It’s a little too early in awards season to make any grand claims about frontrunners and whatnot, but word on the street is that Jojo Rabbit will very likely be a key player when the time comes, and a new featurette with director Taika Waititi introducing the film’s cast shows us why.
Based on Christine Leunens’s book Caging Skies, the film follows a young German boy named Jojo newcomer Roman Griffin Davis who finds himself questioning the Nazi principles being instilled in him at a young age when he encounters a Jewish girl Thomasin McKenzie being hidden in their attic by his mother Scarlett Johansson. Oh, and did we mention that this is a comedy that makes Nazis look like complete fools and pushes forth a message of love and acceptance? Watch below!
This is the kind of featurette that feels tailor-made for awards season, touting the performances of all the key cast members for possible consideration in the acting categories.
Roman Griffin Davis plays the titular character, a young boy who attends the Nazi equivalent of a summer camp, learning all the important skills one must attain in order to be a worthy soldier in the Führer‘s forces. Scarlett Johansson plays his sweet, single mother who likes to bring a little happiness and spirit into Jojo’s life.
Then there’s Thomasin McKenzie as a young Jewish girl named Elsa who broadens Jojo’s horizons, helping him come-of-age at a very important time in his life albeit at a dangerous time in history. She must stay hidden though, because enthusiastic Nazis played by Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, and Stephen Merchant aren’t far away. And as goofy as they may appear seriously, watch the featurette for some hilarious clips, they could prove to be quite a problem for Jojo and his mother if they ever discover Elsa.
The good news? Taika Waititi is still planning to direct the live-action Akira movie. The bad news? It's going to be at least a couple of years before he gets around to it. Waititi is gearing up to film Thor: Love and Thunder for Marvel Studios, which is going to be a massive production and something he has been committed to for some time. Unfortunately, that's going to get in the way of Akira getting done sooner.
Originally, Akira was supposed to film this year for a summer 2021 release. Taika Waititi, in the wake of the success of Thor: Ragnarok, was tapped to helm the long-gestating adaptation. During a recent interview while promoting his new movie Jojo Rabbit, Waititi shed a little light on what's going on and when we can expect the movie to get underway again. Here's what he had to say about it.
"Unfortunately, the timing with Akira, because we've been working really hard on the script, we had to keep pushing the start date for the shoot. We ended up having to push it a couple weeks too far, which actually ate into the Thor schedule, because they were very close together. And that got pushed again and again, and it just got too far into the Thor schedule to be able to make it work. And my first commitment was to Marvel to make that film, so now I've kind of had to take Akira and sort of shift it around to the tail-end of Thor and move it down a couple of years."
Warner Bros., back in July, delayed production on Akira indefinitely. At the time, it was reported that it had to do with scheduling conflicts, though it was also noted the studio wanted to keep Taika Waititi on board. These new comments all but confirm what we knew previously, but that comes at a cost to those who were hoping this project was finally getting off the ground.
Akira, which is based on the manga series of the same name by Katsuhiro Otomo, has been planned as a live-action movie in Hollywood for years now. It goes back at least as far as 2012 when Jaume Collet-Serra The Shallows, Non-Stop was hired to direct, only to depart at a later date. When Taika Waititi came on board, the project was given new life. And having Leonardo DiCaprio on board as a producer certainly didn't hurt matters either.
Related: Akira Creator Has Final Approval Over Live-Action Movie
Akira had previously been set to arrive on May 21, 2021. Meanwhile, Thor: Love and Thunder, which is expected to start filming early next year, is hitting theaters on November 5, 2021. To make matters more complicated for Taika Waititi, he's now going to squeeze in another movie, Next Goal Wins, ahead of production on his next MCU adventure, which he's only able to do since it's much smaller in scale. This news comes to us via IGN.
Easily one of the best and most shocking parts of Avengers: Endgame was the reveal of Thor Chris Hemsworth totally letting himself go in the five years since half of the universe’s living beings were wiped out by Thanos. While some thought the film’s comedic approach to his appearance should be classified as fat-shaming, we saw it as something to praise, giving Thor one of the most powerful character arcs in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. But will he keep the weight on?
Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi is coming back to helm Thor: Love and Thunder, which is slated for release in the fall of 2021. A couple drafts of the script have already been completed by the filmmaker, but apparently Waititi is still trying to figure out whether or not they’re going to let Thor keep his thicker physique for the sequel. Find out more below.
Yahoo got a chance to speak with Waititi while he was making the publicity rounds for his latest film, the Nazi satire Jojo Rabbit expanding to more theaters this coming weekend. During the interview, they asked the director whether or not Thor will have slimmed back down by the time Thor: Love and Thunder rolls around, or if he’ll stay in the hoodie and pajama pants. Here’s what he had to say:
“This is an ongoing debate that we’re still having at Marvel. Cause we’re trying to figure out how long — how many months or years — this is after Endgame, at what point does this take place? I think we always want to keep changing it up with Thor. He’s so interesting when he’s changing all the time.”
By the time Thor: Love and Thunder hits theaters, two and a half years will have passed in real time. When it comes to Marvel sequels, that usually means the same amount of time has passed in the MCU as well. Avengers: Endgame has been the only movie where there’s been a significant time jump. The window in which the Thor sequel takes place likely depends on how it fits into the overall timeline of the rest of the new movies coming in Phase Four. But it’s nice to hear that his physical appearance doesn’t seem to be dependent on what happens in the story. If Thor was still overweight, he would persist, just as he realized he was still worthy in Avengers: Endgame.
However, Waititi does add that they do like when Thor is always changing, so maybe having him slim back down a bit will work better for them. Perhaps we’ll find him in the middle of a keto diet or whatever new diet fad is sweeping the nation at this point. Either way, we’re very excited to see what Marvel has in store for Thor next.
Thor: Love and Thunder is expected in theaters on November 5, 2021.
[Editor's note: This post discusses the plots of “The Lighthouse” and “JoJo Rabbit.”]
In the golden age of Hollywood, queer desire had no choice but to hide in plain sight. There are countless examples of classic films with obvious queer themes, even if they were not explicitly stated — “Ben-Hur,” “Rope,” and “Spartacus” — to name a few. Gore Vidal’s original script for “Ben-Hur” was quite overtly queer, pretty clearly implying that Ben-Hur and his enemy Messala were once lovers, but it was toned down in the editing process. But there was a reason for it then. So when movies include sheepish allusions to queer desire 60 years later, they come up short.
In “The Lighthouse” and “JoJo Rabbit,” two movies that couldn’t possibly be more different, men who battle demons together form unusual bonds. Both movies come from wildly inventive filmmakers with styles so specific their films can feel like their own mini-genres, but they share half-baked gay subtexts that fall short of their ambitious visions.
A simmering two-hander set on a remote island in Nova Scotia, “The Lighthouse” borrows in part from historical diaries containing the mad rantings of real-life lighthouse keepers. Shot in black-and-white and starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, the film follows a veteran sea dog and his new apprentice throughout a harrowing tenure in soggy isolation. As time passes, both men spiral towards madness as they become each other’s undoing. While technically a horror movie, Eggers is more focused on the terrors of the mind than anything otherworldly though there’s some of that, too.
For most of the film, the seasoned Thomas Dafoe is in charge, barking orders at Ephraim Pattinson and disparaging his work. At night, Thomas devolves into a drunken stupor, singing shanty songs and waxing poetic. Each man is suspicious of the other. Ephraim doesn’t drink, much to the chagrin of Thomas, who won’t allow his peer into the upper deck of the lighthouse, which emanates a mysterious and alluring light.
With the men removed from the outside world, sex — or the desire for it — permeates everything. Ephraim has repeated visions of a beautiful mermaid, whose siren song is both arousing and eerie. Thomas pleasures himself at the altar of his precious lighthouse. Though the men sleep in shifts, their creaky twin beds are only three feet apart. Neither man can escape the other’s sweating, snoring, farting bodies, as they slowly become unraveled. When they finally come face to face, you can practically smell the pheromones passing with each breath, bracing for a kiss that never comes. So why doesn’t it?
