Iron Man, the film that launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008, was directed by the guy behind Elf and the box office failure known as Zathura. Jon Favreau wasn't your traditional A-list director for a $150 million summer blockbuster tentpole, but it worked wonders for Marvel Studios. So to did the choices of James Gunn for Guardians of the Galaxy, Joss Whedon for The Avengers and of course, the Russo brothers for the Captain America sequels.
Marvel's has made a habit out of their moneyball style director and casting choices, building their studio rapidly to the industry-leading production house that's released 13 positively received hits in a row and set the precedent for movie franchise building. Every studio wants (and is actively developing) a shared universe now, and despite Marvel having the power and money to hire anyone they want going forward, they're still looking for unique vision over long track records and fame. Because of that, the relative unknowns Jon Watts (Cop Car) is directing Spider-Man: Homecoming and Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows) is taking on Thor: Ragnarok.
It's an admirable and exciting idea that outside-the-box thinking is still driving filmmaker selection at Marvel deep into Phase 3 of its long-form story, and it's something Waititi certainly appreciates as well. The New Zealand born actor is a right fit for the third Thor movie which star Chris Hemsworth wants to be more fun and outlandish like Guardians of the Galaxy was, especially given that the production will be close to home - Thor 3 is the first Marvel picture to shoot in Australia, also the home of Hemsworth and the film's villain, to be played by Cate Blanchett.
Speaking to Bmag while promoting Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Taika Waititi thinks it's quite brilliant that Marvel is attempting to ensure each new movie, even sequels to its sub-franchises, are aiming to deliver something different every time.
"True, but if you ask the fans, they’ve got no idea why Marvel asked me to do it. I’m absolutely an outside choice for them. Which is good! That’s why I think they do so well. They just keep choosing weird people to make their movies. I think it’s great. It’s awesome. It’s a genius move, really. Why would you get the obvious choice?
It’s like when Hollywood sees a movie that does really well and then they copy that movie. If you’re trying to get someone to make a certain film, you don’t get someone who made the last film that was like your film that you’re trying to make. Because you’re going to get the same film, and it’s going to be boring, and everybody’s going to see how boring it is.
You should get someone who’s really weird, like me, who’s never made one of these things before. And then you guide them and shape them and make sure they don’t spend all the money on leather jackets."
Waititi is already bringing a sense of fun and levity to the MCU with his social media banter with other Marvel directors. See for yourself here and if you haven't yet, make sure to watch What We Do in the Shadows. You can thank me later.
Nabbing a big Marvel movie directing gig isn't changing Taika's interests for the future however, so don't worry if you're a long time fan of the filmmaker. After he shoots Thor: Ragnarok later this year in Australia, his next two projects are "smaller" New Zealand films.
Captain America: Civil War is in theaters now. Doctor Strange opens November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel– March 8, 2019; Avengers: Infinity War Part 2– May 3, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on July 12, 2019, and on May 1, July 10, and November 6 in 2020.