Ooooooh, I am chomping at the bit at this point to start really talking about what I saw on the set of “Thor,” but for now, I’m still under a gag order, so the most I can do is share some impressions with you that might offer up some context for what you saw if you checked out the “Entertainment Tonight” set visit that was just posted.
I was surprised both by what they did show and how little they actually revealed. If you’ve got keen eyes, you can catch a glimpse of Heimdall’s Observatory, a remarkable set and a major puzzle piece in understanding the difference between the typical approach to Thor and Norse mythology that has been part of the comic series since its creation. You also get a look at Odin, the uber-god being played by Anthony Hopkins, and a hint of the Earth-bound action that occurs when some of the most dangerous Asgardians come looking for Thor, who has been banished to our world by the All-Father so he can learn some humility.
That was always one of the core concepts of “Thor,” the notion that Thor is an arrogant god whose actions endanger himself, his fellow Asgardians, and the people they rule. Odin wants to entrust his kingdom to his son, but he knows he’s not ready, so in the comics, he strips him of his powers and forces him to take the human form of Donald Blake, a crippled doctor, a physical form that is almost the exact opposite of Thor’s. In helping others and dealing with his infirmity, Blake learns to be everything that Thor was not, so that when Blake finds a cane that transforms into Mjolnir, an enchanted hammer, and which transforms him into the God of Thunder, he assumes his original shape with a new appreciation of his responsibilities.
That’s still a big part of the character arc here, with the major change being that Thor does not change into Donald Blake anymore. Still, the idea that he’s sent to Earth to learn to connect with the virtues of humanity is the thing that drives this new film, and the big action (hinted at with that exploding 7-11 you’ll see at the start of the footage) is all driven by the other immortals who come to Earth looking to claim Mjolnir and its power as their own.
The main thing you’ll get a look at in this footage is the chemistry between Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth. Portman plays Jane Foster, a nurse who becomes Thor’s most important connection to Earth, and Hemsworth is, of course, Thor. Much of this film’s heart will depend on how well these two sell the relationship. If we’re going to believe in Thor’s change, then we’re going to have to see something genuine between these two.
I wish there was a little bit of the Odin/Thor dynamic in this footage, because that’s another key relationship here, and indicative of why they hired Kenneth Branagh to direct the film. The giant set pieces, the CGI, the superhero battles… that’s the stuff that Marvel Studios knows inside out by this point. What they needed from Branagh was a handle on the Shakesperean undercurrents to the drama in this film. The father/son drama, or the tensions between Thor and his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who feels passed over and undervalued, for example. These are basic, big-drama dynamics, and Branagh spoke frankly about how important all of that is to his version of the character.
We’ve still got a year to go, but between this and what I hope will be a strong presence at Comic-Con, the hype on “Thor” is just heating up, and I have every confidence that the more you see, the more you’ll want to see. I think this one could be a special film for Marvel, and these early glimpses just have me primed for the big stuff I know lies ahead.
Here’s the video for you to check out:
“Thor” arrives on Earth May 6, 2011.
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