My initial feelings on Taika Waititi as director for Thor Ragnarok were a confused mix of kiwi pride and why-the-flying-figs would Ragnarok need to be a laugh-fest? Will this be at the expense of character depth?! But I went along to watch his latest movie, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, in the hope it would restore at least 75% of my dwindling faith in Marvel. How did that pan out? Read on and see!
Oh, and for the record, paragraphs 4-7 are optional. I kinda went off on a side tangent… *looks shifty-eyed*
I’m not gonna lie. When I first heard that Taika Waititi was going to direct Thor Ragnarok, my first response was, who? Two google-minutes later and my second response was, why? For all that Marvel is good at pairing their movies with unexpected directors (and normally making a successful job of it), I did find myself wondering if, this time, they’d simply gone a little batshit crazy.
I mean, Boy was a good movie. Waititi did an excellent job of blending humour and heart-warming character exploration. But the movie he was most internationally well-known for was the vampire comedy What We Do In the Shadows, and, given the accompanying articles expressing Marvel’s desire to add more humour to the Thor trilogy, I couldn’t help but envision Waititi’s version of Thor Ragnarok playing out like some slapstick 90’s cheese fest. (Truth be told, my internal monologue went something upon the lines of “he’s gonna take Oeming’s version of Ragnarok and run with it, isn’t he? He’s gonna chop off Loki’s head and… and as much as part of me would be highly satisfied by a pissed off disembodied Loki running his mouth off at Thor while swinging from his belt, I’m pretty sure it’s only gonna work well in a straight-to-dvd animation!”)
With such trepidation in mind, I face-palmed mightily while crying to the Earth-199999 Universe… Is this really the angle you wanna go for?
See, I get that Marvel likes to inject humour into their movies. They did an obvious yet fantastic job of it with Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, and a less obvious but equally fantastic job of it with the Iron Man and Captain America trilogies. With Thor however – particularly Thor The Dark World – Marvel seemed to struggle with finding a balance between subtle and OTT.
Maybe it was because the Thor fandom has a tendency to crave and embrace world-building and character development more than comedic relief. Maybe it was because of the way in which TTDW‘s comedic delivery was ofttimes out of place with the overall story they were trying to tell. Sure, it had several comedic moments that most movie-watchers could appreciate. The sarcastic wit between Loki and everyone he encountered. The moments where Darcy Did Dumb Stuff. The way that Mjolnir chased Thor around the nine realms but never quite managed to catch up. On their own, those moments of wit worked well. But when viewed as a collective whole, they felt disjointed and contrived.
The problem with Thor 2 wasn’t that it lacked humour. If anything, it had too much. (Or was it a case of having blocks of really obvious humor slapped amid serious shit like… Death and loss and destruction? I’m not sure. Damnit, I’m just babbling.) We expected a darker, grittier sequel to the first Thor film. We hoped for it. Most of all, we hoped for the same level of character development and world-building that we enjoyed so much about its predecessor. Instead, character development was sacrificed for comedic relief. Did we really need so much of Darcy and Co Being Funny? No1)Side note: “seabass seabass seabass” is an oft-repeated random phrase in our household. Does it make it right, though? No. No it doesn’t.. We needed a better understanding of Malekith’s back-story. We needed a better exploration into why he was so driven to turn the universe to darkness. We needed the bad guy to be a rich part of the story, not a half-ass plot device. Thor the Dark World’s humour was funny in its own right, but the scenes where characters interacted on any level deeper than “I’m gonna make a witty rejoinder now haha” shouldn’t have been sacrificed to make way for it.
Yet despite that this should be glaringly obvious, The Powers That Be2)Or perhaps we should call them Those Who Sit Above In Shadow? have deemed that there should be more comedy in the next Thor movie. MOAR! They seem to feel that, if they inject more funny shit into Thor Ragnarok, it will be super awesome and super fun and the Thor franchise will finally come into its own and shine right up there alongside the rest of Marvel’s brightest shiny stars. Urgh. *facepalms again*
Okay if you’re still following this long-winded ramble, you’re probably wondering where any of this has anything to do with Taika Waititi?
Now, let’s jump to the cinematic release of Hunt For the Wilderpeople...
