No Marvel Cinematic Universe aficionado is in doubt that “it’s all connected” as characters, story-lines, and universe-spanning-Infinity-MacGuffins constantly spill over from one film/TV show to another. But often what makes that connection real for the audience is not only the characters or plot points, but also the world (or worlds) in which those characters exist.
Each world has its own look and feel, its own reality, that make the heroes look and seem natural when they are within them and tie all the films together as strongly as any written word. While none of the various worlds shown in Doctor Strange for instance were similar to one another, and many were so far beyond normal as to defy adequate description, the good Doctor seemed as at home…as normal…on the streets of NYC, Hong Kong, and Kamar-Taj as he did in the Dark Dimension.
None of that is by accident. The MCU is designed and crafted to give a certain appearance, a certain feel, across all the films and shows. There are people working across many of the films to insure that comes through (such as seen in this MCU Exchange piece for instance). One of these people is production designer Charles Wood who has, in the past, worked on the settings in Thor: The Dark World, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, the aforementioned Doctor Strange and is currently neck-deep in world designing for Avengers: Infinity War as he discussed here. In an interview with Comicbook.com he delved into what it is that keeps such disparate worlds all part of the same, cohesive universe:
The only unifying thing I would say is that these characters, these larger than life characters, our unifying thing is trying to settle them into whatever worlds we find them in, in a way which is viable. In a way that an audience can look at Captain America, in a Captain America outfit, put him into a farmhouse in upstate New York [in Avengers: Age of Ultron], and believe that guy could exist in that world. Or putting Doctor Strange [in full costume] in a townhouse in New York… The biggest challenge that you take from one Marvel film to another is to try to make these worlds realistic, tangible, viable.
He does acknowledge, however, that designing such varied worlds and making them seem realistic and viable, can be a challenge, especially when these worlds may be appearing in the same film.
Yeah, it is mad stuff, it keeps me on my toes. The thing about a Marvel film, and I suppose many films, is you can confuse an audience very quickly, and you have to try to delineate one world from another very clearly, without making it feel too delineated.
With what we know about the upcoming Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Thor films, new and varied worlds are likely to abound in the coming year and a half. What are your thoughts on the look and feel of the MCU? Have you noticed the elements Wood is pointing out? Have some films succeeded better than others in keeping that unified element while travelling to different realms/cities/worlds? Let us know in the comments section below!