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'Thor' sequel director

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As EW reported yesterday, the Thor sequel is on track for a July 2013 release. EW has confirmed that Don Payne is working on the screenplay — he was one of five credited screenwriters on the first film — but Marvel Studios is still staying mum on rumors (originally reported by Deadline) that Kenneth Branagh will not be returning to the director’s chair for Thor 2. It would be a definite loss for the franchise — in his review of Thor, EW’s Owen Gleiberman noted that the film proved Branagh to be an “unexpected maestro of digital effects.” But I’m always kind of excited by the prospect of new directors hopping into superhero franchises. Much like how different artists and writers put their own spin on the characters in comic books, a fresh director can bring an exciting new perspective to a hero. Best example: The Batman film series, which skewed melodramatically weird with Tim Burton, grittily realistic with Christopher Nolan, and utterly terrible with Joel Schumacher.

Obviously, I have my wish-list of directors. Since the first Thor notably dragged during the scenes set on earth, my great insane hope for the sequel is that they keep the film focused on the cosmic realms that circle around the golden city of Asgard. Some of the best Thor stories — I’m thinking especially of story arcs from the Walt Simonson era — are actually very surreal slipstream stories that mix Lord of the Ringsian fantasy with space-faring science-fiction. There’s boundless potential in Thor‘s universe, and it would be great if the franchise could get a director who trades in gorgeous grotesquerie.

I’d love to see what Guillermo Del Toro could do with Asgard — and the guy has a uniquely great track record with superhero sequels, having made the playful Blade II and the majestic Hellboy II: The Golden Army. But Del Toro’s a bit busy. By the same token, now that David Yates is finished filming his Harry Potter quartet, I’d love to see him bring his fluid directorial style to the Thorverse, but something tells me he’d like to take a break from $200 million fantasy epics. And my blue-sky director for all these comic book projects is Nicolas Winding Refn, the Danish director whose Viking epic Valhalla Rising is basically a Thor movie shot for 1/1000th of the budget, but his schedule is packed with Goslings.

Of course, the great thing about having Branagh director Thor was that it was so unexpected: Despite his run in the ’90s as a populist Shakespearean, Branagh was not by any means a commercial filmmaker. So my personal choice for Thor 2 would be another critically beloved director who hasn’t worked much lately, but whose filmography is filled with gorgeous visuals that never overtake the heightened emotions onscreen. I’m talking about Peter Weir, the great Australian filmmaker who broke onto the global scene with the gorgeously eerie Picnic at Hanging Rock in the ’70s, and then made Mel Gibson a star with Gallipoli and The Year of Living Dangerously. Weir hasn’t worked much lately, but the two films he made in the last decade — Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and The Way Back — are old-fashioned epics in the best sense, with human-sized characters struggling against the cruel elements.

So that’s my pick to direct the Thor sequel. What do you think, superhero fans? Throw out some names! Gore Verbinski? Ridley Scott? Werner Herzog? The Dardenne Brothers?

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich

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