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Marvel taps Flight of the Conchords director to helm Thor: Ragnarok

Marvel is reportedly in negotiations with New Zealand actor/director Taika Waititi to direct the latest installment of the Thor franchise. According to The Wrap, Waititi beat out Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer as Marvel’s leading choice to helm the project.

In terms of budget, it’s a big step up for Waititi, whose previous directorial efforts include cult series like Flight of the Conchords, the Academy Award winning short film,  the brilliant — but scantily released — horror-comedy What We Do In the Shadows (in which he also starred, co-wrote, and co-directed with Jemaine Clement).

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It’s an interesting choice to be sure, but not at all that unusual for the studio. Marvel has had much success tapping lesser-known directors such as the Russo Brothers (Captain America), James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy), and Shane Black (Iron Man 3), all of whom had directed great low budget films before getting the full on Hollywood big bucks. And the first Thor film was a decided change-up from the usual blockbuster fare in dramatic actor/director Kenneth Branagh. 

Waititi will likely use his ability to evoke on-screen humor to his advantage, hiding small moments of comic relief throughout the film much in the same way that Gunn did in Guardians of the Galaxy.

The move to hire Waititi also helps insulate Marvel from critics of the studio’s diversity. Waititi, who is half Māori, will be the first non-white director of any of Marvel’s superhero films, according to The Independent.

There might be another reason why Marvel continuously needs to look for less-established directors. By all accounts, it might not be such a cushy gig. Former studio directors such as The Avengers’ Joss Whedon have chosen not return to the studio after the stressful experience of hoisting the full weight of hefty franchise anchors.

That said, the sheer amount of publicity and box office success that comes with working on a film like Thor: Ragnarok marks a massive boost in any director’s career, so that may make it more of a quid-pro-quo arrangement.

Thor: Ragnarok is slated for release November 3, 2017, and will star the yin and yang of the franchise, Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Tom Hiddleston as Loki.