I've been a fan of Thor for a long time now; I've always loved mythology, and one of my earliest comic-related memories was picking up a few issues of Walt Simonson's classic run on the series. For my money, those stories are still the gold standard for the character. Hey, I love me some Kirby, and nobody does it better, but… man, that Simonson stuff just rocks! I'm diggin' J. Michael Straczynski's current run as well. A lot of writers have trouble balancing the mythological aspects of the character with the present-day setting, but JMS has really nailed it.
But for as long as I've loved Thor, I've never really thought it would translate to film. How do you fit in all the mythological back story and the modern stuff and make it clock in at under 4 hours? Is it possible to put a Norse god of thunder in modern Manhattan and not seem cheesy? As I said before, a lot of other writers seem to have trouble with it. But if you don't put Thor in a modern-day setting, is it really the Marvel Comics' version of the character, or would it just be a retelling of the old myths? I recently read a draft of the 'Thor' movie script by Mark Protosevich dated 04/04/07, and I think he's found a perfect balance between Marvel and myth, but in a totally unexpected way.
First of all, there's no New York, no Don Blake, no Jane Foster, none of that. Rather than go for the typical superhero movie approach, this script feels more like 'Lord of the Rings' or 'Beowulf'. This version of Thor is very much an origin story firmly rooted in Norse mythology, and it reminded me a lot of the old "Tales of Asgard" backup features that ran in old Thor comics from before I was born.
We get a quick but detailed history of Asgard, Midgard, and the origins of the universe. We find out why Loki is at odds with Thor, and how Thor got Mjolnir. We see giants, gnomes and fairies. Sif, Odin, Balder and The Warriors Three all make appearances, and despite all the back story they cram in (and all the words that seem to have way too many consonants), it's surprisingly accessible. I don't think that the casual viewer would have any problem whatsoever becoming totally immersed in this world.
While it doesn't take place in modern Manhattan, it is definitely the Marvel Comics version of Thor. Much like Stan & Jack's take on Odin's favorite son, this story is all about a boastful, pride filled warrior who cares only for slaying monsters and bagging babes. At the beginning of the story, he's almost completely unlikable, and definitely needs to be knocked down a peg or two. He's a god with a god-sized ego, to say the least.
Meanwhile, the other focus of the story is Loki. At the beginning of the story, he's trapped in his brother's shadow, but once he learns of his true parentage, the more devious side of his nature begins to assert itself. Without giving too much away, he ends up betraying not only his brother, but pretty much all of Asgard in his attempts to gain power and revenge.
And, of course, there's the hammer. As the inscription says, "Whosoever finds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor." And that middle part is really the gist of the story - "If he be worthy." While the Thor in this movie doesn't become a crippled doctor in 1960's New York, he does have to learn a big lesson in humility. Thor's quest in this story isn't merely about killing the beast and winning the war, but about learning responsibility to both himself and others, and in that sense, this character is 110% the Marvel Comics creation.
Beyond all that stuff, it's an awesomely huge action epic! I've heard that there's some doubts as to whether or not this script will be actually see the big screen, as it may break the budget. I can see why. Like I said earlier, there's monsters and special effects galore: sea serpents, gnomes, elves, eight-legged horses, giants, ogres… you name it. Plus, there's a whole lotta thunder and lightnin'. This is the God of Thunder we're talking about here, and trust me, he earns that title in this flick.
As a long-time fan of Thor and Norse mythology, I have to say, I'm uber-geeked about this movie, and I hope the script I read (and the necessary budget) get approved. If this script is followed, I think this movie can bridge the gap between the sword & sorcery fans and the comic geeks… not that that gap really needs to be bridged, of course. At any rate, it would be a perfect opportunity for comic book movies to be perceived as more than just dudes in tights with crazy powers. It's a truly epic tale that should appeal to people who like great stories and to people who like great action.
Imagine, if you will, that '300' had a plot. Now imagine a version of 'Lord of the Rings' that was a bit less artsy, with elves that were a little less pretty and a lot more badass. Now add a big freakin' hammer that can summon thunder and lightning. Get the picture? That's the movie I saw when I read this script. With any luck, that's the Thor movie we'll get.