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Marvel’s bizarre choice for Thor: Ragnarok’s director seems to have paid off

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The importance of looking outside your genre

Hunt For The Wilderpeople New Zealand Premiere - Arrivals Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

The reaction to the first Thor: Ragnarok trailer is bordering on the rapturous, and I only need to glance at our traffic to see that overall interest in the movie is huge. The trailer’s humor and general oddness go a long way to helping the latest Thor movie stand out while also ... kind of fitting in?

This all makes sense in a post-Guardians of the Galaxy/Dr. Strange Marvel Cinematic Universe.

While the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems like a well-oiled machine at this point, I’m going to go ahead and give Thor: Ragnarok’s director a lot of credit on the movie’s tonal joy due to my own immense respect for his past work. Marvel went far outside the world of superhero movies, or even action films, to find Taika Waititi — who just happens to be a master of the weird and wonderful.

Waititi’s last film was 2016’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople, but the movie that cemented his place as a cult sensation in comedy is What We Do in the Shadows from 2015. It’s a faux-documentary about the lives of a dysfunctional group of vampires, who seem much more dorky than decadent.

The movie was made for $1.6 million — star and co-writer Jemaine Clement raised $446,666 (!) on Kickstarter to give the movie an American release — and only brought in $6.2 million during its theatrical run before finding a home on streaming services with comedy and horror fans.

Waititi also directed four episodes of the sublime Flight of the Conchords, as well as the movie Eagle vs. Shark, which also starred Clement.

Waititi often seems to focus on the outsider in his films, and there’s next to nothing in his body of work that would suggest him as a natural fit for the Thor series. It’s why he’s such a good pick for the Thor series.

“I’m absolutely an outside choice for them,” Waititi told Brisbane’s B-Mag in an interview. “Which is good! That’s why I think they do so well ... If you’re trying to get someone to make a certain film, you don’t get someone who made the last film that was like your film that you’re trying to make. Because you’re going to get the same film, and it’s going to be boring, and everybody’s going to see how boring it is.”

Marvel Entertainment

This is the part in the post where I invite you to compare Marvel’s creative choices and bravery in selecting directors with Warner Bros.’ gloomy, overwrought Justice League. I don’t want to beat you over the head with it, but there’s a very big difference in these approaches.

It’s possible that Thor: Ragarok will be a hot mess when it’s released, but there’s very little chance that it won’t be an interesting hot mess. That’s more than we can say for the competition’s superhero films.