Warning: SPOILERS for Thor: Ragnarok ahead
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige prides himself on the company’s process of choosing the perfect directors for their projects. In an interview with Fandango, Feige explained that, “We want filmmakers that can help us focus on and elevate the character journey so it doesn’t get lost amongst the spectacle.” And when Marvel hired director Taika Waititi to helm Thor: Ragnarok, they chose an especially eclectic auteur whose colorful ouevre would undoubtedly bring a wholly unique vision to the Marvel adaptations.
Ragnarok has Waititi’s fingerprints all over it, so if you’re at all familiar with his filmography, you’ll notice that in-jokes, running gags, and trademarks that have shown up in everything from Eagle vs. Shark to Hunt for the Wilderpeople are present in spades. In fact, Waititi himself mentioned this in an interview when he said, “It’s more that I didn’t realize that after doing this for a few months, what we’re doing essentially is exactly the same as all my other films.”
Taika Waititi is a filmmaker so deeply embedded in his movies that his presence behind the camera is just as strong as his presence in front of it. So far, in all of his movies, Waititi has appeared in either cameo-form or as a full-fledged character. For example, in Hunt for the Wilderpeople he shows up for a brief scene as a funeral-conducting minister whose tact during a time of misery is faulty at best. In Ragnarok, he shows up as the (perishable) rock creature Korg, one of the Grandmaster’s veteran champions whose wit and dry humor is similar to that of Waititi’s other bit part creations (his “rock, paper, scissor” joke is especially endearing).
(Fun Fact: this isn’t the end of Korg, as he’ll be getting his own mini spinoff.)
Despite the fact that Taika Waititi is first and foremost a comedic filmmaker, his portrayal of the human experience is by no means lacking realism. And since reality generally involves a bit of pain and suffering, death is ever present in all of his films. In Ragnarok, well-established characters from the series meet their fates at an almost casual pace (not as an insult to the character, but to convey the realistic fact that sometimes, no matter how likable someone might be, people die – often without ceremony). In the director’s previous films, death comes and goes so casually that it could almost be played for laughs (albeit awkward, discomfiting laughs).
Past Movie References
In Thor: Ragnarok, Waititi is happy to call back to some of his previous films. Despite the fact that none of them partook in the same mystical qualities Ragnarok does (aside from What We Do in the Shadows, as well as its upcoming sequel and TV spinoff, which at least exist in a world where the supernatural is very much legitimate), he manages to squeeze some references from his other movies into the latest MCU venture. One easy-t0-miss reference is a patch of graffiti that reads “Skux Life,” a direct reference to a recurring line from Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Though the scene only exists in the trailer (in the film, the urban landscape shown in the trailer is substituted with a field on the Norwegian coast), it’s a brief nod to the film’s pubescent hero Ricky Baker (played by Julian Dennison).
Waititi also makes sure to bring back some actors from his previous films. Sam Neill (from Wilderpeople) makes a brief cameo as the actor playing Odin, while Rachel House (also from Wilderpeople), plays the Grandmasters’ right hand, Topaz. There is also an obvious and unavoidable reference to The Incredible Hulk, which itself gets a nod in Boy (though that admittedly only half-counts).
Thunder and lightning might be Thor’s go-to trademarks, but he’s also very much known for his majestic hair. In all four of the MCU films in which he’s appeared so far, his long, blond locks have been consistent hallmarks, but tragedy strikes in Thor: Ragnarok.
Before he’s forced into the Grandmaster’s arena to do battle with Marvel’s friendly green giant, a Sakaaran barber gives Thor a combat-friendly high-and-tight cut with the help of some aggressively mechanized sheers. While the cut is technically a success (his hair is shorter), the lack of finesse leaves much to be desired.
As it turns out, finicky haircuts are becoming a staple within Waititi’s storytelling. In Boy, the titular character played by James Rolleston undergoes a similar haircut—and in fact even displays similar mismatched patterns on the sides of his head.
Page 2: Gallows Humor
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