Tag Archives: Taika Waititi

Thor: Ragnarok (2017) Movie Review By John Walsh

THOR RAGNAROK.png

Director: Taika Waititi
Writers: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett

In the midst of the Infinity War hysteria and it’s insane run at the box office, a film I’ve now seen three times incidentally, I thought I’d go back and watch the film that interconnects seamlessly into the latter’s tone setting introduction. I am of course talking about last years Thor: Ragnarok. Taiki Waititi starred in one of the worst superhero movies to ever exist in the Green Lantern, but thankfully, there’s no lasting traces of that abomination here. 

I’ve had something of a love hate relationship with the Thor ‘trilogy’, I’ve put that in inverted commas because I’m not entirely sure that it is actually a trilogy. The first was an excellent introduction, whilst The Dark World was a particular low point for the Asgardian God of Thunder. I knew weeks in advance of Ragnorak’s release that it was a return to form however. First of all, Waititi’s humour is well renown. Hell, I’ve enjoyed it first hand previously with his other films. Secondly, the rave reviews from early screenings confirming he’d gone and blended said humour into an MCU film all but sold it. 

That’s my biggest takeaway from this film. The humour is genuinely laugh out loud funny, the comedic timing is on point and it’s absolutely relentless in its execution throughout. 

A funny comic book film without a badass antagonist or intriguing story would only be half a film though, but Mr. Waititi has that covered too. Hela (Cate Blanchett) is a believable, enjoyable and extremely powerful villain. Being the half-sister of both Thor and Loki, and the Goddess of Death puts you pretty damn high up in the badass, MCU villain list. The fact she dispatches of the Warrior Three and casually grabs Mjolnir early on the proceedings and crushes it likes a child’s toy, only serves to further highlight it. Before Odin (Anthony Hopkins) passes on, he reveals her existence to his sons, explaining that his death will release her from imprisonment and sadly for our two favourites he wasn’t lying. 

The general gist of the plot is Hela returning, banishing Thor in the process, who ends up on Sakaar, where he’s imprisoned and must find a way to escape in order to defeat his sister and prevent the Ragnarök. 

During his little break on Sakaar, Thor is captured by Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), a slave trader working for the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), who was once a warrior of the Valkyrior. She’s going under an alias and it’s established immediately, despite her early bout of drunkenness, that she’s not to be trifled with. He then meets an old friend in Hulk, though perhaps not in the manner he’d have liked and the pair have a bit of an epic showdown in the gladiatorial setting of the hedonistic Grandmaster’s ‘Contest of Champions’. Thor manages to summon lightning giving him the upper hand, but the fight is rigged and he remains imprisoned in a room with Hulk of all people.

Loki does a Loki. He was sent packing by Hela too, but once again betrays his brother and manages to get on the favourable side of the Grandmaster. This isn’t even the last time he’ll betray Thor in movie, but by god, do I love the guy regardless. 

One thing I absolutely loved about this film was the pacing. There’s never a wasted moment and it’s frenetic. From the battle at the start with Surtur all the way through to the finale. If there’s a point when the action looks like it’s stalling on Sakaar then the perspective flips back to Hela on Asgard with her new pet executioner Skurge (Karl Urban). I’ll show some love to the continuing development of Hulk and Bruce Banner’s story too. I recall it being mentioned that his back story would be fleshed out over three non-Hulk centric films and you can definitely see it in Ragnarok. It’s a mostly Hulk affair although Banner pops does up, but it just adds another layer onto the MCU take of the iconic character. 

Incidentally; Banner, Thor and Valkyrie end up leaving Sakaar after a combination of moral awakening, the usual gamesmanship and a minor gladiator revolution occur and that sets up the showdown with Hela on Asgard. Loki tries to betray his brother again during this and as a result has to seek alternative transportation with Korg (Taiki Waititi) and the other gladiators, but needless to say the finale is fantastic. There’s various different perspectives and battles taking place synchronously, as Marvel fans have long came to expect now. In the end, Ragnarok, the one thing Thor battled to prevent is exactly what is required to finally prevail against Hela. 

Asgard is completely destroyed with presumably Hela too and there’s a short lived happily ever after ending between the two brothers. The end credits scene puts pay to that pretty sharpish.

