Thor director Taika Waititi: Comedy auteur or Marvel sellout?

WHate your thoughts on Taika Waititi, there is one thing almost everyone agrees on: the man is a master of the brand. Over the course of just a handful of feature films, the New Zealand filmmaker has gone from indie favourite, to blockbuster genius, to sought-after actor and celebrity in his own right. In an era where the famous filmmaker seems to be on the decline, Waititi has carved out a niche for himself and has made sure that he is the one to fill it.

but what exactly it is that niche? More than almost any director on his profile, Waititi is impossible to pin down. His first films were modest-budget comedies. eagle vs shark Y Boyin which he also appeared. She wrote two and directed four episodes of HBO’s cult musical comedy flight of the concordes. It was the hilarious vampire mockumentary of 2014. What we do in the shadowsstarring former chords collaborator Jermaine Clement, who first introduced him to a broader Western audience; this was cemented with the endearing comedy-drama on the hunt for the wild. While both of these films stayed true to his New Zealand setting and sensibility, his next film, the Wonderful blockbuster Thor: Ragnarök – was a drastic detour into the mainstream. Despite this, Waititi was still able to maintain some of his independent leanings, successfully deviating from the generic style of the Marvel house. ragnarokThe Technicolor eloquence of glam-rock marked a particularly radical departure from the first two Thor films, which were generally considered sterile and old-fashioned and weren’t hit by Disney metrics; Waititi was credited with reviving the sequel with a gross of $854 million.

Often when blockbuster franchises snare auteur filmmakers, the results are disappointing: Chloe Zhao’s panned review. eternal and Sam Raimi doctor strange sequel are two recent examples. But Waititi instead seemed to revel in it. with the cache ragnarok gave, went on to do jojo rabbit (2019), a cloying comedy set in Nazi Germany, with Waititi playing an imaginary Hitler. jojo rabbit certainly had its defenders, among them the independentby Clarisse Loughrey and some busloads of Oscar voters, apparently: The film won Best Adapted Screenplay, making Waititi the first Indigenous filmmaker to win an Academy Award. But for many, his success was disconcerting: jojo it was syrupy, ill-conceived, and terribly unfunny. It was a hit, but one that perversely only fueled doubts about Waititi’s artistic credentials. If the start of his career had given viewers an idea of ​​what to expect from a Taika Waititi joint, ragnarok Y jojo rabbit I had dismantled it.

Still, however, his “mark” was stronger than ever. In the five years since ragnarokWaititi has done what any savvy business guy would advise him to do: he diversified his portfolio. Waititi launched into a smorgasbord of different film and television projects, behind and in front of the camera. To name just a few: the excellent What we do in the shadows Television adaptation, acclaimed comedy reserve dogsstar wars adaptation the mandalorianand the resoundingly well-received pirate comedy Our flag means death. He appeared as the villain in the Ryan Reynolds blockbuster. free boyand repeated his ragnarok character, Korg, in various Marvel properties. He also directed another Thor sequel, love and thunderon sale in July, and the soccer-based comedy Next goal wins (which was filmed in late 2019 but was re-filmed after Armie Hammer was recast following a sexual assault allegation). The sheer volume and variety of his output means it’s hard enough to figure out what exactly Waititi’s full “deal” is.

He’s not a stranger anymore, that’s for sure. But even so, there are facets of Waititi that seem resistant to being pigeonholed as just another best-selling corporation. For many people, Waititi’s enduring image is a paparazzi photo of him kissing Tessa Thompson (whom he directed in ragnarok and the next Thor: love and thunder) and Rita Ora (who he is now dating) while lounging on a balcony after a party in Sydney, Australia. While the photo was obviously nobody’s business, it summed up something fundamental about Waititi’s image, dare I say, her appeal. There was a certain libertine quality to Waititi at the time, a breaking of convention. The photo went against not only the soft and sexually regressive image of Disney, it is not surprising that reports of Marvel’s discontent with the photo – but of the entire dominant society approach to sexual-romantic norms.

What we do in the shadows Y on the hunt for the wild it shone precisely because of its exteriority. They were films about social outcasts, made by someone who seemed to share their sensibilities. maybe the reason jojo rabbit fell so flat for so many is because Waititi had moved on: This was a movie about rebellion and determination made by someone who had just directed a huge, frivolous blockbuster for the world’s most dominant movie studio. Transgression was never really an option.

Waititi with his current partner, the music Rita Ora

(False images)

In an era where filmmakers are increasingly being overlooked by the general public, when the biggest movies too often feel like the soulless visions of VFX houses and market research teams, there’s something to say about Waititi’s success story in Hollywood. Perhaps his growing celebrity is the end result of his efforts, but it could just be a by-product. The most we could say at this point is that he is a man of contradictions; for each jojo there’s a wild peoplefor each free boy a Our flag means death. As long as you keep throwing ideas at the wall, it’s safe to say some will stick around. Maybe that’s enough.

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