Taika Waititi confirmed to direct new Star Wars film: Looking at Hollywood's comedy disruptors who chose to reinvent their roots
Taika Waititi’s comedic presentation in Thor: Ragnarok was layered with elegant commentary on themes of colonisation and race
Comedy has always been serious business in the entertainment industry. From the beloved Monty Python days to Chris Rock’s hard-hitting jibes, audiences have relished ‘merry-makers’ tickle their funny bones in Hollywood.
With the recent news of Taika Waititi helming and co-writing the next Star Wars film, brings to mind some of the comedy creators who did a complete somersault to reinvent 2.0 versions of themselves — one that was inspired by their comedic roots, yet vastly different from their previous body of work. Coming fresh off of Thor: Love and Thunder, the Star Wars franchise is a heavy-duty responsibility on the filmmaker's able shoulders.
In an age of niche talent and easy callback value, such creators have paved a way that defies all possible industry know-hows to sure-shot stardom and are pushing barriers to include thought-provoking narratives that highlight deep social messages.
Here, we extend our thanks to the few who chose to be disruptors and define their own professional arc unlike their comedic predecessors like Ben Stiller, (the brilliant) Robin Williams, Rowan Atkinson, and the like.
Marvel’s 2017 game changer Thor: Ragnarok brought in Taika Waititi’s delectable filmmaking talents to the fore. In many ways, Waititi fit the bill of a top-notch studio’s creative decision to bring in an indie auteur to spruce up a stagnant franchise. With works like Boy and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Waititi proved he had the ability to attract niche audiences and more importantly, begin conversations with his work. Marvel’s gamble paid off sumptuously after Ragnarok made $854 million globally, and consequently, Waititi’s quirks became a household phenomenon.
Many relished the fresh portrayal of the bulked-up God of Thunder (played by the inimitable Chris Hemsworth) in a vulnerable and funny light. Critics lauded Cate Blanchett’s deliberate over-the-top portrayal of Hela and Jeff Goldblum’s penchant for the psychedelic as Grandmaster — Waititi introduced never-seen-before concepts to Ragnarok.
Taika’s comedic presentation was layered with elegant commentary on themes of colonisation and race. This was a welcome perspective brought in by the filmmaker, seemingly through his own indigenous Māori heritage — whether it be Odin's whitewashing of Asgard's brutal history or the Grandmaster's attempt at euphemising the term 'slaves' for 'prisoners with jobs.'
2019’s Jojo Rabbit, of course, catapulted Waititi’s craft to glorious extents, attracting global recognition and celebration of his edgy ideologies. The filmmaker’s sheer mania to have taken on the role of an imaginary Hitler, while still penning and helming the film, only reflected Taika’s unbridled love for story-telling.
In a modern world that has digested the numerous (some worthy, others forgettable) narratives on World War II, Waititi found a novel way of presenting the historical era. The dramedy on the holocaust spoke louder than most documentaries on the subject. With its othering gaze, Jojo Rabbit was the perfect narrative voice that viewers could expect as an accompaniment through the tumultuous times that were the 1940s.
Three years after Jordan Peele’s poignant and groundbreaking directorial debut redefined the pop culture space, Get Out remains as important and relevant as it was when it released in 2017. One of the most significant films in any cinephile’s recent memory, Get Out refused to categorise itself within the genre of just horror.
Class divide and racism were deftly woven within an entertaining package of horror, served to tremendous critical acclaim. Through the film, Peele showed the world what it meant to be black in America. He seamlessly introduced these deep nuances within a commercially viable narrative — a feat only few can achieve. Not only were the theatres buzzing with sold-out shows of Get Out, earning Peele and his team of producers a global haul of $255 million, it also received the much-coveted Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
Peele’s 2019 follow-up Us, therefore, had big shoes to fill in. But not only did the filmmaker’s vision prevail, Jordan’s film managed to dethrone Marvel’s box office juggernaut, Captain Marvel, with a record-breaking $70 million opening weekend — the highest ever for an original horror feature, and second-highest for an action-adventure film.
Numbers aside, Us consolidated Peele’s position as a thinking, original and emblematic figure in horror filmmaking. Better known as one half of the comedy sketch duo Key and Peele, Jordan’s early days of television fame gave way to 70 mm magic.
Often described as “social horror”, Peele’s filmography demanded that audiences sit up and take notice. The filmmaker even explained his aesthetic on the New York Times podcast Still Processing, saying his films deal “with this human monster, this societal monster. And the villain is us.”
Peele wrote serious stories that explored what lay beneath the surface of the American consciousness. Comedy played a part to subtly indict his viewers for refusing to catch on to it. Through Us, Jordan repeatedly upheld this fact in the film’s almost-purposeful attempt to ignore, even forget past mistakes and an adamant drive to not learn from them. This oddity provided the perfect canvas for the subversive horror, threatening to break out of the seemingly-peaceful sheathe of society.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s 2013 one-act play Fleabag went unseen by many. But when Amazon picked it up for a series in 2016, the writer and performer became a global trailblazer. Waller-Bridge not only introduced a never-seen-before central character to viewers, but her narrative decisions also thrust audiences into uncharted territories — characters were named oddly, humour was used to clinically eviscerate all emotions which might threaten to surface while watching the episodes, and lastly, Waller-Bridge constantly oscillated between the hilarious and the macabre.
As the series gradually sprinted to become one of Amazon's prized assets, viewers could not figure out the charm beneath "the most electrifying, devastating TV in years."
Sometimes, in the vast expanse of entertaining content, few are able to freeze a reality that has been potent for a long time without conforming to traditional narrative methods — Waller-Bridge achieved it with Fleabag. In an era of constant self-censorship in order to strike a balance between your outward and real self, Fleabag offered apparently unlimited access to a very flawed, incisive mind. Audiences revelled in Phoebe's complete abandon and submission to imperfection and grief.
The show rested its narrative USP on the inexplicable 'dirtbag magnetism' that Phoebe created oh-so-intricately. Despite her shoddy sense of self coupled with an excruciating need to self destruct, Fleabag almost became the epitome of modern female agency.
Waller-Bridge highlighted the dualities and complexities of sorrow, wholly imbuing her characters with respective coping mechanisms, while all of them tried to navigate the familial vortex.
The show opened up new avenues for the former RADA graduate and even got her a writing stint in the 25th James Bond feature No Time To Die, thanks to Daniel Craig's understandable fangirling over Waller-Bridge's edgy pizzazz.
(All images from Twitter)
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