That’s a frustrating and gutless turn in a movie that’s audacious in almost every other way. In a story about two men on a deserted island, the homoeroticism is practically baked into the log-line. To ignore it would have been disappointing, but taking it right to the edge and then pulling back is only marginally better.
In the film’s conclusion, when both men have fully descended into insanity and Ephraim is walking Thomas on a leash and calling him a “good boy,” the queer context is undeniable, and yet “The Lighthouse” never fully goes there. It feels like a missed opportunity at best — and a spineless maneuver at worst — to invoke themes of dominance and submission, borrowing from queer fetish culture, without even so much as a genuine erotic exchange.
In interviews, Pattinson has acknowledged the film’s BDSM themes. “There’s very much a kind of sub-dom thing happening,” he recently told Thrillist. “It’s not that far from the surface. We were really trying to push it as well. The bit when we fight each other — there’s definitely a take where we were literally trying to pull each other’s pants down. It literally almost looked like foreplay.” When asked directly about why there was no kiss, he demurred, calling the film a grotesque version of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” At least in “Fifty Shades of Grey” the characters actually get it on.
While “The Lighthouse” should have gone further with its queerness, “Jojo Rabbit” would have been better off avoiding the topic altogether. The film follows a Hitler Youth child who invents an imaginary friend as Hitler, played by Waititi himself in a grating and silly performance. Waititi’s Hitler is a bit of a buffoon; all funny faces and sing-song affect. He’s also flamboyant in a cartoonish way, much like how Mel Brooks wrote his far funnier Hitler caricature in “The Producers.” But a foppish Hitler is the least of Waititi’s troubles — the real homoeroticism comes into play with Sam Rockwell’s character.
Cementing his status as Hollywood’s go-to for sympathetic bigots, Rockwell plays the leader of Jojo’s troop, Captain Klenzendorf. He is followed around by his loyal subordinate, a twink named Finkel, played by “Game of Thrones” star Alfie Allen. Klenzendorf and Finkel also share a charged face-to-face, will-they-or-won’t-they moment.
In the movie’s inane final battle scene, which arrives with so little fanfare as to land zero emotional impact, the two men are seen charging into the fray adorned with colorful fringe epaulets, a bright red cape accenting the Captain’s SS uniform. They never kiss, embrace, or acknowledge their romance; instead, Waititi leaves the audience to piece things together from a few winks and some sequined uniforms. Waititi doesn’t even begin to address that the Nazis were sending gay people to concentration camps.
The movie’s “exclusively gay moment” may be louder than the one in “The Lighthouse,” but it’s far more problematic, as Waititi plays it for comedic affect to generate sympathy for his characters — queerness as shorthand for humanity. Maybe that would have felt radical or bold 25 years ago, but in 2019, it’s just plain lazy.
Of course, neither Waititi or Eggers are gay, which is not to say straight filmmakers can’t or shouldn’t use queer elements in their work. They can, and they should. If straight filmmakers want to comment on themes of repressed sexuality, intolerance, and power exchange, their work can only be enriched by a queer aesthetic. But they need to say it loud and proud, with more than just a wink and some fringe.
So, yes, Taiki Waititi has, well, sort of, finally figured out how to talk about his movie. Jo Jo Rabbit is oftentimes strangely sweet, and oftentimes deadly serious. Which, yes, you might expect from a movie in which Waititi literally plays Hitler.
A month ago or so, when Jo Jo Rabbit was on the festival circuit, Waititi would say in interviews he didn't really know how to talk about this movie without scaring people off. And, yes, it's easier now after winning the top prize in Toronto, plus the fact that, as you read this, it's literally playing in theaters.
In an interview setting, Waititi can't help but be quick-witted at funny. And, ahead, he's certainly that. But, as a parallel to his movie that he's promoting, he can turn on a dime and be sternly serious. An at times uncharacteristically emotional Waititi wants you to know two things about Jo Jo Rabbit before you see it: The first is the less you know the better, so I'll skip any sort of plot description here. The second is, for the life of him, he can't believe he has to make a satire telling people that “Nazis are bad,” but, yes, here we are.
