Taika Waititi: Sharks, Vampires And A Certain Norse God

With New Zealand director Taika Waititi making the big leagues helming Thor: Ragnarok and Hunt for the Wilderpeople becoming the highest grossing NZ film of all time, it’s time to look back and forward at the quirky comedian’s work. 

Taika Waititi: Boy

Taika Waititi in Boy (2010). Source: Transmission Films

The New Zealand film director, writer and actor Taika Waititi has achieved widespread popularity and acclaim for his unique style of film-making, showing off a quirky, intelligent charm through his work. This is quite an interesting decision for one of the most financially successful film companies in the world, Marvel to trust Waititi with the next instalment in the Thor films: Thor: Ragnarok. Certainly miles away from his usual indie style, many fans are wondering what he is bringing to the blockbuster franchise about Norse Gods. Judging by his previous work, we can hopefully expect something truly unique to the Marvel franchise.

Waititi’s 2004 debut short film, Two Cars, One Night showcased his propensity for quirky humour that landed him an Academy Award nomination. The film depicts the blooming relationship between a young boy and a girl who meet outside a bar as they wait for their parents, exploring youth awkwardness and themes of social connection. Touring several prominent festivals such as the Palm Springs International Short Film Festival and Aspen Shortsfest, its success allowed Waititi to start on his first feature film, romantic comedy Eagle vs. Shark.

Featuring long-time collaborators Jemaine Clement and Loren Horsley, Eagle vs. Shark explored the odd relationship between Jarrod, a geek who works in a video game store, and a cashier by the name of Lily. With absurdist humour and a sharp wit, it was a charming tale about love and intimacy. The film further demonstrated Waititi’s ability to find humour in the darkest of situations. This dark humour was prominent in Waititi’s next feature, the coming of age comedy Boy  (2010) thrusting him back into the spotlight.

Taika Waititi's 10 Film, Boy. Source: Black Film
Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu & James Rolleston in Boy (2010). Source: Black Film

Before being beaten by one his later films, Boy was the highest grossing New Zealand film at the local box office and received several accolades, including an AFI award for Best International Feature Film. The film followed the title character as he meets his father for the first time. Boy’s realisation in coming to terms with his father Alamein (played by Waititi himself) and his crime-filled lifestyle made for an incredibly heart-felt and tragic film that explored the difficulties of growing up, family and acceptance.

Taika Waititi: What We Do In The Shadows
Taika Waititi, Jonathan Brugh & Jemaine Clement in What We Do In The Shadows (2014). Source: Indiewire

Waititi’s next feature was the 2014 mockumentary, What We Do In The Shadows, co-directed by Jemaine Clement. Beginning life as a low-budget short film directed by the pair in 2005, the film took a look at the weird, gruesome and often awkward life of vampire roommates in New Zealand. The film became widely popular, prompting a sequel/spin-off on the side characters of the werewolves and NZ On Air producing a six episode series, rumoured to be following the police of Auckland as they combat supernatural threats.

Taika Waititi: Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Julian Dennison & Sam Neill in Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016). Source: Daily Review

Waititi followed with his most successful film to date: Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016). A family comedy-drama centring on a rebellious boy called Ricky who is sent to live in the country where he attempts to run away into the wilderness following the death of his aunt. Ricky is the heart and soul of the film, providing the wit and charm that forms the backbone of the jungle odyssey. Quirky, off-beat characters have become a staple of Waititi’s films, and the endearing and lovable cast of Wilderpeople made it a fun, poignant and memorable addition to Waititi’s filmography. It is currently the highest grossing New Zealand film, making just over NZD $12 million at the box office.

Taika Waititi: Thor Ragnarok
Concept Art for Thor: Ragnarok (2017). Source: Marvel

Now that he has been given the golden opportunity to helm one of Marvel’s biggest tent-pole films Thor: Ragnarok, we can only hope he brings his trademark charm to the superhero genre. In an interview for Polygon, Waititi himself stated that Ragnarok is set to be “the most different Marvel movie to date, and one of the biggest.”

Waititi is also co-writer on the upcoming Disney animated film Moana, that delves into the South Pacific Islander culture

Making such an impact from indie director to the big leagues of Hollywood will certainly make the future of Taika Waititi look promising and interesting. We can only hope he retains the charming style that drew cinema-goers to his work in the first place. 

Which of Taika Waititi’s films do you like best? Excited for Thor: Ragnarok? Tell us about it below!