There were lots of challenges faced by Marvel Studios President of Production Kevin Feige in bringing Thor to the big screen, and one of the biggies was something faced by many films based on older comics—updating the sometimes reactionary female characters so they don't live in the background or on the fringes of the story.
For Feige, it was all about casting someone believeable. ''Jane Foster in the comics was a nurse and certainly had some good storylines of her own, but she was not necessarily the driver of the story in any way. She was very reactionary. That said, we wanted to update her. We wanted to make her a scientist. ... We wanted a character in the film that says ... and she says it in the movie, the Arthur C. Clarke quote, 'Magic is just science we don't understand yet.' We wanted an actress who you would believe when she said that. Who you would believe would be able to be an astrophysicist. ... You don't question it when it's Natalie Portman. And she's beautiful. You don't question why he falls in love with her, so that was a big coup early on for us, that she was interested in joining Ken [director Kenneth Branagh] on this wacky adventure.''
The next challenge? How do you take a god and put him in the world of Tony Stark and his gadgets, or the Hulk and the science that made him ''go green''? You start on Earth and ground the magic in science, and you don't hold back on the fantastic.
According to Feige, ''The way we chose to structure the movie and structure the story and to do this version of his origin was all with the intention of pulling an audience in. That's why the movie starts on Earth. You meet those three. You meet Kat Dennings [Darcy Lewis], Natalie Portman [Jane Foster] and Stellan Skarsgard [Erik Selvig], and you're intrigued. And you realize it's going to have something to do with science and the study of something real. Then we thrust them into the other world. My big belief always is, if the characters are relatable ... however fantastic the event is, if a character is responding to it in a really appropriate fashion, you're going to believe it. But on the other side of that, we didn't want to pull back. We didn't want to do a movie that just alluded to his helmet. Where you saw just a glimpse of Asgard or beyond the clouds. We wanted to do what the comics did ... we built the giant sets, and we have all the giant worlds and it was important to me and Ken. It was what Ken signed up to do. He really was interested to bring these worlds to life.''
So, will people buy into Thor? How much pressure is there for this to succeed, to make The Avengers work? "Well, I think for a studio that makes two movies a year, they're all important. They're all key. But I wouldn't say any more or less important than anything else. Frankly, the response to Thor was the most important. Are people going to buy into this character, this origin, these worlds? Are they going to recognize that we're making individual movies that happen to be leading up to a movie which is in itself an individual movie that includes all of them? And I've been very happy that the response to people who have seen Thor is very 'Oh, it's not just a puzzle piece of a movie.' It's its own thing. It's a full experience and a full introduction to Thor.''
Feige has been publicly talking about the possibility of a Thor 2, so of course people are asking about a lesser-known but very well-loved character, who swings Thor's hammer, Beta Ray Bill. ''I love Beta Ray Bill! Listen, Walt Simonson, those storylines ... he's in the movie. He has a cameo at the end of the movie. Walt does. His storylines are often what we go right to when we start to put together what the next movie is going to be. Could it be Beta Ray Bill? Maybe. It's certainly one of the best stories. Certainly one of the best stories. Is it too soon introduce a guy ... he came in years and years into the Thor run. Is it too soon to suggest that somebody else can lift the hammer? I don't know. But we love him. We love him and his horse face.''
Hey, we had War Machine in Iron Man 2 ...
Thor hits theaters May 6, 2011.