Of course, Waititi is also returning for Thor: Love and Thunder, and somehow convinced Natalie Portman to return, who seemed done with the franchise. Ahead, he explains how he convinced her. And he also talks a bit about his experience directing an episode of the new Star Wars series, The Mandalorian, and voicing IG-11.
When this movie premiered at Toronto you said that you didn't know how to explain this movie without freaking people out. Do you still feel that way?
Oh, I don't bother explaining it. Just sit and watch the movie. A lot of people say that they prefer not knowing anything about the film going in.
Yes, I didn't know anything.
Yeah, and I think it's a better way to see it. I don't even like going to a gallery, having to read all about the piece of art that I'm about to see. I don't see the point in that. I just want to go and look at it and figure it out for myself. I'm not the kind of person who needs to read articles first, or think the poster should just be a big explanation of the film before you go in.
Though, your movie poster makes it clear this is “a satire.”
Yes, but that's because Americans need everything explained to them [laughs]. They just have no idea how to take anything unless it's explained to them and also unless it's compared to something they've seen before.
I guess maybe now there is a segment who might look at Hitler on the poster and go, “What's this guy about? Let's go check this out.”
Yeah, I guess so. There's definitely a lot of dumb people out there.
And there are probably places in the world where people see that poster and go, “Yeah, definitely, let's go see that Hitler film. That sounds cool. Because I'm sure Hitler was a really funny guy.” Which is worrying.
I've never heard that sentence before in my life, by the way.
It's even shocking to hear, that someone might think Hitler's a “funny guy.”
There are still a lot of Hitler fans out there.
Yeah, there sure are.
And then maybe they read the words “anti-hate” and they get turned off.
Are you trying to reach the people who haven't been infected by that yet? Because I don't think the people who think fondly of Hitler are going to see this and go, “Man, I had it all wrong.”
Well, no. Definitely I want to reach the younger audience. Because I don't want to really preach to the converted. If there is a way of introducing younger audiences to these ideas, that this can happen again, which is really the message. I'm not trying to make a movie explaining what happens in World War II. You know, that's pointless to try to explain that. These ideas are very contemporary.
Unfortunately, that's true.
And if they happened then, then they can happen again. So, don't be a Nazi.
Last time we spoke it just seemed shocking you did a Thor movie. You even said you can't believe you agreed to make a Thor movie. This movie makes more sense in your filmography.
Oh yeah, more than Thor. Well, maybe it's right. But even, I haven't had any worries or concerns making this. A lot of people ask if I should be very nervous. I never really felt nervous at all. You've seen the film. It's not a controversial film! It's not massively challenging to people just because it's got some jokes and me doing Hitler. It's not a film that's like bad boy's cinema. Like, “we need boobs.” Or, “oh yeah, we need all the attention because we're going to do stuff just for shock value. We want the crazy press.” No, we don't. We just don't like that kind of attention. We don't like talking about ourselves. We don't like people talking about us, and we don't want to draw unnecessary attention to ourselves.
Well, I think it depends on what the definition of controversy is, I guess because I think anything inherently with Hitler as a main character is going to spark at least a conversation. I don't know if that's controversial.
That's fine. Point of conversation, but some people say, “Boy this film is polarizing.” Or it's divisive.
I mean, Obama wore a tan suit once, and that was controversial. So there are different levels.
But only in America would the word divisive be seen as a negative thing. Everywhere else it's like, that's just normal. Everything's divisive. Really. Even the safest thing becomes divisive because it's safe.
You'd think, “Nazis are bad,“ wouldn't be controversial. Now, we are at, “Well, you've got to hear both sides.”
“Well, there were fine people on both sides.” I guess the part that's so weird, there's a thin part of this film where I guess I am saying that there were some okay people on the side of the Germans. There were actually some good Germans. But they didn't leave the army, leave the country. They were still patriotic enough to accept it.
Well, there was, I can't remember his real name, the guy Tom Cruise played in Valkyrie...
Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg. I make a reference to him in the movie. The one-eyed pirate.