Normally, I only go to the cinemas for Marvel and those school movie fundraisers I’m forced into on a once-yearly basis. However, I had two reasons for suffering through Event Cinema’s long queues, overpriced popcorn and pile-inducing seats to see this movie on the big screen rather than waiting
to stream it for Bluray. First; it looked like a really good movie. Second; I had nominated myself as Taika’s biggest couch critic (albeit in a ‘he’ll never know nor give a fat rat’s arse for my opinion which weighs less than a mote of dust to anyone’ kind of way) and I damn well needed this movie to have the perfect balance of wit and profoundly deep shit required to restore at least 75% of my rapidly-dwindling hopes for Thor Ragnarok.
So how did it pan out? Well, have you ever watched a movie at the cinemas and reached a point where the story hits a bit of a lull, your mind kind of loses connection with the film, and suddenly you find yourself wondering if this is what old age is going to feel like once you’re confined to a rest home and dependent on caregivers to check you for bedsores every morning? (A-hem, pretty sure this is what anyone still reading this article is feeling right now…)
Yeah, I never experienced that with Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Which is strange, considering how comparable the Westcity Event Cinema seats are to sitting on a stone slab lightly padded with tea towels. I mean, even CA: Civil War had me trying to massage some feeling back into my butt cheeks at one point. And I loved that Bucky movie. But Nope. Not with Hunt for the Wilderpeople. This movie drew me right in – I sincerely didn’t want it to end. It was funny in all the right places while remaining rich in character and full of heart throughout. There were moments where I was so drawn into the movie… Damnit, I even got slightly-prickly-eyed by that dog scene3)you know, with the dog and the wild boar? That’s a bit of a spoiler by the way..
In conclusion? I have to admit I poorly under-estimated Taika Waititi. I jumped the goat and wrote him off as a joke before I stopped to realise that his skill lies not merely in his humour but in his ability to weave both wit and real depth into his story-telling. There is a beauty and complexity to his work that is probably reasonably rare for such a predominantly funny director. And for all that there has been much talk across mainstream media sites of Marvel bringing Taika Waititi on board simply to stuff more lulz into Ragnarok, I’ve find myself feeling that the real reason they’ve given him the director chair is not merely to tap into his comedic genius, but because they trust him to look after all the other important stuff such as world-building and character depth in the process.
Taika Waititi’s talent lies not just in his humour, but in his knack for blending humour and character study so that the story feels as real as it does funny.
I’m not saying I’m 100% enthusiastic about the direction this movie appears to be taking (not that we really know much of anything beyond rumour and speculation), but if anyone is going to be able to inject humour into the third and potentially final Thor installment while retaining (or should I say reclaiming) all the depth and dynamics that we love so much about its characters, I’m pretty sure – maybe even 90%4)because one must never be too trusting mind you – that Taika Waititi will be the one to do it.
Final sidenote: You know that afore-mentioned dog? I’m a friend of his owner! Okay, more of an acquaintance from Playcenter who I now only see on Facebook but… Do you know what this means? It’s 2 degrees of separation! I’ve met a cast member of Wilderpeople and that canine has, in turn, met Taika Waititi… Thus I’m pretty sure that under New Zealand law, this makes him my Uncle!
So, Uncle Taika, in conclusion to my conclusion, let me just say… I cannot give you my blessing, nor can I wish you good fortune, But if I were proud of the man my son had become, even that I could not say, I would speak only from my heart. Go, my son.
… Nah kidding, that’s just an Odin quote from Thor The Dark World. What I really meant to say was – you rock dude! Keep on keeping on! I’m not gonna doubt you again until the next time something pops up on the interwebs that cause me to doubt you! Again!
Like that new Ragnarok logo mayhaps?
Latest posts by The Mighty Thor (see all)
- Marvel release official Thor Ragnarok synopsis – at last! - January 6, 2017
- Unworthy? Thor Ragnarok promo poster - December 3, 2016
- New Thor Ragnarok costumes for Loki, Thor and Odin - September 3, 2016
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||Side note: “seabass seabass seabass” is an oft-repeated random phrase in our household. Does it make it right, though? No. No it doesn’t.|
|2.||↑||Or perhaps we should call them Those Who Sit Above In Shadow?|
|3.||↑||you know, with the dog and the wild boar? That’s a bit of a spoiler by the way.|
|4.||↑||because one must never be too trusting mind you|