Taika Waititi Ruined Thor. He Can't Direct a Marvel Movie Again | Opinion

The most successful franchise in movie history has a problem—and it looks a lot like Taika Waititi.

The Thor series has overall been one of the less well-received strands of the $25 billion-grossing Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The first two films in the series were financially successful, but aren't likely to be remembered as anyone's favorites.

Third films in a series are rarely the best and for Thor 3, fans expected the worst, but multi-award-winning Kiwi director Waititi completely reinvigorated the series.

He scrapped Marvel's standard "action with a few one-liners" template and made Thor: Ragnarok a full-on action comedy.

Thor: Love and Thunder
Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth in Thor: Love and Thunder (2022) Marvel Studios

Waititi realised that, as well as having arms as thick as legs, star Chris Hemsworth is a gifted comedic actor and he mined the Aussie's superpower brilliantly in the apocalyptic showdown with Cate Blanchett's Hela.

So it was logical to bring the same creative team back for an unprecedented (in MCU terms) fourth solo film.

After all, Ragnarok was critically well-received, and made a Viking longboat full of money. Plus, everyone involved clearly had a lot of fun. What could go wrong?

What could go wrong was, everyone could have a lot more fun.

Even Waititi's greatest admirers would concede that consistency of tone isn't his strong point.

Many of his other works such as Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Jojo Rabbit lurch dramatically between tears and belly laughs, often within a single scene.

In a series that needs a renewed sense of direction and clarity, Waititi supplied none in Thor: Love and Thunder.

Emboldened by the success of his first Thor film, he strayed even farther from the Marvel template, seemingly throwing in whatever wild ideas came to mind.

As a result, Christian Bale's villain, Gorr the God Butcher, veers from a genuinely evil presence to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang's Child Catcher and back again. Myriad subplots are raised and seemingly discarded and the (mythologically accurate but narratively superfluous) screaming goats don't help.

It's perhaps for the best that the ebullient New Zealander doesn't care for extended versions of films: "I watch director's cuts of a lot of other directors. They suck," he said recently.

He's also mocked his own film for its fake-looking CGI, something several fans picked up on and looked on less than favorably, while one visual effects artist broke cover to call Marvel "horrible" to work for.

But there is a wider problem facing the most successful franchise in movie history.

The first three "phases" of the MCU nested multiple trilogies into one meta-narrative held together by the growth of Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark from egotistical arms dealer to superhero to, ultimately, savior of the universe.

But now RDJ, along with fellow MCU lynchpins Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson, is gone, and the impact of Marvel's Phase Four has been diluted by the growing need for audiences to be familiar with Disney's streaming shows to get the full picture.

None of the films in Phase Four have supplied that sense of connectedness and forward motion that kept MCU fans coming back for more.

In a cinematic universe that's increasingly fractured, what's needed at present is a return to the relatively grounded tone of the first Iron Man and Captain America films. And that's really not Waititi's style.

Hemsworth has said that he would keep playing Thor forever if fans wanted him to, and Waititi's reportedly happy to return to Asgard as long as Hemsworth is on board.

I'm sure they'd have a lot of fun making Thor 5. But as the beginning of Marvel's Phase 5 beckons, the MCU needs to get back to basics.

And while Waititi is currently Hollywood's golden boy, tipped for future Star Wars as well as MCU properties, he's anything but basic.

Michael Moran has written extensively about films, and superhero films in particular, for many national titles. The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.