Yes. I should know his name more than, “Tom Cruise.” You've had this idea for this movie for a long time. Was Hitler always going to be portrayed as a buffoon?
I think the only way to do it is him being a silly. I guess maybe there's a little bit of Beetlejuice in some ways, but doesn't have magic. Did you know that I didn't want to play Hitler? It came about just under a year before we started shooting when Fox Searchlight said they weren't going to make it. They said we only want to make it if you play him.
They said you had to?
Because they knew that I'd written it and it's in a style and way that I knew. If anyone else had played it, they wouldn't have had my style for it. I think any other actor, and I agree, would've probably overthought it. Probably done too much research. They probably would've studied Hitler. And I didn't do any. Well, I've read about five pages of a Hitler biography.
Did you even need to do that? I feel like I have a good sense of where that guy is coming from.
Someone just recommended it to me because apparently it's a very interesting book. But I just realized I didn't want to do any research on this guy. I was just going to put the mustache on, because I'm not playing him. I'm playing a 10-year-old in an adult's body.
Who did you have in mind that you wanted to play him?
I mean honestly, no one.
When you were writing you didn't imagine anyone?
I don't write like that. I've never written for anybody. You always go through a list of actors. And I'm sure that all of the normal ones were one that list. And then I ended up making Thor. And so like six and a half years later is when I finally got to come back to the script. And at that point, that's when they said, “You should play the role.” And I also agree with that because if you're a big star playing Hitler, I think it would've overshadowed the whole point of the film. And so I'm actually glad that we never went down that route.
So you're coming back for Thor: Love and Thunder. I think most people were under the impression Natalie Portman basically would never do another Marvel movie. What did you have to say to her to convince her whatever her complaints were before, they would be rectified?
I mean, I didn't have to do much. And, I think for her it was about making the character interesting. And I think especially when you're playing “an Earthling who's just into science” in one of these big movies, it kind of gets a bit sort of, you know... After doing that for two movies, you want to do something different. I think for her, the thing that might've been attractive about this is being able to step it up and be a superhero. And I'd rather her do that than play a scientist. And it's also from the comics as well. So it's not something we made up.
You tweeted your IG-11 Funko Pop from The Mandalorian and said, “I'm another action figure.”
They're so cool though.
Now you're IG-11.
I have a director version, a Korg version, now an IG-11 version.
Last time I spoke to you, I mentioned the “infamous tweet.” And you were like, “Why is it infamous?”
The one where someone asked you about directing Star Wars and you deadpanned you like to finish your movies. But now you're directing The Mandalorian.
I know. That's the problem, you have to explain the joke. Like I'd really be serious about tweeting that out knowing that might get back to Lucasfilm and ruin my whole chance. Yeah, right.
The responsibility that we as a species have to ensure history lives on is a complicated one, and the role art plays in that gets even messier. With events like the Holocaust, the obligation to tell that story responsibly becomes even more critical. But that’s not to say that fiction has no place in the narrative. Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit takes a look at very real horrors through the eyes of a child. As it turns out, children find much of the adult world absolutely ridiculous. It’s needlessly complicated, unbearably messy, and most of the time they just don’t know what all the fuss is about.
What Waititi manages to do in Jojo Rabbit is incredibly complicated in that he shares a horrific tale through something incredibly unique, beautiful, devastating, and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. Loose adaptations might often be lacking from the emotional punch of the source material, but this book nerd’s not ashamed to say that she much prefers how Jojo Rabbit chooses to tell the tale.
Let’s be clear here—Waititi isn’t the first director to tell a compelling story about World War II. What’s so astonishing about his film is how it managed to balance the comedy, drama, and unbearable reality of one of the darkest times in world history. Each one of the below films either does part of what Jojo Rabbit does, or at least tries to.
The Diary of Anne Frank 1959
Most of us saw and read this one in middle school history class. So far as cinematic adaptations go, The Diary of Anne Frank stays pretty spot on. There are a few factual inaccuracies, like the Dussel’s being from Holland rather than Germany, when Anne actually received the diary, and chronologically speaking there’s a decent amount out of order. Outside of that, Anne’s story took a tragic, unbelievable event and gave you something to connect with. And that connection hurt like hell. The diary isn’t dark. In fact, it’s hopeful. The film brought that hope to life and showed a young woman with unwavering strength in an ocean of hate.
