Thor: A Shakespearean Film

The Thor movie has always been so divisive amongst its viewers. Some people hated it, some people thought it was merely alright, and some people loved it. I am personally in the “loving it” camp. I know some people had major problems with the movie and felt like much of it was a little bit out of place or didn’t seem like it really fit alongside Iron Man, Captain America, and The Incredible Hulk. I’m here to let you guys know the exact reason that Thor felt so weird to you though: Shakespeare.  Thor is, in actuality, just a Shakespeare movie.

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Admittedly, it’s a very shiny Shakespeare movie.

I know what you’re thinking. “What nonsense are you spouting? It’s a super hero movie stupid.” Why, of course it is! But if you look at the structure and themes involved, you can very easily tell it was made with Shakespeare in mind. Going into this movie, I even knew we were in for a Shakespeare flick. When everyone was talking about Thor and how cool it looked and how hot Chris Hemsworth is and how it had tons of action, I just said to them, “Yeah, I’m pretty stoked. Freaking Kenneth Branagh is directing!” To which every single person I told that to said “Uh, cool?” or “Who the hell is that?” Since I’m sure 99% of the people reading this right now are asking the same thing, I’ll explain who Mr. Branagh is.

Kenneth Branagh is a film director who is known entirely for his work with Shakespeare. He grew up on the stage in Ireland and England then started directing multiple Shakespeare plays after college. After that, he looked for even grander projects; he began to make film adaptations of various Shakespeare plays. Many of these received awards and high critical acclaim, and acted and directed in many of them. He was also acting and directing other movies and made-for-TV movies as well, but we won’t get into them (Wild Wild West). The point is that Kenneth Branagh is a guy who has built his career off of making Shakespeare bigger and better than anybody else.

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Kenneth Branagh: The most Shakespearean guy this side of Shakespeare.

So Marvel Studios contacted this Shakespeare guy to direct their movie. Weird, right? Wouldn’t you want an action guy directing this movie or something? I mean, it’s for Thor! He is always laying the smackdown on fools with Mjolnir! But you see, Marvel Studios knew exactly what they were doing when they chose Kenneth Branagh. They saw what kind of film they had and said, “We need this guy to tell this story.” Because believe it or not, Thor’s entire mythos (based upon the mythos of Norse mythology) is all similar to Shakespeare stories. Don’t believe me? J Michael Stracynski, co-writer of the film and a guy who has written plenty of Thor stories, had this to say about Kenneth Branagh directing the film:

Thor, at his best, has always had a classic bent in terms of his history, the way he speaks and the often Shakespearean dramas that surround him. That kind of dialogue and character needs someone who comes from a classically trained background in order for it not to sound forced or artificial. Branagh is the perfect choice.

See! Someone professional said it too! So now you have to believe it!

No?

Alright, then I guess I’ll just explain what is so Shakespearean about the movie.

First of all, they use an English accent for all of the Asgardians. The first fear that everybody involved in the film had was that they’d be speaking in Old English, but Branagh assured everyone that they wouldn’t have that sort of accent. However, that didn’t stop the cast from speaking in a Shakespearean tone on the set when they weren’t filming to practice their English accent. They knew the kind of film they were doing and they also knew they had to get into the mindset that they are not the humans of today’s world. Of course, that doesn’t prove that it’s Shakespearean.

So let’s look at our characters and the storylines that go on through the movie, since that will be the thing to key us into whether this is a Shakespeare movie or not.

So we have Thor here who is going to be king of Asgard. Unfortunately, he’s an egotistical brat for the most part. Loki, in particular, thought it was a very bad idea for Thor to become king, and it is further proven as Thor puts everyone in danger and breaks the truce with Jotenheim. However, through the trials that Thor undergoes on Earth, we find that he has learned what is important to be a successful ruler. This is similar to Henry IV where King Henry is a drunk party boy who everyone thought would make a terrible king, but then proves them all wrong by maturing.

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I think his problem was that he was too handsome to be king, personally.

