Surprising news from Deadline tonight as it appears that Patty Jenkins has quit as director of Thor 2.

The Marvel Studios sequel is set to roll into cinemas in July of 2013 and is already in pre-production while the studio wait (as do we all) for the highly anticipated Avengers movie to bust blocks next Summer. Kenneth Branagh did a fine job with the first Thor movie, starring Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman, which had a wit not often seen in the Marvel and DC movie adaptations. Branagh was very complementary about the appointment of his successor who is best known for directing Monster as well as episodes of The Killing and Arrested Development, but reaffirmed his decision not to direct the sequel.

Tom Hiddleston, who plays Loki and will be returning along with Hemsworth and Portman in the second film, recently spoke to MTV about Jenkins,

[Jenkins is] amazing…I actually had dinner with her earlier this week and she’s sensational, a really amazing woman and quite clearly an amazing director. Weirdly enough, you won’t believe me, but this is God’s honest truth, before I started shooting ‘Thor,’ Ken Branagh gave me two films to watch. He said, ‘Listen, this is sort of not related, but I want a quality of vulnerability from your performance, which is similar to these two things.’ One of them was Peter O’Toole’s performance in ‘The Lion In Winter’ and the second was Charlize Theron’s performance in Monster.

She clearly has an incredible grasp of story and character and a very powerful emotional engine behind her, which I think is what we need.

The thing about Patty is she has an innate courage and complete understanding of the muscularity of a character like Thor, but also a sensitivity and a nobility and things like ‘Monster’ and ‘The Killing’ which she directed, don’t shy away from darkness, they don’t shy away from murkier aspects of human nature and I think her fearlessness about all that will make ‘Thor 2’ quite interesting.

The report cites the reason for the exit as ‘creative differences’ so where this leaves the sequel’s tone is unclear. Surely Marvel would have been on the same page as Jenkins when the script was offered, and what Hiddleston says points towards a darker, more fearless Thor movie, so perhaps there’s a change in the sequel’s direction as well as director.

Place your bets on who is to sign up to take on the next film now…