Marvel Studios' newest feature film, Thor: Love and Thunder, brings the titular Asgardian warrior back to center stage in his first solo outing since 2017's Thor: Ragnarok. That movie was highly acclaimed and beloved, and director Taika Waititi was largely praised for letting the Thor franchise be more lighthearted and comical.
In Love and Thunder, Waititi returned to the director's chair, but the critical reaction to the sequel was not as shining as it was for Ragnarok. Audiences panned Thor 4 for its script and tone, with many having said that the story didn't give room for the emotional moments to breathe before a character made a joke. Waititi is well known for his sense of humor that he freely injects into his movies, but certain groups claim he went too far this time.
Those involved in Love and Thunder have also remarked on Waititi's loose, extremely improvisational style of directing, in which the actors are encouraged to tap into their funny bones and ad-lib their dialogue as Waititi "throws [the script] completely away." These techniques can reportedly create a kind of controlled sense of chaos on set, something that the film's co-writer can attest to.
Thor 4 Writer Talks Taika Waititi's Directing Style
Speaking to Variety, Thor: Love and Thunder co-writer Jennifer Kaytin Robinson remarked on director Taika Waititi's unique choices during the writing process. Specifically, she clarified reports about Waititi's script-changing antics, stating that he doesn't throw out the script entirely; rather, he "pluses" the story while maintaining its core:
"We worked on them together. He threw out his own work! We really sat in rooms and Zooms together for months and months and months, and then we would get there, and we would rehearse it, and — 'throw it out' is the wrong word. I mean, he does throw it out, but the core is still there. I would say he pluses — he can’t help but always try to plus. I can’t imagine Taika is ever going to write something and be like, "It’s done and we’ll shoot it.'"
Robinson detailed what it was like on-set, as she followed Waititi around with her laptop, capturing all of the changes he made to the script on the fly:
"There were different versions. We would read what we were shooting the next day around a table, and it would be like, idea, idea, idea. I would sit with my laptop and listen and just close my Heimdall eyes and write something and then turn my computer around to him and say, 'This?' So that was one version of it. Another version is in the first blocking rehearsal, things would start to change, and I would just have my computer and be typing with one hand, following Taika around as he moved things and changed things. There’s a bit that is not in the film, but it was Hemsworth and Pratt walking through this trench, and I just remember it was such an out-of-body experience, as I’m like walking behind Taika, Chris and Chris with a laptop in this literal trench that they built that looks like you’re in a planet. And I’m just like, 'What the fuck? How did I get here?' It was very bizarre."
She also commented on the fact that they were essentially writing the movie "in real time" as it was being filmed:
"And then I would say, the third version of the way that Taika directs is he literally stands behind the monitor, and I would stand next to him, and it would just be shouting things. I was never shouting. I would always pitch to Taika and then Taika would choose what he liked. But I had a lot of time where I had a mini monitor next to Taika, and we were just writing the movie almost in real time as they were shooting it. So there were all different kinds of versions of putting together this film. Taika’s brain just moves at a pace that should not be allowed. It’s like, the way that he kind of thinks or looks at things and like his capacity to kind of play, but also have total control is really astounding."
Finally, the writer added that she and Taika "were a good team," noting that she was often the one to reign him back in when need be:
"No, I think that Taika and I were a good team, in that I was kind of a person who was there to remind him, 'Oh, get this line. Oh, get that.' He was able to lean on me in that and be able to go off in all these different places, knowing that he had a person there who was able to bring it back if it needed to be. When you get into the edit, you know, the whole thing kind of blows up anyway. So I always tried to kind of be there to make sure that the thing that was needed was said. Usually, in a Marvel movie, those are very small things."
Crazy Times on Love and Thunder
It certainly seems like being on the set of Thor 4 could get a little frantic, if not slightly overwhelming. Thankfully, it seems as though Jennifer Kaytin Robinson was more than up to the challenge of keeping up with Taika Waititi's fast-paced methods.
But what about the cast? Natalie Portman, who played Dr. Jane Foster in the film, was quoted as saying Waititi's directing style was "daunting" but that she was also able to use that to find enjoyment in making the movie.
The idea that they were just kind of making things up as they went along is fascinating, and one has to wonder if Waititi had that sort of leeway in his previous MCU film, Thor: Ragnarok. But are the results worth it all?
Well, it's worth noting that Love and Thunder experienced a particularly sharp second-weekend drop-off at the box office. The film also received a "B+" on the movie review site, Cinemascore. Still, many maintain that the movie is a good, fun time and a solid summer blockbuster.