Flowing locks. Tights. Well, yeah, Thor kinda could pass for a Renaissance man…
If comic-book fans squinted real hard, today's news that actor-filmmaker Kenneth Branagh was in talks to direct Marvel's upcoming Thor movie looked not so bad. And pretty good even.
"I think it's kinda cool," said Rob M. Worley, editor of Comics2Film. "[But] he's not anybody I would have thought of."
Branagh, 47, is better known for interpreting William Shakespeare, on stage and in the movies (Henry V, Hamlet, etc.), than Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the two comics giants who made a Marvel star of the ancient Norse god in the 1960s.
"It's definitely a stretch for Branagh, and for Marvel—more in the vein of getting Ang Lee to direct Hulk," Heidi MacDonald, who writes about the comics world on the Publishers Weekly blog The Beat, said in an email.
In what might give Marvel a good fright, Worley also made the Lee analogy, as in: "This could be like Jon Favreau, or it could be Ang Lee in a total mismatch."
To recap, Favreau was the unlikely directorial choice who succeeded with this summer's Iron Man; Lee was the unlikely directorial choice who, um, didn't with 2003's Hulk.
So if Branagh becomes the unlikely choice to helm Thor—Marvel said it couldn't confirm the Variety report—then what? Is he the next Favreau? Or the next Lee?
Worley thinks the Thor script—a "more Lord of the Rings than Spider-Man" adventure by I Am Legend's Mark Protosevich—could be a good fit for Branagh's classical background.
"It's meant to be a big epic, and kind of Old World," Worley said.
MacDonald seemed to agree.
"Frankly, it seems kind of wacky," she said, "but if Thor is going to talk in 'thees' and 'thous,' who better than a Shakespearean vet to get it right?"
To be fair, Branagh is versed in verse other than iambic pentameter. As a movie star, he's done J.K. Rowling (in 2002's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) and blockbuster-ese (in 1998's Wild Wild West). As a filmmaker, he's made Robert De Niro go Boris Karloff (in 1994's Frankenstein, his last major Hollywood movie as director).
Thor is penciled in for a July 16, 2010, release. Under a new deal (or rather an extension of an old deal) announced today, Paramount Pictures will distribute the Marvel-made adventure along with four other planned films: The First Avenger: Captain America; The Avengers; and Iron Man 2—and 3.
Given the Branagh story, MacDonald has another project for Marvel to ponder.
"Maybe Emma Thompson will direct Spider-Woman," she said.