When asked to describe Thor: Ragnarok, the third film for Asgard’s favourite Chris and the dark horse of the MCU, its director Taika Waititi said it would be “Taika-esque”. That’s not particularly helpful for novices unaware of the majesty of New Zealand’s sexiest director (sorry Peter Jackson), but it’s a veritable gold-mine for film fans in the know.
Waititi, an Oscar nominated actor-writer-director, has the kind of range that makes most filmmakers cringe with jealousy. His debut short film, Two Cars, One Night, landed him an Academy Award nomination, where he pretended to fall asleep as the camera panned to him, because he’s not just an exemplary film-making talent, he’s a comedic genius who’s always on the ball. After a couple of episodes of a little show called Flight of the Conchords, (he directed the one with Aziz Ansari and “Albi the Racist Dragon”), he made the super adorable rom-com Eagle Versus Shark, then the wonderful coming-of-age drama Boy.
He was also in Green Lantern, but we won’t hold that against him.
For those who have yet to experience the joy of What We Do in the Shadows, you have a glorious 85 minutes ahead of you. To call it the vampire Spinal Tap doesn’t do it any justice: It’s a sharp genre parody chock full of gags of all kinds, wonderfully specific cultural references (find an actual New Zealander to explain the meat raffle and hipster jokes to you), and a genuine love for vampire stories. On top of directing and co-writing, Waititi is one of the main vampires, perfectly embodying the odd mix of goofy earnestness and blood-soaked melancholy. A werewolf-focused sequel to What We Do in the Shadows is on the way, allegedly to be called We’re Wolves, because Taika knows you like puns.
Next came Hunt for the Wilderpeople, which may be his high point, at least for now. A movie like this so easily could have gone off the rails at any moment, with his quick shifts in tone and offbeat story a few steps away from twee, but Waititi is too damn good at his job to allow that. It’s an expertly woven tapestry of humour, darkness, pathos and oddness. No wonder it’s become the highest grossing New Zealand film in its home country.
Oh, did I mention Waititi’s got three whole films in the top 10 of that list? Peter Jackson doesn’t have a film in the Highest Grossing New Zealand Films in New Zealand! Jane Campion doesn’t either! Russell Crowe? He wishes! Taika Waititi is a success. He’s got the range. No wonder he’s 2017’s New Zealander of the Year.
The future is bright for Taika. Thor: Ragnarok makes even this shrivelled up husk of a human being excited for a Marvel movie, with Waititi understanding just how daft the Thor universe is (and how much better it is when you let Chris Hemsworth be funny and let Jeff Goldblum wear silly make-up). Waititi, who is Māori himself, made hiring indigenous, Aboriginal Australians & New Zealanders a priority on-set, because he’s all about supporting his country and people. A stop-motion film about Michael Jackson’s chimp Bubbles is upcoming. He’s also leading the way in organising a Māori language version of Disney’s Moana (for which he wrote an original draft of the script). Taika Waititi is exactly the kind of talent the world of film needs, and to watch his well-deserved rise to the top is a privilege.
Did I mention he’s also super fucking foxy? Because he is, and you should bloody appreciate it!
Make the right choice - Taika Waititi for Pajiba 10.