For the past few weeks, I’ve been binge watching Netflix. Having watched What We Do in the Shadows (a film for all occasions) I finally got around to Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Since then, I’ve become increasingly obsessed with New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi.
Born in the North Island to Maoi and Russian-Jewish parents, Waititi took to art at an early age, no doubt helped by his father’s work as an outsider artist. He began with painting, making fun but astute satirical drawings. He later studied drama in Wellington, where he found a lifelong interest in comedy. Starting with the ensemble piece So You’re A Man alongside future collaborator Jemaine Clement, Waititi made his acting debut. He later formed Humourbeasts with Clement and later appeared with the latter in Flight of the Conchords.
Waititi’s interests eventually gravitated towards cinema, making short films for New Zealand’s annual 48 hour competition. One such film was a shorter version of What We Do In The Shadows, in which he also starred as the lovably dandy Viago. His first feature film Eagle Vs Shark, hit the US in 2007. However, it was Boy which truly propelled Waititi to fame. The film’s portrayal of childhood, adulthood and their varied challenges would remain a theme throughout his work. Also prominent in the film is Waititi’s clear love for his native country, featuring gorgeous shots of the New Zealand countryside.
Next came What We Do In The Shadows, which I reviewed several years ago. Without repeating too much, I feel like Waititi’s interest in different stages of life is clear. Like Waitit’s character in Boy, the vampires struggle to reconcile their old age with the world and its challenges. Similarly he shows a tongue-in-cheek but no-nonsense approach to death in both films. Hunt For The Wilderpeople is similar to both films but continues the theme of outsiders present across Waititi’s ouevre. Ricky and his adoptive parent both feel unwelcome in maintstream society, taking up the moniker of Wilderpeople to represent this.
I think this focus on outsider figures brought a fun perspective to the superhero genre in Thor Ragnarok. Waititi really brings the God of Thunder to life in this MCU romp. More than simply a rebellious son or just another Avenger, Waititi fleshes out Thor’s weaknesses and insecurities, making the character far more relatable. I feel like the themes of Waititi’s work are very relevant to nerds of all ages. His focus on maturity (or lack thereof), isolation and wacky makeshift families is something any of our geek readers could relate to.
Despite being a darling of Indie cinema, I really hope his work on Ragnarok helps propel Waititi further into Hollywood. His wit, boundless energy and (most importantly) heart can offer much to cinema. At the very least, it’s likely we’ll see him making the next Thor movie, so we can look forward to more Korg!
Who is your Nerd Hero? What do you think of Waititi? Let us know in the comments!