Appreciating Taika Waititi's Mastery of Bittersweet Escapism

Wilderpeople Ricky

The director’s had a hell of a few years.

Writer/director Taika Waititi has one of the most distinct styles of any indie filmmaker working today. Another unique element of his filmmaking is that, with Thor: Ragnarok, he’s been able to maintain his nitpicking comic flavor in a film made to fit into a gigantic corporate structure and fulfill all the trappings of superhero cinema.

Waititi, in Eagle vs. Shark, Boy, and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, combines tragic circumstances with absurd comedy to find a poignancy based around the escapism of imagination. Adventure – to somewhere far away, though never far enough to escape the New Zealand knack for understated silliness – is built into all his narratives because this world is oftentimes not enough.

Essayist Affrica Handley highlights these features, focused mainly on the meeting point of and balance between funny “ha-ha” and funny “oh, yikes” that makes Waititi such an engaging directorial presence.

Jacob Oller writes everywhere (Vanity Fair, The Guardian, Playboy, FSR, Paste, etc.) about everything that matters (film, TV, video games, memes, life).