There are about a gazillion reasons to be excited as all heck about Thor: Ragnarok being in theaters today! If you’re a fan of awesomeness in general, Taika Waititi is at the top of that list…
Selecting the 42-year old New Zealand native as the director for the third Thor film seemed like a hard left turn from Marvel Studios when it was announced, and yet those of us who have been fans of Waititi’s for years now just leaned back in our chairs, smiled and whispered “yessss.” (In a Kiwi accent, natch, so it sounds more like “yiss”.) We had a feeling his distinct talent for being whimsical and smart, kinetic and yet grounded, would mean something very special was on the way. He often turns up as a performer in his own films, and that’s a plus as he’s both charismatic and funny. Also, he’s got a knack for sampling just enough of pop culture and making it his own, which meant when we heard he was going “full 80’s sci-fi fantasy” for Ragnarok, we simply couldn’t wait.
— Taika Waititi (@TaikaWaititi) July 22, 2017
Plus, this is what the man wore to Comic-Con. I mean…. COME ON. 🙌🏽🍍
So for today’s Friday Five, we’re taking a peek at the highlights of Waititi’s career so far: Four films, plus some episodes of one cult favorite HBO show that we miss every single day. What? We do, though. (*hums “Hurt Feelings” quietly to herself* – Ed.) If you need more of this grade-A level of excellence after walking out of a cinema this weekend… well, don’t expect quite as many insane day-glo dreamscapes as Ragnarok, but there’s a hell of a lot to love:
Eagle Vs. Shark (2007)
Waititi made his first major mark on the film scene ten years ago with this indie romantic comedy, starring his university chum and frequent collaborator Jemaine Clement (you’re gonna see that face a lot) and Loren Horsley as a couple of socially awkward dreamers who circle one another – sometimes in pretty rad animal costumes – as they fall in love. He acts like he’s far too cool to be “into her”; she actually is that cool, though she might not seem it at first glance. (And anyway, she kicks ass at video games, so the more he tries to act like he ain’t bothered, he’s just being stubborn…) Co-starring Waititi and more, as well as Clement’s rather spectacular mullet.
Flight of the Conchords (4 episodes) (2007 – 2009)
Has it really been a decade since the Hiphopapotamus and the Rhymenocerous came blasting into our living rooms with weekly doses of musical genius and uncomfortable band meetings? (“Present!”) Clement and Bret McKenzie have continued to tour ever since (and you know, win Oscars), but their HBO series is sorely missed. James Bobin was the co-creator and most frequent director, but Waititi was behind the camera for some of the series’ greatest episodes, particularly Season One’s “Drive-By” (which he also wrote) featuring Murray’s ode to the “Leggy Blonde” next door; the incensed-rant-rap “Mutha’uckas”; and Bret and Jemaine’s feud with a bewilderingly New Zealand-hating fruit vendor played by Aziz Ansari.
11 year old Alamein prefers to go by “Boy,” although in his head (most of the time) he’s Michael Jackson. His problems usually focus on avoiding bullies and trying to impress his crush, until the day his estranged father (Waititi himself, both hilarious and deeply untrustworthy) returns home. While the son believes Dad’s come back for good, his father has other motives. Boy delivers a beautifully fresh take on the period coming of age tale (with a smidgen of criminal element), taking us back to 1984 through Waititi’s first-hand lens of Maori customs and embrace of pop culture. (Boy’s two best friends are a brother and sister named Dallas and Dynasty; their kid sister’s name is Falcon Crest. Heh.)
What We Do In the Shadows (2014)
Did you ever stop to think to yourself, you know, The Real World would be a lot more interesting… if they were all vampires. What We Do In the Shadows is the mock documentary of your dreams, yo: Viago (Waititi), Vladislav (Clement) and Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) are blood-sucking flatmates who just wanna have fun. When the decrepit roomie in their basement turns a local kid instead of killing him, they end up with more “fun” than they bargained for. Uproarious from start to finish, particularly Waititi’s good-natured, undead dandy. (Plus, exciting news!: Waititi just confirmed a sequel entitled We’re Wolves, also with Clement; no word on whether or not it will focus on the same werewolf pack headed by Rhys Darby (glimpsed briefly in this trailer), but regardless, we’re so there.)
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
We know, you’ve loved Sam Neill ever since Jurassic Park rocked your childhood. So have we. But we promise, you haven’t loved Sam Neill quite like you’re going to love him as a cranky-ass, grieving Kiwi senior citizen who really just wants to be left alone. Trouble is, crotchety Hec is now the sole caregiver of juvenile delinquent Ricky (Julian Dennison), who really doesn’t want to go back to child services. What follows is possibly (probably?) Waititi’s masterpiece, a comedy-adventure-survivalist tale in the New Zealand bush that is at turns side-splitting, terrifying and heart-wrenching. No lie, you’ll cry like a baby at the end. Plus there is a dog named Tupac, so what more do you want out of life, I ask you?!
BONUS CLIP: Waititi’s press tour for Thor: Ragnarok has been pretty legendary. This might be the pinnacle of it all, though. (Courtesy of our friends at IGN!):