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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Kenneth Branagh to direct Thor movie?

Are you sitting down? Kenneth Branagh — Kenneth Branagh — is in talks with Marvel Comics to bring the superhero Thor to the big screen. Branagh’s the last person I’d have thought of to take on a comic-book movie, but the more I think on it, the more I like it. Comic books are serious business these days, and what could possibly indicate that better than having the modern Olivier take one on? It’s true that the closest Branagh has come to genre is his 1994 Frankenstein, which is, um, bizarre, to say the least (Robert DeNiro as the Creature? interesting choice) — though Dead Again is an excellent ghost story. But Branagh, born in 1960, is right on that Boomer-Xer cusp. He would have grown up reading comic books and watching Doctor Who as a kid in Ireland; he was a teenager when Star Wars was released. He’s definitely in the geek demographic. I would trust that he gets us, because he’s one of us.

On the other hand, he has a certain reputation to uphold… a serious-minded reputation. I can only imagine the debate he must be having with himself over whether to take on a project like this, or not:
To geek, or not to geek: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the heart to indulge
The warp and weft of joyful dorkery,
Or to refuse the call of desperate nerdlings,
And by ignoring hush them? To geek: to fun
Evermore; and with an embrace to say we
Celebrate the thousand magic wonders
That geeks are heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To geek; to fun;
To fun: perchance to riches: there’s the rub;
For in that geekery what wealth may come
When I have shrugged off this mantl’d esteem,
Must give me pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of grave repute
For who’d bear the whips and scorns of critics
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The rudeness of box office and the spurns
That calm merit of shame’d Monday morning takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat a weary comic book,
But that the dread of aught after franchise,
The undiscover’d genre from whose bourn
Few filmmakers return, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those films we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make mundanes of we few;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.

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