Kenneth Branagh has been announced as the surprise choice to direct comic book adaptation Thor for Marvel Studios.

The comic first appeared in 1962 and tells of Donald Blake, a disabled medical student who, after a chance discovery, gains the ability to transform into the hammer-wielding Norse god Thor.

Stardust director Matthew Vaughn had been attached to helm the adaptation but left the project after his holding deal with Marvel expired in December.

And according to Variety, studio head Kevin Feige has now opted for Branagh to tell the story of Blake and his divine Alter Ego.

Currently eliciting rave reviews for his West End performance in the lead role in Anton Chekhov's Ivanov, Branagh's last big-screen outing as a director was 2007's Sleuth, starring Jude Law and Sir Michael Caine.

But though his debut Henry V (1989) and 1994's Frankenstein included their fair share of action, the Belfast-born star is still a surprise choice to direct a comic book film.

However, his appointment follows Marvel's strategy of attaching unlikely directors to superhero property, after Jon Favreau was awarded the Iron Man directorial chair and Gavin Hood picked to shoot X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

The Variety reports states that Branagh will use the same Mark Protosevich script that Vaughn had worked with.

Speaking to the Chicago Daily Herald newspaper in December, the screenwriter said that his Thor adaptation would be an origin story, "but not one about a human gaining super powers, but of a god realising his true potential".

"It's the story of an Old Testament god who becomes a New Testament god," he explained.

Thor is set to be released in June 2010.

29/09/2008 12:26:39