Until Infinity War, this was by far the best performance I’d seen from Chris Hemsworth as Thor. It had a bit of everything; humour, anguish, arrogance and emotion. It’s been overtaken now, following Infinity War, but I thoroughly enjoyed him in this film. Cate Blanchett was perfectly cast in the role of Hela. She was an incredible and fitting villain. This woman is nearly 50 years old, but certainly doesn’t look it. She was one of my favourite villains to date in the MCU. I loved Mark Ruffalo too. There’s been many a Hulk but he’s my favourite. Hulk had a fair chunk of this film and Mark delivered a brilliant performance as ever.

The other standouts were Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Jeff Goldblum and Taiki Waititi. Thompson was actually my second favourite performance behind Hemsworth. Those two had great chemistry and I’m looking forward to potentially seeing the two together in future films. Urban didn’t have a huge amount of screen time, but managed to convey the conflict within Skurge perfectly. Goldblum was a real surprise as the Grandmaster and Waititi was by far the funniest character in the film for me. His line at the end had me in stitches. 

I usually discuss visuals and the score but you know what you’re getting in a MCU film. The visuals are insanely gorgeous and the score does its job. I’ll not elaborate any further on either. 

We Marvel fans have been spoiled rotten over the last ten years with a real litany of consistently brilliant films being released year in, year out. My main question going into seeing this film for the first time last year was whether Taika Waititi could take his unique blend of humour and make it work in this universe and I was delighted to see for myself that he did. It’s the most I’ve laughed in a MCU sense since the first Guardians of the Galaxy came out. It was a real return to form for Thor and had everything I could have wanted. The antogonist was fantastic, the story was enjoyable and it had lots of action. What more could you want?

A highly recommended watch for me. 

Rating: 5/5

Advertisements

What We Do in the Shadows (2014) Movie Review by Darrin Gauthier

WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS.png

Directors: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
Writers: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
Stars: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer

Plot: A documentary team films the lives of a group of vampires for a few months. The vampires share a house in Wellington, New Zealand. Turns out vampires have their own domestic problems too.
Running time: 1 hour 26 minutes
IMDB Score: 7.6

Why I watched it: This had a huge about buzz when it was doing the festival circuit, and the genre community seemed to love it.
Random thoughts: First off I’m always worried when a small genre film gets too much buzz cause often it can’t carry the weight of that high expectations.   Also this film is trying what I think is the hardest sub-genre in horror the “Horror Comedy” it is so tricky and it’s messed up a lot.  The simple reason is tone, if it’s too scary then you won’t laugh or the jokes just don’t work, if it’s too funny or you go for too many jokes then it’s not scary.  So even though I was excited to see it I was a little worried, also this is a small budget New Zealand film, the only actor i knew was Jemaine Clement.

What I liked:  First off they nailed the tone, from the start I found the film to be a lot of fun and very sweet.  Now I know that sounds weird but even though this is about Vampires it’s really about being with people you care about and also share things with.  I think the best part of this film is breaking down the Vampire myths and just deal with them as people.  The basic set up of the Documentary team filing them works pretty well, it doesn’t seem like a harmful gimmick to the film and it works nicely.  The stand out for me is Taika Waititi, he is just such a likeable actor and his character even though is a Vampire is very sweet, almost motherly to his flat mates, at the very beginning he talks about how much he likes living with the other Vampires, how this is so much better than living alone.  What I love about this film it’s about the characters, each one of these characters is defined, the humor comes out of their character. So they might be cliches at times but they invest in them, we actually care about them.

Every character gets quirks and they play real so the humor feels organic.  The film isn’t really plot driven it’s more like days in the life of these people/Vampires.  I will say I think the film works as a comedy more than horror, there’s a few moments and yes a few people do die and there is actually a very creepy bit when their chasing a potential victim around there house, but for the most part it’s not scary.  I also liked the fact that they do have werewolves in here and briefly zombies showing that these characters aren’t the only supernatural things in the world or New Zealand.

