From a tonal standpoint, Thor: Ragnarok is a very different film from the previous titles in the God of Thunder series, and a great deal of that has to do with the impact of director Taika Waititi. While his background isn't entirely in comedy, the filmmaker has established a very specific voice during his career, and with a mix of bluntness and silliness, is able to make the latest Marvel movie a laugh-a-minute. And while a good deal of the blockbuster's quality stems from its script, Waititi recently told me about how he implemented improvisation on set, and how it ultimately was a huge boon for the production:
My job then was to go through and just do passes on the script, dialogue stuff and things like that. Then casting and the character work was all stuff that we developed on set as well. And then on top of that, because Chris [Hemsworth] and Mark [Ruffalo] and everyone wanted to keep it fresh, what we were doing, and it's how I usually work - we would often do a version of the script, and then would put that aside and go, 'Okay, now what's the version where we say what these characters really want to say?' So that's where a lot of the humor came from.
With the new Thor film to be released in just a couple weeks, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Taika Waititi during the Disney-run Ragnarok press junket in Los Angeles earlier this month. Feeding a curiosity I regularly have, I asked the filmmaker about the evolution of the project and how it changed from when he first became involved to what we see in the finished cut of the movie. Part of his explanation included not only his punching-up of the dialogue from Eric Pearson's screenplay, but also being sure to give his actors the freedom to embody their characters and go for laughs.
Given the quality of Taika Waititi's past films, including the highly-praised mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows and the hilarious survival comedy Hunt For The Wilderpeople, it should come as little surprise that the director would adapt his successful methodology while working on Thor: Ragnarok. -- particularly when working with so many impressive performers. What was perhaps less expected, however, is that the improvisation also led to some special moments between the characters that Waititi felt brought an important natural touch to their dynamics. Said the director,
A lot of the times you see them smiling at each other or laughing, they're actually laughing for real. Because they're in the moment! I think that's the stuff that really resonates. It's a strange feeling for an audience seeing that, because you can tell it's a human touch in there.
You can watch Taika Waititi discuss the importance of improvisation on the set of Thor: Ragnarok and the way it improved the film by clicking play on the video below!
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