Thor: Ragnarok is going to be a weird movie. If the two trailers that came out aren’t evidence enough, just look at the work of director Taika Waititi, pictured here at Comic-Con sporting a sick pineapple-decorated romper:
Waititi’s most recent films, the vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows and adventure comedy-drama Hunt for the Wilderpeople are good indicators of his style. Marvel fans otherwise ignorant to his filmography got a taste of Waititi with the very funny “Team Thor” shorts. Shadows in particular had a very loose and improvisational feel to it, and it looks like working for Marvel and Disney isn’t impeding Waititi at all creatively. Speaking to MTV News at Comic-Con, the New Zealand-based director had this to say:
I would say we improvised about eighty percent of the film. We ad-libbed or threw in stuff. My style of working is I’ll often be behind the camera, or right next to the camera yelling words at people, like, ‘Say this, say this! Say it this way!’ I’ll straight-up give Anthony Hopkins a line reading. I don’t care.
The “80%” number may not be an exact science, but the emphasis here is that there was a large amount of improvisation in Ragnarok. This may not be a surprise to fans of Waititi, but perhaps it is to MCU fans. Working under a behemoth studio like Disney under the watchful eye of Kevin Feige would lead many to think that there would be creative restrictions. Even Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo had these concerns on set, as Waititi describes:
Mark Ruffalo would be finished shooting for the day, and he’d come up to me and he’d be like, ‘Why have we not been fired yet? We are doing the most insane stuff in this film, and where’s the phone call?’
The fact that Marvel Studios has given Waititi and his actors all of this creative freedom demonstrates confidence in this acclaimed independent filmmaker. This seems to be a far cry from another Disney production with the untitled Han Solo Star Wars film, where Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy fired directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller for their filmmaking style and going off-script. Marvel Studios appears to be less strict than Lucasfilm, with Waititi elaborating:
But I think to Marvel’s credit, that’s what makes them great- that’s what makes those successful movies. They invite people who aren’t the obvious choices for directing these movies, and they say ‘Go for it. Get in the sandbox, throw everything around, and see what you come up with. And then we know the rules of our universe, and we know what we want to make this film, and now we’ll start helping you shape it into something that fits with our franchise. And it’s actually a perfect model, because as a filmmaker, you want to be left alone. In a film like this, where you want it to be fun- I’m trying to bring my tone and sensibility from my other films.
Of course, this “perfect model” hasn’t worked out for every filmmaker that Marvel has worked with. The MCU has lost voices like Patty Jenkins with Thor: The Dark World and Edgar Wright with Ant-Man. But in this case, Waititi’s style clicks very well with the universe that Marvel has built and continues to develop. James Gunn with the Guardians films is yet another off-color choice who brought something weird and wonderful to the MCU.
With Waititi in particular, he reminds us that filmmaking should be a fun and collaborative process, saying that he plays music and dances with the cast and crew. By creating a looser environment on set, Waititi is able to approach this giant blockbuster the same relaxed way he does with his lower budget indie darlings. With so many productions like the Han Solo film reminding us of behind-the-scenes drama and strife, Waititi asks: “Why come to work and stress out?”
What do you think of Taika Waititi’s approach to directing Thor: Ragnarok? Tell us what you think!