Late last year, Taika Waititi released Jojo Rabbit, his award-winning film that sparked debate with its lighthearted portrayal of its sensitive subject matter. In response to the backlash, Waititi noted that the film’s humorous tone lent itself to its message more than a serious one would have.
“The snobbery of filmmaking is this ludicrous idea that comedy isn’t art or that comedy can’t change the world… that you basically have to depress an audience in order for it to be meaningful,” he told USA Today.
Waititi’s mission – represented in Jojo Rabbit and his response to critics – is to change the world with comedy, and the mixed reviews of Jojo (for which he won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay), hasn’t slowed him down. Let’s see how he’s been living up to it since then.
Waititi took the director’s chair for the season one finale of The Mandalorian and steered the story in a fitting – but different – direction.
Waititi illustrates the sheer stupidity of the villain Moff Gideon’s desire to capture the innocent Baby Yoda (or “The Child”), especially during the Scout Troopers sequence. The Scout Troopers halt bringing Baby Yoda to their rendezvous point because Gideon is in a bad mood. They then demonstrate their inability to shoot a can. This sequence illustrates that the individuals and the systems involved with being evil in the Star Wars universe are inherently incompetent.
The motive of family is ultimately successful in the finale, and when the gang fully assembles for the first time this episode, with Cara Dune, IG-11 (voiced by Waititi) and Greef Karga stepping in as additional caregivers to Mando’s (or “Din Djarin”) de facto fatherhood. Even Waititi’s delivery of hysterical dialogue like “I am not a living thing” as IG-11 serves to show the audience this gang of killers really care for each other now.
Like in Jojo Rabbit, Waititi brings themes of family and the preservation of innocence to the forefront. Just as he used comedy to communicate the message of Jojo Rabbit as “Nazism is stupid, love is good”, he does so with space fascists. It works.
Next Goal Wins
Waititi co-wrote, directed, and produced Next Goal Wins, an upcoming comedic sports movie based on a 2014 documentary which details the plight of the American Samoa national football team – one of the worst football teams in the world.
The film is currently in post-production, with the cast raving about how hilarious the script is. Elizabeth Moss (The Invisible Man, The Handmaid’s Tale) is set to feature alongside X-Men‘s Michael Fassbender.
Fellow producer David Greenbaum described Waititi’s approach, stating “Taika is an incredible talent and master at bringing honesty and humanity to the surface in any story.”
Next Goal Wins is likely to use humour to show the struggles of an unfortunate underdog team who keeps pushing themselves, which is exactly the type of comedy that makes Waititi’s movies so loveable.
What We Do In The Shadows Season 2
After turning his mockumentary movie on a clan of lame, narcissistic vampires into a TV series, Waititi took the show’s second season to new heights and areas of exploration in 2020.
Season 2 of What We Do In The Shadows discusses the destructive nature of self-obsession, as human Guillermo – with growing resentment toward his masters – sees the impact they have carelessly screwing with humans’ lives. And not just by drinking blood to live; by unnecessarily and catastrophically playing with individuals out of minor inconvenience.
But just because Waititi looks at a new philosophy on these sociopathic horror creatures doesn’t mean he shies away from making fun of them. Nandor, Laszlo, Nadja and Colin are dangerously self-obsessed, but the effects of that aren’t all terrifying. One of the effects is they never bothered to become competent humans, let alone competent vampires. They can’t do laundry, navigate roommate politics, use a computer, take the right bus or talk to people without causing chaos. Apply that to their vampire skills, and they can’t turn into mysterious vapour without getting sucked into an air filter or turn into a bat without getting stuck as one.
Waititi doubles-down this season on the same subversion from Jojo and The Mandalorian: that the very things that make seemingly powerful bad people also make them hilariously incompetent.
Thor: Love and Thunder.
Thor: Ragnarok became a quick fan favourite Marvel movie through Waititi’s reimagining of the iconic God of Thunder. Waititi completely flipped Thor’s usually stoic nature to create a comedic, loveable character which re-connected with fans. Ragnarok was regarded as the best Thor movie, and audiences are eager for Waititi’s Thor: Love and Thunder.
Due to the current pandemic setbacks, Love and Thunder is now set to release in February 2022. Waititi says there’s a complete version of the script, but whether or not this is the final draft is unknown. There’s been buzz that Love and Thunder will follow the same hilarious style that Ragnarok did while exploring new depths of already established characters.
Waititi boasts that Love and Thunder will expand on what made Raganrok so groundbreaking. “It’s going to be bigger and louder and more bombastic…we’re doubling down on how nuts Ragnarok was,” he told WIRED.
Waititi also expressed willingness to include an LGBT storyline in Love and Thunder. Tessa Thompson, who plays Valkyrie, showed her support of the idea. “I’m really excited that we’re able to continue to push the bounds… there’s so many cool queer characters in the comic books and they should have a place on-screen.”
The dimension that Waititi added to Thor’s character in Ragnarok allowed Chris Hemsworth to explore multiple new layers. Thor’s rebirth through Waititi’s directing has changed the mould of what superheroes can be.
Waititi consistently handles difficult topics with a strong perspective and humorous twist. While his style of filmmaking has exposed him to backlash, especially in the case of Jojo Rabbit, many believe this vulnerability breaks new ground, changing the world with comedy.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE…
Lead image: Taika Waititi as Korg in ‘Thor: Ragnarok’