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Taika Waititi gives Thor a hammer in ‘Love & Thunder’

NEW YORK – To a large extent, the modern film creation of great success depended on the tranquility of the fans so that the giants of the franchise continue to sing without problems. But in doing “Thor: Love and Thunder,” Taika Waititi had no interest in it. He approached the film from the opposite direction. What would make the fans angry?

“I wanted to show you a light that most Thor fans wouldn’t want if you told them,” Waititi says. “If you told them, ‘Yeah, I’m going to make Thor fall in love,’ it’s probably the last thing a Thor fan really wants to hear.”

“Thor: Love and Thunder,” which premieres on Thursday, is Marvel’s fourth Thor film and Waititi’s second after the great 2017 hit “Thor Ragnarok”. That film, a hit with fans and critics alike, reinvented Chris Hemsworth’s god of the throne and introduced a looser, idiosyncratic tone to Marvel’s most monolithic hero.

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But if “Ragnarok” was Waititi’s version of a Marvel movie, “Love and Thunder” could simply be a Taika Waititi movie, no mistakes. Of the 29 films so far in the Marvel film universe, none can be the so distinctive work of its filmmaker.

In “Love and Thunder” there are things that usually never get into the MCU, like kids and cancer. He is untidy, rebellious and surprisingly on a human scale. Male worth is mostly a joke. Thor isn’t even really Thor. His hammer, Mjolnir, transformed Natalie Portman’s Jane into the Mighty Thor. When Waititi ends up with him, Thor’s biggest battle is convincing a boy to wear the right shoes before leaving the house.

“For me, it’s good to give fans something they don’t know they want,” Waititi said in a recent video conference interview from Los Angeles. “Especially with ‘Ragnarok,’ when I signed up, a lot of fans were scared about it. They were saying, ‘Who’s this guy? He’s going to take our precious Thor and ruin him. And I said,’ Yeah. Exactly. That’s exactly my intention. “And I’m going to do better, you still don’t know.”

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When Waititi received the reins of “Ragnarok,” the 46-year-old New Zealand filmmaker was a less familiar figure to most Marvel fans, and the first Indian director to direct a major superhero film. It was a big leap in scale for Waititi, who after spending years painting in his late 20s returned to making independent comedy films (“Boy”, “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”) with expressionless absurdity and free tone changes.

But since “Ragnarok,” Waititi has emerged as a Hollywood dynamo, in front of and behind the camera, juggling several franchises of big studios and more unconventional projects. His “Jojo Rabbit,” a childish vision of Nazi Germany in which Waititi played an imaginary Hitler, received six Oscar nominations in 2020. (Waititi won by adapted screenplay). He has another movie for Searchlight Pictures, “Next Goal Wins,” coming soon, as well as two Willy Wonka series for Netflix, a “Flash Gordon” movie for Disney’s 20th Century Studios, a “Time Bandits” series for Apple TV +, and a “Star Wars ”film he hopes to write soon.

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Hollywood has pushed for almost any intellectual property it can find in Waititi, anxious for it to be dismantled.

“I’m surprised I never wanted to do it. I always wanted to do smaller things just with my friends,” Waititi says. “The idea of ​​working with a studio never appealed to me. Then I worked with Marvel and realized that there are ways to work with studies that don’t have to be painful. “

“My job is to get in and have as many ideas as I can and not think too much about the consequences, and let them keep me in the Marvel lane,” Waititi adds. “It’s not my job to go see all the movies. Or read all the comics. I’m sure it’s the opposite of what a lot of people think a filmmaker should do.”

It’s a somewhat ironic development for a filmmaker who, as an actor in last year’s film “Free Guy”, parodied the demands of business-driven sequels and once shrugged at the thought of spending long months in post-production at Marvel Studios in Burbank , California. .

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“It’s more just the idea of ​​Burbank as a place,” Waititi clarifies. “Going out there is okay if you close your eyes and ignore the fact that you’re in Burbank and eating Burbank food for lunch.”

But how much of Waititi’s anarchic spirit can support Hollywood’s most important franchises? “Ragnarok” has raised $ 850 million worldwide, and expectations are similar for “Love and Thunder.” His ability to connect with the mass audience, despite his best efforts to subvert expectations, is surpassed by few current filmmakers. However, something like “Star Wars” was especially resistant to comic tone adjustments, something Waititi is very aware of.

“It has to feel authentic to my tone,” he says of the “Star Wars” movie announced two years ago. “I wouldn’t say any of my movies are just comedies. I’ve never done a comprehensive comedy. I never did anything that was all jokes. It always has something that resonates or touches some human problem. It’s all about the family. It’s all about (inappropriate) families. I don’t think blood makes you a family. “

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“Families are just a mixture of people who somehow gravitate towards each other,” adds Waititi, who was raised by a Jewish mother, a largely absent Maori father (they separated when Waititi was 5) and a variety of relatives. “My family is so gigantic. It’s thousands of people.”

That includes collaborators like Jemaine Clement (with whom Waititi did “What We Do in the Shadows”), Rhys Darby (currently paired on the HBO Max series “Our Flag Means Death”) and many others. Another is Sterlin Harjo, whom Waititi met at the festival circuit years ago, where they bonded as native artists with a similar sense of humor. Waititi helped Harjo bring to light his acclaimed FX series “Reservation Dogs,” about four Native American teenagers in Oklahoma.

“The way Taika directs, the way she does things, is a matter of spontaneity,” says Harjo, who will premiere the second season of the series next month. “It’s the magic trick of everything. Let everything go at once is where creativity lies for him. It’s like he’s operating at this level where you have to have everything buzzing.”

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The love of “Love and Thunder,” which Waititi co-wrote, applies directly to the relationship between Thor and Jane, but also relates to other aspects of the “Thor” sequel, including Christian Bale’s grieving villain and the kidnapped children who play. Roles increasingly central to the film. Waititi, who has two daughters with film producer Chelsea Winstanley (they separated in 2018), relied on her sons and others to help draw the film’s monsters. All the children of Hemsworth, Bale and Portman appear. in the movie.

“It’s the best nepotism,” Waititi says. “And why not? It’s a movie about raising parents and putting the other person before you. “

The primacy of the children in “Thor: Love and Thunder” is also very much in line with the other Waititi films. “Boy” is loosely based on his own 80s childhood that grew up in Waihau Bay. Her first short, the Oscar-nominated “Two Cars, One Night,” is about a girl and a boy who become friends while waiting for their parents in a parking lot outside a pub. The army of children that helps save the day in “Love and Thunder” is just the latest uprising in Waititi’s ongoing war against adulthood. In the end, even Thor was no rival.

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Follow AP screenwriter Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

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Taika Waititi gives Thor a hammer in ‘Love & Thunder’

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