The first Thor movie was a pivotal project for the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it was the first big make-or-break test for the now massive franchise, director Kenneth Branagh says. When Chris Hemsworth entered the film series, Marvel Studios only had three films under its belt, Robert Downey Jr’s two Iron Man standalones and the nearly-forgotten Edward Norton-led The Incredible Hulk movie. And while the first Iron Man outing garnered applause, the next two outings received mixed reception making, Branagh’s task of introducing The God of Thunder into the fold a bit trickier than originally perceived.
If the idea of actually launching a character that was the most out-of-this-world for the MCU at that time wasn’t difficult enough, the thought that Thor could either make or break the budding superhero franchise was definitely additional stress to Branagh. Six years, and a Thor trilogy after, the filmmaker opens up about the precarious situation that he and Marvel were in during the time that they were still looking for the best way to introduce the Odinson into the bigger MCU fold.
Speaking with Uporoxx while doing the press rounds for his latest directorial and starring project, Murder on the Orient Express, the 56-year-old talks about that time he was working on Hemsworth’s first standalone film as the God of Thunder, giving us a peak on what really went down behind-the-scenes during its production. Branagh may have been confused, however, as Iron Man 2 camet the out before Thor (although, narratively they took place simultaneously) but we ge picture that he is trying to paint here:
“It was sink or swim before Captain America and then suddenly, oh, it was fine after that. We make Iron Man 2 and Avengers and everything’s tickety-boo. But everybody who was there knows that that was an incredibly sweaty time.
That’s certainly how they felt. 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 large universe.’ In fact, I think Thor, and in Chris Hemsworth’s performance, becomes an absolutely integral part.”
Thor may not be regarded as the strongest origins story in the MCU, but Branagh did a decent job of grounding a character that does not quite have the luxury to be easily relatable. He’s a God, powerful, good-looking and charming and there are only a handful of ways that will make him naturally likable to the general movie-going audience — something that the director fairly achieved. All of this, while also introducing us to the fan-favorite Loki, who is still the most fleshed out MCU villain to date. However, even with Branagh’s decent work on the first film in the cosmic threequel, Thor still felt like the oddball among his Avengers pals and Marvel’s struggle with him became more apparent in the lesser-received Thor: The Dark World. That is until director Taika Waititi came in and took a different approach to the character in Thor: Ragnarok.
MCU’s Phase 1 is where Marvel Studios first introduced us to the franchise’s big three — Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America, feels like a lifetime ago already. As we continue to journey our way towards the big culmination brought about by Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4 which are supposedly going to wrap the stories for some of the series’ principal characters, it’s nostalgic to look back on the last decade of the movie series, especially during its early years while it was still trying to find its footing.
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