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From what we have seen thus far, there has arguably never been a superhero movie quite like Thor: Ragnarok. Director Taika Waititi's upcoming threequel looks like a love letter to the insane, and the improv-heavy film (reportedly at least 80% of it is improv, in fact) looks like nothing we have ever seen before. The cast and crew got away with a lot while filming the sci-fi fantasy romp, and even Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo was surprised by the amount of leeway they received from Marvel whenever they indulged in the ridiculous. Taika Waititi recalled:
Mark Ruffalo would come up to me and go, 'Why have we not been fired yet. We are doing the most insane stuff in this film and where's the focal?'
When it comes to tentpole blockbusters (Marvel or otherwise), studios tend to keep at least one hand on the wheel to make sure their investments are safe. By contrast, Taika Waititi is a textbook indie filmmaker, and many of his movies (specifically What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople) have relied heavily on improv and flourishes of creativity on their respective sets. Marvel Studios seems to have an unprecedented amount of confidence in the New Zealand-born director to bring this project home, because even insiders like Mark Ruffalo found themselves taken aback by the amount of freedom they had to try new things every day.
Marvel Studios' willingness to let Taika Waititi engage in such an improv-heavy approach to Thor: Ragnarok becomes even more surprising when we consider the enormous fuss about improvisation within another Disney-owned franchise. When Phil Lord and Chris Miller exited the Han Solo anthology film in the Star Wars universe earlier this summer, it was reported that one of the driving reasons for their departure was Lucasfilm's dissatisfaction with their improvisational approach to the scenes. Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios are obviously two entirely different companies (and we admittedly don't know all of the details yet), but it's still surprising to see Thor: Ragnarok get away with so much more than other major tentpole blockbusters. Whatever crazy stuff Waititi had his cast do, based on his comments to MTV, it must've worked.
In the end, one possible explanation is that Marvel recognizes the fact that Thor: Ragnarok needs to be as weird as possible. The Thor films have suffered most when they lean on traditional superhero convention (looking at you, The Dark World), and audiences have already responded quite positively to the offbeat sensibility teased in the recent trailers. After all, when you bring endlessly charismatic actors like Jeff Goldblum, Cate Blanchett, Mark Ruffalo, and Chris Hemsworth (among others) onto a set, you simply cannot chain them to a script. The improv was a gamble, but hopefully it will pay off in the end.