After breaking local box office records and earning international critical and audience acclaim for Hunt for the Wilderpeople, director Taika Waititi is turning his attention towards production of Thor: Ragnarok, the third of the Marvel fantasy series.
A report this morning from the AAP questioned if Waititi would be able to make Thor funny, despite the fact the last two films were full of humour: the first had plenty of fish out of water jokes as Thor was introduced to earth, while the climactic battle in the second was as much about the jokes as it was about the world ending.
I think the bigger challenge Waititi faces will be making all the pieces in the film work. Of all the upcoming Marvel films, Thor: Ragnarok is the biggest question mark. The title Ragnarok refers to an event in both Norse mythology and the comics that spells the end of the Asgard and the deaths of various gods. The event was predicted in Age of Ultron in Thor's Scarlet Witch-influenced vision, and he left earth at the end of that movie.
Yet the end of the world is the least of Thor's upcoming problems. He's got to tend with Tom Hiddleston's Loki, who faked his death in The Dark World and is currently masquerading as Odin - with no word on what he did with dear old daddy. Then you've got Mark Ruffalo showing up as the Hulk, Samuel L. Jackson rumoured to return as Nick Fury; Cate Blanchett will allegedly fill the role of villain as Hela, the Queen of Hel.
Then you've got the supporting cast from the last movies to factor in. Natalie Portman will likely be back as love interest Jane Foster, especially given her character has taken over as Thor in the comics. Idris Elba and Jaimie Alexander likewise remain unconfirmed about whether they will return as Heimdall and Lady Sif respectively, though given both have increased their profiles over the past year - Elba through comments around James Bond and the Oscar controversy; Alexander through her lead role in Blindspot - one would imagine that they too will return.
Not only is there all that going on, but Thor has also begun investigating the appearance of the Infinity Stones that have popped up in various MCU films, so there's every chance we could see Josh Brolin's Thanos at some point in the movie.
After watching Hunt for the Wilderpeople this weekend, it is more apparent than ever that Waititi can perfectly balance drama and humour, so I don't think there's any question he can sprinkle his own sense of humour in among duelling gods and apocalyptic nightmares.
The real question will be if we can get a coherent movie in the end with all these characters to factor in. It became clear in Age of Ultron when Thor disappeared for half the movie to take a magical bath that the godly hero is an odd fit for the rest of the Marvel world. The Dark World was easily the weakest of Marvel's Phase Two movies, awkwardly meshing humour with action in a fairly dull plot with more characters than it actually needed.
Given that he's now got to share his film with the Hulk and Nick Fury, it seems that Marvel doesn't really know what to do with Thor. It's a tricky world to get right, and needs the right director and script to work. Kenneth Branagh did a great job in the first movie, and I'm confident Waititi can work his magic on Ragnarok - but will all these elements to factor in, making it funny should be the least of his worries.