Comedy of the Mundane: Taika Waititi
Updated: May 23, 2018
One of the easiest ways to get into movies is to get into the directors behind the movies first. Pick a random movie...maybe a movie from a famous director like Steven Spielberg. Did you like it? Cool. If you did, go and watch all of his movies. Did you hate it? Alright, well that tells you that there is a larger chance you might not enjoy the rest of his movies. Now, you can move on to finding a different director whose movies you can enjoy. This will teach you about the style, the story, the aesthetic, that you want out of your soon to be favorite movies.
If I were to ask you, “Do you know who Taika Waititi is?,” my bet is that you wouldn’t know, but trust me, you should. Taika Waititi is a New Zealand based, born, and raised director. In New Zealand and Australia he is known for creating beautiful Indie films that are comedic with melancholy tones weaved throughout. Most of his films are written and directed himself, along with him either starring or guest appearing as a role in each. Oh, he’s also known for directing the most recent Thor movie, Thor: Ragnarok, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I want to recognize Taika Waititi for his incredible talent in telling very heartbreaking stories intertwined by unique, quirky moments.
My journey with Taika Waititi movies started with Boy (2012). I couldn’t even tell you how I stumbled upon it, but I’m glad I did. The film is about a boy (shocker) who has never really known his father, but has painted a picture in his mind about the kind of man he might be. One day, when his father returns home looking for money after being gone for years, the boy and his father's relationship is created, destroyed, and reignited. We experience all the highs and lows of a relationship that was previously built off of the boys’ imagination. Immediately, I was captivated by the opening sequence. In this sequence, we watch the boy talk about who (he thinks) his father is to his class in school by “watching” the father (Taika Waititi) reenact all of the various experiences his son believes his dad has been through. It’s heartbreaking, but charmingly silly. Waititi takes a heavy subject and finds a way to make it lighthearted. I fell in love with how genuine the characters are and how there really isn’t a true antagonist. It is so typical in father-son relationships to side with the son, but in this film, we get to see the complex internal struggle the father has on his own. Additionally, to add to the aesthetic, the entire movie is shot on film, meaning each moment seems to be shot in a granulated haze.
If I were to show you one more film to convince you to look into Taika Waititi’s masterpieces, I would tell you to take a look at Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016). This movie, although a completely different plot than Boy, shares some similarities. This movie is about a boy who has no family, who is put in foster care and develops a relationship with his most recent foster care family. The feeling of loneliness and family are concurrent with Boy. After the mother’s sudden death, the foster child and father embark on a journey through the New Zealand “bush,” running away from the foster agency/government. The boy has an incredible optimistic, oblivious, comedic personality that is bound to cheer anyone up, both young or old. It’s hilarious to see the pair run about the woods on their own with thick, rural, New Zealand accents. Taika’s genius is that he doesn’t try to create comedy by forcing jokes and stereotypically “funny” behavior but by creating comedy through the mundane. Although this story seems a bit unbelievable, it’s relatable because it’s about family, and building that bond between an unlikely pair.
Here’s a scene from Hunt for the Wilderpeople that sums up Taika’s movies beautifully.
If you’re not into his smaller stuff, go ahead and watch Thor: Ragnarok. This is a huge Hollywood blockbuster, yet it incorporates all of Taika’s hilarious quirks that make his movies so distinct. Quite frankly, this most recent installment saved the Thor franchise and is possibly one of my favorite Marvel movies to date. If you’re not convinced on Taika, then go ahead... move on to your next director, I don’t care. (If you don’t like Taika I don’t like you).
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