“Thor” director Kenneth Branagh is a big fan of the “Iron Man” tandem of director Jon Favreau and star Robert Downey Jr., but he says his entry into the ever-expanding cinema of the Marvel Universe will be quite different in tone and construction.
The “Iron Man” films, the box-office jewel of Marvel Studios, were filmed with an emphasis on bottling the on-set lightning of star Downey, and the actor’s improvisation work kept the harried writing team busy throughout the production as they tweaked and twisted the script to connect the dots between the star’s ad-lib riffs. That approach worked for a franchise that found its axis in the mercurial charm of Tony Stark, but Branagh said Thor’s tale of gods and monsters would not have benefited from a fast-and-loose approach.
“It’s a different story, and also, in that regard, Jon is a bit of a genius when it comes to that orchestration and getting the max out of another genius in Downey,” Branagh said.
“It’s how you dance pretty close to the edge to get the sort of modernity and the edge that ‘Iron Man’ has and the real sharp comic sensibility of those two men,” he said. “So it’s a different kind of dance.
“I think ‘Thor’ comes from a different place story-wise and character-wise. We have both Norse histories for Thor, hundreds of myths and fables told in many different ways, in addition to what Marvel has pillaged for the past 40 years or so to come up with their version of things, which sits in very strong structure, a really strong narrative structure.”
Branagh said there was also a “formality, as least on the Asgardian side of things; there’s a semi-ornateness to all of it that means we start from a more ordered universe, then the story turns toward the chaotic.”
Marvel Studios has an unprecedented plan to create an interlocking mythology and all-star ensemble that spread across multiple film franchises. “Thor” and “The First Avenger: Captain America” reach theaters next year, and then, in 2012, all the characters will converge in “The Avengers,” which will put wild-card Downey at the center of a somewhat dizzying cast. Branagh, for one, can’t wait. “That’s what’s going to make the Avengers fascinating. I think a character like Thor is the absolute opposite of someone like Tony Stark and the mix, complement and clash of those personalities will be very interesting to watch.”
— Geoff Boucher
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