Thor: The Set Visit

DIRECTOR KENNETH BRANAGH

 Kenneth Branagh, who pulls from his vast experience with Shakespearean drama to direct Thor, joined our group for brief conversation, looking understandably exhausted from being in the middle of such a vast production.

“It’s a huge scale,” he said, clearly framed by the proof behind him, “It took months and month. Actually, years of planning. This is my eighteenth, nineteenth month on the project, and I’m enjoying it hugely. It’s massive and it what it contains actually has a parallel to what the comics have which is a combination of very personal stories that we recognize — you know, fathers and sons — but they’re amongst families of enormous power and consequence. So when they have an argument, the rest of the universe suffers.”

While he admitted to a minor Shakespearean tone, Branagh is quick to point out that it’s not something he wants dominating Thor. The characters, he claimed, need to all sound as though they’re real, but elevated just slightly so that audiences can believe them as Gods. 

“[There are] lots of ways to get it wrong,” he said, “and lots of pitfalls to avoid. That makes it very interesting and very difficult, but really thrilling when you think you’ve gotten somewhere near it. But, you know, we’ve got miles to go and promises to keep and all sorts of things that we need to get right. But its been really huge, huge fun and challenging and continues to be so.”

Taking on the project after having a lunch with Stan Lee, Branagh says that his true passion has always been for epics and that Thor is the chance to play in an epic realm in every sense.

“I like that moment of going into the dark with 2,000 people,” he added, “when you’re ready to accept  larger than life things, you’re ready to accept a kind of heightened reality that is a kind of cathartic release that you enjoy vicariously through much greater problem than you’ll ever face… but nevertheless, there’s still central human problems that remain in the same sort … [I]t truly is fun to be part of a world where those things can be discussed in a way that maybe offers insight, but, bottom line, offers entertainment. I’m making a really entertaining film that doesn’t insult the audience but isn’t trying to be a secret art film or anything. It’s just a big-hearted kind of account of these incredible characters who have lasted across the several thousand years of Norse mythology and the last 50 years of Marvel, who raided this mythology so brilliantly, with such imagination, that you’re really aware of a fantastic amount of talent behind you.”

That same talent, ranging from Lee to Simonson to modern storytellers like J. Michael Straczynski, also offered Branagh something he couldn’t do with some of his past projects.

“[O]ne of the problems with Shakespeare,” he joked, “is that you can never give him a ring. I’ve tried so many times. He never calls. But you can talk to Stan Lee… And then you’ve got the feverish enthusiasm of the guys here. You do feel as though they want to make these movies, they’re passionate and enthusiastic about it.”