Taika Waititi on How ‘Big Trouble in Little China’ Influenced ‘Thor: Ragnarok’

Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi says one of his influences on the Marvel Studios blockbuster was John Carpenter’s 1986 action-comedy Big Trouble in Little China, which saw perpetually perplexed truck driver Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) ask a parade of questions in search of his truck.

“The thing I love about that film is Jack Burton, all he wants, his only thing that he wants, is to get his truck back. Something so simple and all this crazy stuff is going on,” Waititi said in The Directors’ Roundtable, a digital-exclusive Avengers: Infinity War special feature exploring a conversation between several Marvel Studios filmmakers.

Burton’s trajectory and always-playing-catch-up is not too dissimilar from that of Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who is whisked away on an intergalactic adventure following the loss of beloved hammer Mjolnir.

“I don't know if you’ve seen this, someone cobbled together this YouTube video of all the questions that Jack Burton asks... it’s five minutes long, but it’s basically every question that the audience is asking: ‘Who’s that? What is this thing? Where are we? Where are we going? Where’s my truck? I want my truck back,’” Waititi said.

“That was one of the main focuses on that film. Thor is always on the back foot, asking the questions that we’re asking.”

Ragnarok’s revamped and more comedy-centric tone was birthed out of Waititi and Hemsworth’s collaboration after the star admitted he had grown bored of playing the Asgardian Avenger.

“I felt in the first film, we had a lot of sort of fish-out-of-water humor and you know, it was the origin story, so there was a lot of naivety and it was sort of Crocodile Dundee,” Hemsworth told /Film, explaining sequel Thor: The Dark World “didn’t lend itself to many opportunities to have those moments of humor.”

The What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople director encouraged improvisation, allowing the actor to lean into comedic chops he displayed in Vacation and Ghostbusters.

“This could be a flat-out comedy if we wanted, or we could pull it back and meet it in the middle,” Hemsworth said. “I’ve never improvised so much with this character which has been really exciting. Taika will just yell suggestions while rolling — ’Try this, try that’ — and so on. And that has really come to change the game for myself and for the film.”

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Hemsworth has since said he hopes to stay on as Thor post-Avengers 4, which marks the end of his contractual duties with Marvel Studios.

Avengers 4 opens May 3, 2019.