kottke.org posts about Kenneth Branagh

Why Stan Lee is the Shakespeare of the 20th centuryMay 04 2011

Kenneth Branagh seemed like an odd fit to direct Thor, but he makes a solid case here about the affinities between Shakespeare, comics, and our love of all things larger-than-life:

We've just seen about two billion people watch a royal family at work, you know? And so I would say that it is Shakespearean, but it's also global, I suppose. That we're interested in what goes on in the corridors of power whether it's the White House or whether it's Buckingham Palace. And so Shakespeare was interested in the lives of the medieval royal families, but he also raided the Roman myths and the Greek myths for the same purpose. And I think Stan Lee went to the myths that Shakespeare hadn't used. You know, [they both] recognized that they contain briefly told, very condensed stories that I think are very universal in their application.

I think the connection, if there is one, is that the stakes are high. So in something like Henry IV or Henry V, where the young prince is a reckless man who falls into bad company: could that prince be the king? [In Thor], our flawed hero who must earn the right to be king, but I think what's key is the stakes. There it's Europe and England in power and here it's the universe. It's when that family has problems everybody else is affected, so if Thor throws a fit and is yelling at his father and is banished, suddenly the worlds are unstable. And what it means is if the actors take those stakes seriously it is passionate and it is, you know, very intense. And I suppose that kind of a observation of ordinary human - although they're gods - frailties in people in positions of power is an obsession of great storytellers including Shakespeare and including the Marvel universe.

Thor's story -- especially early on -- really is a lot like Prince Hal's, now that I think of it. Guy's even got his own Falstaff: dude is named Volstagg, which now seems almost too on-the nose.

Finally, have you seen Branagh's Henry V?

Guy knows how to make old-school battle cinematically work.

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