Kenneth Branagh, the Shakespearean director and actor who the world’s first introduction to the MCU’s Thor, has some insights into the pressures behind one of Marvel’s first cinematic universe films.
While not one of Marvel’s most-loved entries, it’s an important one, featuring the most outlandish elements seen in an MCU film up until that point. If it could balance those elements with the relatively realistic setting of the Iron Man films, it could prove the flexibility and durability of the shared universe idea.
That’s exactly how Branagh, who was asked about the franchise during an interview with Uproxx, remembers it. “Remember, there were only two pictures in the Marvel Universe. Iron Man, genius, the first one. Hulk hadn’t worked as they’d hoped,” he said. “And then number three, it was sink or swim before Captain America and then suddenly, oh, it was fine after that.”
Branagh, it’s worth noting, is a bit off on his chronology here, as the second Iron Man predates the original Thor by a year. But his point stands. “No question that Kevin Feige used to say to me, ‘This is the single most difficult tonal challenge for us, to make this movie work in itself and fit into this larger universe.’ In fact, I think Thor, and in Chris Hemsworth’s performance, becomes an absolutely integral part,” Branagh continued.
Apparently, the pressure was set pretty high internally, before the MCU was anywhere near a sure thing. And Branagh’s success at crafting a film that was, if not excellent, able to get the job done, formed a major foundation for the entire multi-billion dollar filmic extravaganza that the MCU has since become.
Speaking of Branagh’s original Thor, Ragnarok’s screenwriter, Ryan Pearson, told Yahoo! News that his original draft had a big callback, in the form of the Destroyer armor that ended up as Thor’s major opponent in that film. (Those were quaint days, huh?) Pearson told Yahoo!:
There was [also] a scene where she thought they were hiding the sword in the armory, this big fortress. She goes up, and the destroyer armor comes out to take her out, and she just rips that thing apart too, just to call back the destroyer armor. And it just felt like an extra beat that we didn’t need. We needed to get Thor pushing back to Asgard as fast as possible.
Branagh, for his part, hasn’t yet seen Ragnarok, but he’s looking forward to it, and he seems altogether happy about his contributions to the universe. “I am most certainly going to see Thor,” he said, “and I do care about it, and I’m thrilled they’re making a third one and I love that director.”