The intent of Anne’s diary may not have ever been to give young adults a connection to the horrors she lived through, but it’s ultimately very important that it does. Learning about The Holocaust is devastating, and it should be. Stories like Anne’s have to be told not just so she lives on, but because we’re currently seeing firsthand what happens when people forget it.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas 2008
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is another film that takes a look at The Holocaust through the eyes of a child. Unfortunately, it struggles. I wish I could say that it struggles because of unfair comparisons to the previous story, but this fictional tale flounders all on its own.
If you’re Holocaust story is going to be a drama that plays it straight, it seems wise to avoid straying too far from the facts. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas chooses to use some liberties with history, but its biggest sin is trying to play both sides. Many Holocaust historians expressed discomfort with the film, even back in 2008. Drumming up sympathy for the Nazi family of the boy who has made friends with an imprisoned Jew makes for a more dramatic film, but it certainly doesn’t make a responsible one.
The Devil’s Arithmetic 1999
It might be a little weird to feature a made-for-tv movie from the late nineties on this list, but what the heck! The Devil’s Arithmetic is a strange flick, but an interesting take on the apathy of current generations to the horrors of the past. The film focuses on a Jewish American girl who finds herself exhausted by her family’s constant stories. Before long, Hannah Kirsten Dunst is unwittingly transported back in time to a concentration camp where she eventually begins telling stories to keep up the spirits of the others who are imprisoned with her. The Devil’s Arithmetic has all the oddness that you’d expect from a tv movie, but it’s got a pretty solid message about empathy and the power of stories. A surprisingly impressive cast as well!
Jakob the Liar 1999
Jakob the Liar is the only entry here that doesn’t feature children or young adults as a device to the tell the story, but it feels like the one of the closest in tone to Jojo Rabbit. The dramedy follows the tale of Jakob Heym Robin Williams, a Jewish shop keep living in a ghetto of German-occupied Poland. After Jakob is falsely accused of being out past curfew, he’s summoned to the German headquarters to be reprimanded. While there, he hears a broadcast talking about Soviet efforts that would inspire him to spread hope throughout the ghetto by way of a made-up radio.
Unfortunately, news of hope spreads quickly. Knowing that hope leads to revolutions, the German soldiers quickly launch an investigation to find the fake radio. Once they learn that Jakob had made it all up, they try to force him to tell the truth. He chooses their hope over his life. Before the credits role, the ghetto is shown once again. But this time it’s completely abandoned.
Like Jakob’s stories, the film’s ending tells two tales: the likely reality, and the miracle we all dare hope for.
Life is Beautiful 1997
We close things out with another dramedy. Jakob the Liar was actually unfairly compared to Life is Beautiful quite a bit upon its initial release. The film focuses on Guido Orefice, his wife Dora, and their son, Giosue. After World War II breaks out, the family is quickly seized and taken to a concentration camp. Once there, Guido works to convince his son that they’re playing an elaborate game. Though dangerous, it’s the only thing that Guido can think to do to protect his young boy from the horrors they’re about to experience. The rules he sets up for his son are pretty simple: any behaviors Guido knows will draw attention to his son loses him points, while good behavior earns them. The first person to one thousand points wins a tank.
Giosue does win his tank and, in the end, Guido managed to protect what mattered most to him.
The primary through lines in all of these films are pretty simple: hope and love. They’re both complicated, weird, fickle, and sometimes fleeting emotions, but they can move mountains when properly motivated. They’re also nothing without action. Jojo Rabbit focuses on a set of very specific choices, a misinformed little boy in a complicated world, and so much love that it makes your heart feel like it may burst from time to time.
Like all of these films – even the misguided one – it reminds us just how important hope and love can be when hatred is tearing the world apart. So love. Don’t get wrapped up in propaganda or false equivalencies. Fight with everything you have, hope with all your heart, and just love.
And probably go see Jojo Rabbit as early as you can.