And then there’s Loki and his completely insane daddy issues. Loki is jealous of his brother for having Odin’s favor. He also appears to have been adopted by Odin by the frost giants of Joutenheim. Thus, Loki is absolutely crushed when he finds this out and decides he needs to win his father’s favor over Thor and prove he’s the better man. This is just like Edmund from King Lear. Edmund is an illegitimate child from Gloucester family. He is conniving and scheming in an effort to make his father see that he’s the best son! And his way to do that is to get rid of his brother and look as if he’s the best. And just like Loki had invited Laufey, the Jouten king, only so he can kill him and have an excuse to kill all of the Joutens, Edmund has King Lear and Cordelia executed because he feels it is right. However, Edmund’s brother manages to stop his plan by beating him in combat, just as Loki’s brother Thor did.

That’s not all concerning Loki though; Tom Hiddleston, the actor who played Loki, was actually purposefully picked up by Kenneth Branagh because he knew he was such a great Shakespearean actor. Branagh knew that the best person who could properly pull off the absolute torment with Loki would be someone well-versed in Shakespearean acting. And he made the most perfect choice, in my opinion, because Tom Hiddleston stole the show for me. Kenneth Branagh also told Tom Hiddleston he even needed to slim down, saying he needed to look “lean and hungry” like Cassius in Julius Caesar, another Shakespeare play. Cassius was a sinister schemer, just like Edmund was.

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Of all the gods, you can certainly trust the God of Mischief the most.

Then there’s the role of Jane Foster, which many people become upset about. In a way, I can see why. The belief is that she falls so fast for Thor and that she seems unrealistic as a result of that. I’d like to remind everyone right now that you are watching a movie about a Norse God who controls lightning with his hammer. This is fantasy! Treat it as such! However, there’s a very good reason that she falls for him like she does, and it’s actually mentioned in the movie. When Jane Foster talks about what she does, being an astrophysicist, she mentions how she isn’t used to having guests. She mentions how she doesn’t ever leave her truck much. When SHIELD takes her stuff, she laments that this is all her life has. She’s a lonely little nerd girl who is portrayed as being completely naïve and socially awkward, and the only company she’s kept for the longest time has been an annoying girl sidekick and an old man. When she sees this totally hot guy that falls from the sky magically, she is so into him now. This is magic. It’s the stuff that little girls dream they’ll love—a dream man falling from the sky who looks absolutely perfect. She’s fascinated by him because he fell from the sky and she’s an astrophysicist and also because he is very sweet to her.

The story isn’t that Thor is so enamored by Jane Foster so much as Jane Foster is so enamored with Thor, and she’s so nice that she even helps him on his quest to get back home. How often does Thor ever get that kindness also, especially since he’s been such a pompous jerk his whole life? Being humbled by becoming mortal made Thor appreciate the finer things, such as the kindness of a stranger. You could say that Jane Foster fell in love at first sight with Thor though, which is obviously one of Shakespeare’s most used themes. Romeo and Juliet and countless of his comedies have had love at first sight, and this movie justifies having love at first sight.

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Fortunately this story ends a little bit happier than Romeo and Juliet.

To me, the evidence that this is a Shakespeare movie is just overwhelming. It feels like a Shakespearean comedy when the humor is there, and it feels like a tragedy when seriousness is going down. It doesn’t dwell on the fighting aspects, but it does not make light of their sheer importance. This is Shakespeare.

Of course, I don’t think the movie is without its faults. In fact, I know it has problems. Those problems never took away from the movie for me though, and I simply loved how they built this world out of the Shakespearean elements involved in Thor’s origin and ran with them. Although Thor: The Dark World, will no longer have Kenneth Branagh as the director, I still hope to be pleasantly surprised by the quality of it. The groundwork is there for a fabulous Thor universe. I hope Marvel can just use it to the best of their ability.

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And if there isn’t a “Hammer Time” joke in Thor 2, I’m going to be very upset.

Heroic Biz


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