. "The idea, I think, was to suggest the Dark Elves were as ancient a race as the Asgardians, and had a history, which is why we gave them a language, and had a culture. But most of all, they had a grudge, which they had slept on for millions of years."
Helping Eccleston tap into Malekith's bitter rage a bit easier was his grueling make-up process. "My make-up call was about three o'clock [in the morning]. I was in the chair about four o'clock, and ten o'clock, I'd hit the set," he said. "I was not a happy elf."
But even with vengeance and death driving "The Dark World" forward, the film isn't without its moments of levity. Director Alan Taylor weighed in on the humor at the heart of the "Thor" sequel, saying, "When I went into it, I thought my first task was to darken the world and deepen it and dirty it up a little bit. I felt like that was my mandate going in. And then as we started the process, I realized, 'If we're going to darken it, if we're going to deepen it, if we're going to possibly kill off some characters that we love, we'd better make darn sure that it's balanced on the other side.'"
Marvel Studios co-president Kevin Feige, widely considered the mastermind of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, agreed that humor was key to making "The Dark World" work. "We've got spaceships in this movie, and other planets in this movie," he said, "We have found that humor is an amazing way to get the audience to sort of just embrace and accept all of those worlds and all that craziness and all these costumes. It's worked well for us, going back to the first 'Iron Man' film."
But Hiddleston believes it's another ingredient that grounds "Thor" in reality: family.
"We're traveling through space and time, we're dealing with gods and monsters," he said, "but the heart of the film, from my perspective, is a family. A father, two sons, two brothers, a mother and the fractious, intimate interaction that they have."
"Thor: The Dark World" hits theaters on November 8, 2013.