Taika Waititi is officially having too much fun.
Then again, he”s in an enviable position as the director of Thor: Ragnarok, since he”s following up a film that considered one of the most uneven of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far (Thor: The Dark World), and he”s doing so smack dab in the middle of Phase Three, the strangest and most playful series of films from Marvel so far.
Waititi was an inspired choice, and I”m still having a hard time believing that any studio, even one as aggressive as Marvel, is hip enough to hire the guy who made What We Do In The Shadows to make a giant superhero film. If you”re still lucky enough to be somewhere you can see Hunt For The Wilderpeople in theaters, you really should. It”s terrific. He”s got a lovely sense of character, and while he”s very funny, his humor comes from a place of gently poking at the absurdity inherent to whoever we are, whether that”s a group of vampires sharing a flat in New Zealand or a grizzled old loner and a defiantly sweet but troubled foster kid or, presumably, Asgardian heroes and interstellar villains.
Thor: Ragnarok has so much stuff it”s going to try to do that it almost sounds like it should be a nine hour miniseries. Over the long Comic-Con weekend, Marvel dropped all sorts of new information about various story threads that will play out in the film, the third solo movie for Chris Hemsworth”s character. They confirmed that we will indeed get at least an extended diversion into Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) as a gladiator pit fighter, and they showed footage involving Surtur, a giant flame demon who is partially responsible for the end of Asgard. They showed some tests for footage involving Cate Blanchett”s character, Hera, who is working with Loki this time around. Remember, Loki”s been secretly ruling Asgard as Odin since the end of Thor: The Dark World, and we”ll see new cast members here including Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban as Skurge, and Jeff Freakin” Goldblum. How do you even begin to tie all of this stuff together?
Well, one thing you could do would be send Thor on a quest to find and contain all of the Infinity Stones.
At Comic-Con, Waititi played a short film he made in which he showed where Thor”s been during the events of Civil War, and while it was played in that same deadpan comic style as What We Do In The Shadows, there was some real information there. Most tellingly, there was a drawing that was supposedly made by Thor as part of an ongoing investigation, and today, Waititi sent out a very clear image of that drawing on his Instagram account:
It makes sense, and it also makes Thor: Ragnarok the most important of the Phase Three films in terms of setting up the third Avengers film. It”s no secret that Josh Brolin”s Thanos is on his way, but the question has been how Marvel planned to bring everything together. Until they got all the pieces on the board, that was a question that was probably a little terrifying for the studio. They”ve been setting Thanos up as a villain for so long that the actual moment they push him out to center stage has to be great, and they have to make the audience really want to see it. It”s not enough to say, “Hey, here”s another bad guy.” They have to convince us that he is a threat on a scale that is previously unseen.
Whatever Star-Lord and his team are up to in Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. 2, there will be some sort of shadow of Thanos at least because both Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Gamorah (Zoe Saldana) are still tied to him through their shared history. I assumed originally that they were going to be the ones saddled with a lot of the set-up, but it feels like Marvel saw the opportunity in Thor: Ragnarok to pit one Avenger against Thanos, even if only indirectly, to establish just how important and urgent things are once the Russo Bros. return for Avengers: Infinity War.
Whatever he”s doing, I am excited to see how much fun Waititi seems to be having, and how clearly his affection for his cast and his story are being communicated in everything he”s said and done so far.
Thor: Ragnarok is in theaters July 28, 2017.