Despite his Oscar-nominee pedigree and Shakesperean theater training — perhaps because of it, in fact — Kenneth Branagh was not exactly the first name that came to most moviegoers’ minds when Marvel Studios sought a director to adaptThor for the big screen. But the stirring end results of that partnership say more about the limits of our imaginations than of Branagh’s own.
The 50-year-old actor/director’s first foray into tentpole filmmaking arrives in American theaters Friday, officially kicking off the summer blockbuster season with a dense, dramatic and roundly entertaining tale of the eponymous god and insolent heir to the throne (played by Chris Hemsworth) who is stripped of his powers and banished to Earth. Discovered by a lissome scientist (Natalie Portman) and her team in the New Mexico desert, Thor must regroup as a mortal while his brother (Tom Hiddleston) plots a hostile takeover of their father’s (Sir Anthony Hokpins) kingdom and the government’s top-secret S.H.I.E.L.D. operation investigates the strange celestial happenings that left a hammer wedged in a rock in the middle of the desert. Much heroism and CGIensue.
But so does some considerably complex characterization and origin storytelling, for which Branagh’s tastes, experience and talents behind the camera prove a more than compatible fit. He phoned up Movieline HQ recently to discuss what his past work has in common with the present, why auteurs are embracing blockbusters, and how he got this crazy job in the first place.
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