Taika Waititi takes a hammer to Thor in Love and Thunder
Thor: Love and Thunder, which opens Thursday, is Marvel’s fourth Thor movie and Taika Waititi’s second after the 2017 smash success Thor Ragnarok.
To a large degree, modern blockbuster moviemaking has depended on the appeasement of fans to keep franchise juggernauts smoothly humming. But in making Thor: Love and Thunder, Taika Waititi had no interest in that. He approached the film from the opposite direction. What would actually make fans angry?
“I wanted to show him in a light that most Thor fans wouldn’t really want if you were to tell them,” Waititi says. “If you were to say them: ‘Yeah, I’m going to make Thor in love,’ it’s probably the last thing that a Thor fan really wants to hear.”
Thor: Love and Thunder, which opens Thursday, is Marvel’s fourth Thor movie and Waititi’s second after the 2017 smash success Thor Ragnarok. That film, a hit with fans and critics, reinvented Chris Hemsworth’s god of thunder and introduced a looser, idiosyncratic tone to Marvel’s most monolithic hero.
But if Ragnarok was Waititi’s version of a Marvel movie, Love and Thunder might simply be a Taika Waititi movie, without equivocation. Of the 29 films thus far in the Marvel cinematic universe, none may be so distinctively the work of its filmmaker.
In Love and Thunder there are things that usually never enter the MCU, like kids and cancer. It’s scruffy, unruly and surprisingly human-scaled. Manly valor is mostly a joke. Thor isn’t even really Thor. His hammer, Mjolnir, has transformed Natalie Portman’s Jane into the Mighty Thor. By the time Waititi gets finished with him, Thor’s biggest battle is convincing a child to wear proper footwear before leaving home.
“For me, it’s good to give the fans something they don’t know that they want,” Waititi said in a recent interview by video conference from Los Angeles. “With Ragnarok especially, when I signed on, a lot of fans were freaked out by that. They were like, ‘Who is this guy? He’s going to take our precious Thor and ruin it.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah. Exactly. That’s exactly my intention. And I’m going to make it better, you just don’t know it yet.’”
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When Waititi was handed the reins of Ragnarok, the 46-year-old New Zealand filmmaker was a less familiar figure to most Marvel fans — and the first Indigenous director to helm a major superhero movie. It was a massive leap in scale for Waititi, who after spending years painting in his late 20s turned to making comic independent films (Boy, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) with deadpan absurdity and freewheeling tonal shifts.
But since Ragnarok, Waititi has emerged as a Hollywood dynamo, in front of the camera and behind it, juggling several armfuls of big studio franchises and more offbeat projects. His Jojo Rabbit, a child’s view of Nazi Germany in which Waititi played an imaginary Hitler, received six Oscar nominations in 2020. (Waititi won for adapted screenplay). He has another film for Searchlight Pictures, Next Goal Wins, upcoming, as well as two Willy Wonka series for Netflix, a Flash Gordon film for Disney’s 20th Century Studios, a Time Bandits series for Apple TV+ and a Star Wars movie he expects to soon write.