My favorite bit is when they go out and they want to bar hop but they can’t go in anywhere unless they’re invited so they keep bugging the bounces to invite them in so when they don’t get in they have to go to the local “Vampire Bar In New Zealand” and it’s almost empty and of course they know everyone there.
What I didn’t like: Honestly not much, there is a couple of moments where tone the tone was a little iffy and I do think they could have done more with Peter who was the old school scary looking 6000 year old vampire, they do get some laughs but he’s under used.  Like I said before this isn’t really plot driven so it does kind of float around at times but all in all those are nit picks for me.

Final Thoughts: I really liked this film, I found it funny and sweet, it was nice to see a genre film that wasn’t all doom and gloom.  If you’re a genre fan please check it out it’s worth the watch.

Final Rating: 8/10

Hunt For The Wilderpeople (2016) Movie Review by Kevan McLaughlin

HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE

Director: Taika Waititi 
Writers: Taika Waititi (screenplay), Barry Crump (Based on the book Wild Pork and Watercress) 
Stars: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata 

Based on the book Wild Pork and Watercress, Taika Waititi’s film is brimming with charm, sentiment and fun.

Our journey starts with Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison), abandoned by his mother, he’s a dreamer and a delinquent who’s been moved by his Welfare Officer to a remote farm in the country to live with his new foster parents Bella and Hec.

Ricky has made up his mind that he’s something of a gangster and he’s better off alone and stages a series of half-hearted runaway attempts, never ending up more than a few hundred yards from his new home. Bella is a wonderfully warm, generous and affectionate woman who’s patience and hard work finally win the reluctant Ricky over, by teaching Ricky about farm life and hunting. Ricky is given a puppy by Bella for his birthday which he names Tupac cementing, in his mind, his commitment to ‘Skux’ life.

Hec is a grumpy, nomadic figure, seemingly out of place in the stable and loving home Bella has made. It’s revealed that Bella has a fondness for misfits like Ricky and Hec and they, in turn, are drawn to her unlimited capacity for love and compassion. This odd little family are finally enjoying their new life together.

And then, in the style of Up, Bella breaks our hearts by dying suddenly very early in the movie. Without Bella there is no glue to bind Ricky and Hec to the farm. Hec gives Ricky a letter which states that Child Services want him back. A devestated Hec reasons that this is the best thing for Ricky, insisting they never took to one another anyway.

Ricky decides the only rational thing to do is to stage his own suicide, with mixed results. He accidentally burns down the barn and runs away again with Tupac into the Bush, only for Hec to find him easily accompanied by his own little pooch. Hec accidentally breaks his ankle, meaning they can’t return to the farm right away and they spend a few nights together in the Bush.

Hec finds Ricky delusional and infuriating and Ricky, missing the warm and easily likable Bella, can’t stand the cantankerous and impatient Hec.

When they both stumble across agroup of Bushmen, they learn that Ricky has been reported missing and the Police and Child Services believe that Hec has kidnapped him. Hec reveals he spent time in jail as a younger man and never wants to return, knowing that no one will believe the truth. In turn, Ricky tells Hec that he doesn’t want to go back to Child Services as his next stop will be a Juvenile Detention Centre. In the style of New Zealand outlaw James McKenzie, the two outsiders evade the Police, Child Services and the Bushmen who want the bounty offered for the capture of Hec.

Although it’s reasonably predictable that our mismatched heroes discover a mutual respect and adoration for one another, it’s nevertheless enchanting to witness. Ricky learns that, although Bella was a genuinely loving and honest person, there’s more than one way to show affection. Hec learns that he’s worthy of being cared for and, perhaps, it wasn’t pity that lead to Bella marrying him.

Throughout their journey we are given a visually stunning guide through the varied landscapes of New Zealand, often reflecting the characters of Ricky and Hec. Hec’s isolated, sometimes unforgiving, nature and his gruff exterior are mirrored perfectly throughout their journey in the Bush.

The vastness of New Zealand and it’s occasionally harsh terrain reflect how lost Ricky is and how hard he thinks he has to be.

Taika Waititi’s script and direction are beautifully realised in a funny, often sad, but ultimately warm and endearing film about two mispalaced souls who find family in each other.

“I didn’t choose the skuxx life, the skuxx life chose me.”