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SYFY WIRE Flash Gordon

Taika Waititi tells Joe Russo how Flash Gordon & Big Trouble in Little China inspired Thor: Ragnarok

By Vanessa Armstrong

The Russo brothers — the duo who have directed several MCU films, including Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame — have a new stay-at-home-inspired YouTube series called Pizza Film School. The endeavor, where they promote their favorite pizza places and talk with their famous friends about some of their favorite classic films, has had some great episodes so far, including one where actor Mark Hamill joins them to talk about The Empire Strikes Backamong other things.

Today's episode is another fun one and features Taika Waititi talking with Joe Russo about how two classic genre movies — Flash Gordon and Big Trouble in Little China — captured their imaginations as kids and informed their films as adults.

Those familiar with the bright, campy, yet sometimes dark turns of Flash Gordon won’t be surprised to hear that the 1980 film was a favorite of Waititi’s, who directed Thor: Ragnarok with similar panache.

“I wanted to capture a road trip of people who had no business hanging out with each other,” Waititi explained to Russo about using Flash as inspiration for Ragnarok. “And I put all that to [Led Zepplin’s] 'Immigrant Song.' That song is basically about Thor. Just knowing the tone, knowing that it had to be playful and over the top … that this is unapologetically a space opera, and I’m going to pump this with color and life and energy and humor, and cool music. And the way I feel about that film is like if you’d ask a bunch of 10-year-olds what they want in that movie; we basically said yes to every idea.”

Thor: Ragnarok certainly satisfies the 10-year-old in all of us — it’s got a giant wolf and a zombie army, after all, not to mention the Hulk and Jeff Goldblum. “On paper, it doesn’t make any sense,” Waititi admits. “But with Thor, I think it makes perfect sense.”

Russo and Waititi go on to talk about how they establish the structure of their films (spoiler: Russo is more deliberate and upfront about it, while Waititi develops his structure more instinctually). They also chat about their love of another classic movie, 1986’s Big Trouble in Little China, where Kurt Russell’s performance as a grumpy, reluctant hero inspired the reworking of Thor’s character in Ragnarok.

"[Thor] just wants to get home," Waititi explained at the end of the episode. “All this stuff is going on, even with Hulk … he’s willing to leave people but also he’s trying to keep everyone together. He’s trying to be charismatic, and he’s trying to be a hero. He fails a lot, and tonally, that’s something from Big Trouble that I carried with me into Ragnarok.”

For those looking for something to do this weekend, it might be worth putting together a mini-movie marathon of the two classic films followed by Thor: Ragnarok. The good news is you can easily do so from the comfort of your own home: Flash Gordon and Big Trouble in Little China are available for rent or purchase on iTunes and Prime Video, while Thor: Ragnorak is currently streaming on Disney+.