“For a filmmaker with such a particular, peculiar sense of humor, New Zealand writer-director Taika Waititi has helmed a surprisingly wide range of projects. He’s directed commercials and PSAs, and an charming Oscar-nominated short film (Two Cars, One Night) about two bored kids hanging out together in a parking lot. He’s directed projects with his longtime comedy partner Jemaine Clement, including episodes of Clement’s TV comedy / band spinoff Flight Of The Conchords, and the awkward romantic comedy Eagle vs Shark.
He’s directed a funny Maori coming-of-age film, Boy, that became New Zealand’s biggest box-office hit, and a giggly, improv-heavy vampire mockumentary, What We Do In The Shadows, which he also starred in opposite Clement. But as much as his projects vary, they have some shared elements. Waititi is of Maori descent, and he often works with Maori actors and writes Maori characters. His sense of humor is straight-faced and sincere. His characters — like his put-upon den-mother vampire Viago in What We Do In The Shadows — tend to be hilarious but impotent, and they’re endlessly self-aggrandizing, without realizing how foolish they sound.
It’s hard to see how any of this familiar texture will fit into his current project: he just started shooting the new Marvel Cinematic Universe installment Thor: Ragnarok, currently slated for release in November 2017. But so far, he’s been enthusiastic and upbeat about the process of handling his first huge, CGI-heavy studio movie, and injecting his own personality into it. Some of his optimism may come from the fact that he just beat his own New Zealand box-office record with Hunt For The Wilderpeople, a widely praised adventure-comedy about a cranky, illiterate senior citizen (Sam Neill) and his 13-year-old ward (Julian Dennison) disappearing into the New Zealand bush together to evade child-welfare authorities…”