NPR logo The Upcoming Thor Movie: Tho What? He's Still A Jerk.

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The Upcoming Thor Movie: Tho What? He's Still A Jerk.

Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman: She's joining the Thor movie. But Thor? Still a jerk. Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

On Monday, Marvel Studios announced that Natalie Portman has been added to the cast of the upcoming big-budget Thor flick, scheduled to begin production early next year. She'll play "an updated version" of Jane Foster, a character who served as love interest for both the God of Thunder and his earthly alter-ego, Dr. Don Blake, back in the Thor comic's early years.

Portman joins Chris Hemsworth (who appeared briefly as Kirk's hot dead dad in this summer's Star Trek film) as Thor, and Tom (lots of British TV) Hiddleston, who'll play Loki, God of Lies.

Never been a Thor fan, I confess. And not just because of those little winglet-things on the side of his helmet, which never stop screaming Head Showgirl at Bally's.

No, it's his attitude. The guy's forever yelling at someone or other, and always with a puss on his face.

We review the prospects for a successful movie about the God of Thunder and Snippiness, after the jump.

With him, it's always, "Thou didst not reckon with the might of Thor, knave!"

or:

"Who hath dared draw the Thunder God here, from the midst of battle 'gainst the foes of Asgard? Speak mortals — for such I see ye be! Speak — or face the wrath of Thor!"

And then, even when he knocks it off with the talking-about-himself-in-the-third person, there's still the underlying god complex:

"For I am lord of the winds...and the storm! Thunder and lightning are my hunting dogs...the rain is my whip...and when I must, I ride a great and terrible steed...the earthquake!"

Not the easiest guy to have a mead with, is my point.

And yet he's got his fans. No less a geek icon than Liz Lemon has invoked his thundery presence ("By the Hammer of Thor!") and both Ron Burgundy and Sideshow Bob have been known to toss off a "By Odin's Beard!" when the need is dire.

Then, of course, there is the performance that will forever stand as the definitive (okay, only) celluloid portrayal of Thor fandom: that of young Maia "Sara" Brewton, in 1987's Adventures in Babysitting.

Do note, in that clip, how a young Vincent D'Onofrio manages to make it through an entire scene without even once tilting his head at anyone like a deranged chicken. He was so, so young.

There's reason to to have faith in the upcoming movie, verily. For one thing, director Kenneth Branagh — and let's just go ahead and throw in a big ol' (!) there — certainly knows his way around pompous characters.

And as a trained Shakespearean actor he's had some hands-on experience with thys, thous and thees. Not for him, Stan Lee's infamously relaxed attitude toward declension and conjugation, which was cause for hand-wringing in the nation's Comp Lit departments. ("Thou sayeth"! Why, the very idea!)

But making sure Hemsworth keeps from pairing the third-person verb to the second person pronoun won't be the looming issue it might've been, back in days of yore.

Thor's speech pattern has modernized in recent decades — but then that's the kind of thing that happens to you once you die, get cloned, and, as has happened with our hero recently, pick up stakes and move the family-slash-mythical-pantheon to Oklahoma. (Long story.)

Certainly, when the character made his live-action debut in the 1999 TV movie The Incredible Hulk Returns, he ditched the highfalutin' speech pattern.

Guy was still a jerk, though. (Technically the Thor played by Eric Allen Kramer in this cheesetacular retread wasn't a god, but just your average, garden-variety, magical Viking. With a super Hulk-fricasseeing thunder-hammer. Nonetheless: jerk!)

In terms of name recognition: Compared to other Marvel heroes, Thor's Q rating among non-comics readers hovers right around where Iron Man's was, before the Robert Downey, Jr. film came out - he's solid second-tier.

If it weren't for Adventures in Babysitting, he'd likely be hovering down on the third tier, alongside The Sub-Mariner and, I don't know, Ant-Man.

There's little reason to expect the kind of tongue-in-cheek, gimlet-eyed sparkle that Robert Downey Jr. brought to Iron Man; which is only meet — it really wouldn't fit the character.

But here's my fear: Second-tier character + sourpuss mood + silly damn costume = the Daredevil movie.

I hope to Balder I'm wrong about that.

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