A movie based on the Thor comic book was always a tricky proposition.
Created by Marvel Comics founder Stan Lee, scribe Larry Lieber and legendary artist Jack Kirby, Thor has endured as one of Marvel’s most illustrious titles, yet couldn’t maintain the same mainstream success outside of the comic book stores that the likes of the Hulk and Spider-Man achieved.
It was the unique, epic nature of the comic which made it a fan favourite, but also kept the general public at arm length. “Ye Olde English” was the chosen language for this hero, space adventures was the norm and Shakespearean drama featured in between the action. It seemed there was no way Thor would make it out of the comic panels and on to the big screen.
But that was then. Now with Marvel Studios in the midst of unleashing their mightiest heroes on the big screen, the ambition and the technology has finally caught up with the God of Thunder. Thor is ready to strut his stuff in his own film, and an ambitious director was needed to see it through. Cue acclaimed all rounder Kenneth Branagh, who brought his vast filmmaking experience and knowledge of Shakespeare to the project.
Yet just as important was casting, and in Australian actor Chris Hemsworth the role of Thor was fulfilled. Surrounding Hemsworth is Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman, as well as journey man actors Stellan Skarsgard and Ray Stevenson.
"We all trained together for a couple months before we started shooting, which helped everybody bond together.”” - Jaimie Alexander
But if Thor proves to be anything, it will be the film which made Hemsworth a star, and broke through his equally talented co-stars Tom Hiddleston and Jaimie Alexander.
They play Loki and Sif, two characters with close ties to Thor as bitter enemy and Asgardian love interest, respectively.
Like many before them, their introduction to Thor came about during their youth.
“My brother has always read comic books like X-Men and Spider-Man, and that sort of thing,” said Alexander. “I heard about Thor and read a few, and it was something I was interested in when I was younger. Then we revisited it of course when I got the role, and very happily so.”
“I had the Marvel superhero era of Top Trumps (playing cards), which had all of the characters of the Marvel universe,” chipped in Hiddleston. “Each card had a picture and their vital statistics like height, weight, super powers and intelligence, which were used when you’re competing against a friend. Both Thor and Loki were in there, and that was my first encounter with them.”
While Thor is a movie set in two distinct worlds, it is the scenes on the heavenly space kingdom of Asgard which have many raving, thanks to the spectacular use of visual effects and the stellar art direction of the legendary Bo Welsch.
“It’s all about imagination and trying to paint the picture in your mind’s eye”, said Hiddleston. “But all of the interiors in Asgard were built sets, which were incredible. So anything you see inside like the throne room, or the healing room, or Odin’s bed chamber, those were all built by Bo.”
Alexander had worked in effects driven sci-fi before in the TV series Kyle XY, yet Thor featured CGI work on a much grander scale, an experience which was both amusing and challenging.
“The green screen was fun!” said Alexander. “A lot of the times when we were fighting on the green screen, there would be a little green piece of paper, on a stick bouncing around with somebody at the bottom trying to make it look like its walking or something, so you just crack up laughing at it.”
“But it was great because Kenneth (Branagh, director) really narrated everything that we did. It couldn’t be awkward or off, because we all had to react at the same time at the same direction, so Ken with his theatrical, booming voice and personality would narrate what we were going through, so you really could see it! He really painted a perfect picture of what was going on, so without him I probably would be a tad bit lost.”
“I wanted to play Loki as a misguided, misunderstood anti-hero rather than a villain.” - Tom Hiddleston.
As Sif, Alexander had to hold her own amongst a group of male actors who make up the Warriors Three, Asgard’s finest fighters played by the likes of Tadanobu Asano of Ichi the Killer fame and Ray Stevenson, the acclaimed actor from HBO’s short lived series Rome and who also headlined another comic book movie, The Punisher.
“Oh, Ray. Don’t ever try to high five Ray, ever!” joked Alexander. “It was a lot of fun. I grew up with four brothers, so it came naturally. We all trained together for a couple months before we started shooting, which helped everybody bond together.”
Almost stealing Thor’s thunder is Hiddleston, who outs on a pitch perfect performance as Loki, one of Marvel’s most beloved villains. The brother of Thor, his treachery and jealousy sets the films plot in motion and also fuels much of the Shakespearean drama that takes place between the action.
“I wanted to play Loki as a misguided, misunderstood anti-hero rather than a villain,” revealed Hiddleston. “I think in the comics all of those aspects are there, the psychological complexity, his intelligence, and his pain essentially. His sadness, his grief and his confusion, that he doesn’t belong anywhere in the universe which he finds himself.”
Thor, of course, is a crucial piece in Marvel’s plans for cinema domination, which will culminate in the eventual release of The Avengers, where Thor, Iron Man, Captain America and other will join forces.
Yes when asked whether Marvel applied the pressure to make Thor a success for the sake of their future slate, Hiddleston was hearing none of it.
“I don’t think so. I believe Kenneth would be the first in line to refute that as a claim” affirmed Hiddleston. “He is so behind Thor as a standalone story. He has such a personal connection to the comic book because of the character, and so passionate about making a really, really terrific piece of cinema. He left the bigger question about the Marvel universe to Kevin Fiege (producer).”
And will Loki return to trick Earth’s mightiest heroes?
“I don’t know,” confessed Hiddleston. “It’s one of those ongoing conversations I am having with Marvel producers about if Loki comes back, how does he come back and where does he come back. But I think we haven’t seen the last of him. Joss Whedon has such a big job ahead. He as eight superheros to put in the one film. It’s like bringing together a fleet of ocean liners and getting them all to set sail together. It’s a pretty hard task on its own, but he will be able to do it.”