Kenneth Branagh makes an excellent target for people who want to hate him.
When I spoke to Anthony Hopkins, he talked a bit about the way Branagh has always been a target, in no small part because of the way he appeared on the scene with so much hype behind him. In the world of theater, and particularly among Shakesperean experts, Branagh was seen as an upstart, and people were gunning for him. When he moved into film, his “Henry V” was heavily praised, the sort of praise that almost guarantees people are going to want to go after something. And throughout his career, he tends to make big choices like a four-hour-long “Hamlet” in 70MM, that make him seem like he’s positively dripping with hubris.
But if you can deliver the goods, is it really hubris?
That word is the main focus of “Thor,” thematically speaking, and moving from something as small as “Sleuth” to a giant mainstream Marvel superhero film with action sequences that are unlike anything he’s staged before, seems like another of those Branagh moves designed to put him in the crosshairs, and sure enough, people have been gunning for “Thor” ever since it was announced.
That had to make it extra-special for him as the film finally started screening for critics and reviews started coming in, because he seems to have made a movie that is really connecting with audiences, and the fact that people who have no experience with the character at all are walking away as fans is a huge testament to just how carefully Branagh negotiated a very tricky tone.
I enjoyed sitting down with him, and our conversation was a solid one. I may not love every movie he’s made, and there might even be a few that I really dislike, but I’ll give him this: he suffers those slings and arrows of outrageous fortune as well as anyone I’ve ever seen, and when he connects, the results can be wildly entertaining.
“Thor” is now playing in theaters everywhere.