A Candid Conversation with Taika Waititi

taika waititi
Image by Gerard Elmore.

The “Thor” director on making films (big or small) with humor and an indigenous lens.

In a suite at the Halekulani Hotel, Taika Waititi kicks off his slippers. It’s a gesture of well deserved respite. For the past two years the Maori director has been immersed in the far-flung and multiplex universe of Asgard, the setting of Marvel’s darling superhero picture, Thor: Ragnarok; just this weekend, the blockbuster has already lassoed more than $170 million at the domestic box office.

This mark of success can be linked back to Waititi’s lighthearted grip on the franchise, a send-up of the big-budget superhero genre itself. Instead of taking itself as seriously as its predecessors (not Waititi’s style), Chris Hemsworth’s Thor this time around spends more time on his witty banter than biceps.

Clever jokes ping-pong between its diverse cast characters with a speed and agility that rival the laser beams that go whizzing by spaceships in Ragnarok‘s chase scenes, which goes to show even its dialogue, something often deemed immaterial to the onslaught of expensive superhero flicks overshadowed by CGI and rapid-fire editing, feels action-packed.

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While in Honolulu for the Hawaii International Film Festival, where Waititi was presented with the HIFF Pacific Islanders in Communications Trailblazer Award, FLUX Hawaii caught up with the director on creating the most memorable Marvel makeover in recent memory, how the film industry is changing for indigenous creatives everywhere, and his next bold move.

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