Over the course of six movies, Thor has been portrayed as a muscle-bound sex symbol; a larger-than-life hero with Shakespearean tendencies, but New Zealander Taika Waititi thinks he has fully realized the character’s potential.
“How do you get the audience to relate to superheroes?” asks Waititi, director of Thor: Ragnarok. “If you take all of them individually from these Marvel or DC movies, they’re very hard to relate to. I can’t relate to the Incredible Hulk other than I get angry sometimes. Thor is essentially a rich kid from outer space. I can’t relate to that so how do you bring them down to our level and give them our kind of problems? That was something we focused on quite heavily in this film even to the point where we have Hulk and Thor sitting on a bed after an argument talking about feelings. We humanized them a bit more and put them in situations we’ve all been in.
“We also took away his hammer and banished him across the universe. He’s really just trying to get home. We’ve all tried to get home at four in the morning, lost, wandering the streets. That’s what this is. We’ve basically made After Hours in space.”
Thor: Ragnarok’s plot sounds like it could be from any generic Avengers film — a world is at stake — but there is no other superhero movie that would see their champions escape through an interdimensional portal named The Devil’s Anus. Yes, there is serious subtext about genocide and displaced persons but thanks to Waititi this is the first Marvel movie to really value comedy over spectacle.
“I had to be respectful of the source material and where the film fit in with all the other things they are doing,” Waititi said. “My whole thing was to give my take on this film and try and make the best film I could whilst letting Marvel keep me in my lane, making sure I didn’t veer off too far to the left or right with their precious character.”
Waititi has remained true to the core of what fans will expect from the crown prince of Asgard as played by Chris Hemsworth, but this time around the Norse God is not exactly your father’s Thor.
“This is a way more colourful and vibrant take on the character and the kind of adventures he has,” the director says. “We borrowed a lot of that design from the great artist Jack Kirby. So right from the start we pulled away from that desaturated, dark style from a lot of other superhero movies. We’re being unapologetic about wanting for this to be a fun adventure through the cosmos and filling it with incredible characters and monsters. It feels like this film was made by six-year-olds. I don’t know if there is any colour left that we haven’t either put into the poster or into the movie.”
Thor: Ragnarok is the Oscar-nominated filmmaker’s first Hollywood movie. He’s best known for oddball work like Boy, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and the horror comedy What We Do in the Shadows, but says his Marvel film shares the same DNA as his smaller movies.
“I definitely feel like this is a Taika Waititi film,” he says. “It could live comfortably in the box set.”