Thor screenwriters Zack Stentz and Ashley Miller, best known for their work on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, recently discussed their new assignment: creating what could be the most epic superhero movie yet, Marvel's Thor.
While recent Thor news has focused on casting announcements and rumors, Zack Stentz and Ashley Miller have been working on the script. The duo is previously responsible for such Sarah Connor episodes as the "Today Is The Day" two-parter from towards the end of last season.
In interviews with Cinefools, Miller and Stentz laid out their approach to writing what is arguably one of the least accessible major superheroes. In particular, Thor's status as a god (or an interdimensional Asgardian alien, whatever the official story is these days) makes getting mainstream audiences to relate to the character significantly harder than it is for, say, Peter Parker. Miller tackled the question of how to do deal with Thor's godliness by pointing to Stan Lee's solution:
Thor's powers are godly, yes. And his zip code is a little different. But at the end of the day, he's a man. In the comics, Odin sends him to Earth because he's not perfect. He's brash, arrogant. Even over-confident. We all know that guy — some of us have even been that guy. Stan Lee's genius was to give Thor-as-hero an emotional throughline we could all relate to, and knock him down a couple of pegs. So on that level, your question answers itself. The challenge is to dramatize that and make the audience see what the fans have known and believed about the character all along.
Stentz explained what previous works they have looked to for inspiration as they work on Thor. In short, pretty much everything in the history of comics and Anglo-Saxon literature:
I'll admit up front that I'm more of a casual comic book reader. My partner is the one with whole rooms filled with carefully bagged back issues— his home is like the Ark warehouse of comic books! But I've always been a huge mythology and history nerd, so Thor to me is both the various incarnations of the Kirby/Lee Marvel character and a fascinating character out of Norse myth in his own right. In writing our drafts, Ash could draw on his encyclopedic knowledge of the Kirby/Lee continuity, Simonson run, JMS issues, and so forth, while I tended to go straight to Snorri Sturluson and the Icelandic Eddas and the like to try and draw on the power of the original myths and stories wherever possible. We did crazy research on this project, everything from refreshing our memories on the entire Marvel Thor run to diving into Viking history, re-reading Beowulf and early English literature, and looking at offbeat things like a crazy, inspired translation of the Orestia that removes all the Latin out of the English language and strips the dialogue down to its muscular Anglo-Saxon essentials.
Miller explained that ensuring the authenticity and brutality of the godly battles will be crucial. He summed up how such violence will inform the film's tone with a single word:
Grit. Not in the sense that you'd want to see a generic "dark" take on Thor, but in the sense that you want to feel Thor's rage when he rages. You want to see him fight like hell, and take as much he dishes out — maybe more. You want to have a visceral reaction to the guy, and what happens to him. You don't want his adventures to be clean and antiseptic. You want to see the dirt, and grime and blood. You want to feel every bone crunching moment of every fight. And when he unleashes the storm, you want to feel like you're seeing the power of a GOD at work.
The best example I can give you is the end of Ultimates 2. When Thor shows up and kicks ass, he shows up and kicks ass. He isn't screwing around. There's a certain brutal, cock-eyed realism to Thor in that moment (and through that book in general) that I really resonate to and want to expand on.
Any movie that looks to Ultimates 2 for inspiration is all right in my book. I've been intrigued by Thor ever since Kenneth Branagh came on to direct, and the possible addition of Brian Blessed at least meant the film would be fun to watch. But now, with writers with such a strong track record and such a clear vision for the film on board, I think we can actually expect a legitimately awesome film to come out of this.