I have never been to New Zealand. The closest I have ever been is whenever I eat a kiwi (not the bird) or watch Lord of the Rings. After watching Hunt for the Wilderpeople, I felt like I wanted to go even more than before. Sure, for the beautiful sceneries and the almost alien animals to my own world. But the main reason I want to go to New Zealand is to find out just exactly where Taika Waititi came from. How someone could come from this country and become one of the greatest storytellers in the world. I know the place maybe doesn’t have a ton to do with it, but it could. You never know. Here’s my review of Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
The Story and What I Liked
Foster children have been the epitome of stories for a long time. They are people that have been neglected and forgotten and have to deal with a lot of crap. We feel for them immediately and we want them to succeed. We love the stories of people down and out who then find their way into success, especially here in America. A lot of people here think we are the only country that allows you to do that. (Hint: we aren’t.) It helps us to deal with the crap we deal with day in and day out. We know that we can get out of our dead-end job, because we saw someone use their skills to get out of the slums and into their dreams. Hunt for the Widlerpeople uses this overly obsessed-over trope and shows us a different story.
Ricky Baker wants to be famous, like his “best friend” Tupac. He wants to get out of the crap that he has been in and find a way to be either a rapper or a drug dealer. He states this quite a few times in the beginning of the movie. This is where he is confronted by the powerhouse that is Bella. She is caring, kind, and loving. She even hilariously plays a children’s piano and makes up a song to celebrate Ricky’s birthday. He now is confronted with how his life can change with love in it. As soon as he becomes comfortable with that, she dies. This story takes comfort and throws it out the door. A city character stuck in the bush. A quiet character having to take care of a loud one. It is constantly throwing two things that should never be together into the same conversation.
I will not go into more detail of the movie, but rather talk about one of its main themes, family. Family is by no means an underused theme. It is everywhere. The power of family, the love a family can give you, and how they will support or hurt you, because of how close they are to you. Hunt for the Wilderpeople will take that theme and show us how it is universal, whether they are your birth family, chosen family, or accidental family. Ricky and Hec learn to love each other, because of their ties to each other and family. We can learn from Wilderpeople by learning that the people around us can be great, if we just give them a chance.
Sam Neill has been around for a while. We learned to love him in Jurassic Park, then we learned to hate him in Peaky Blinders. We got to see a new side to him in Hunt for the Wilderpeople as Hec. A man who just wants to be left alone. He wants to be quiet. He wants to not have to worry. He doesn’t want anything, but at the same time he knows exactly what he wants. We get to see this character immediately encounter the one thing he doesn’t want, all because of the person he loves. He gets challenged throughout the whole movie. He doesn’t want to change or grow, but he has to. A story that is both relatable and beautiful. It can easily bring us to the plot with such a character, especially when we start to feel for him.
Ricky Baker is that tour de force that is brought into Hec’s life. He can’t stop talking. He loves to dance to a fake Walkman. He lives the Skuxx Life, which I will likely Google after writing this. He is the catalyst of the plot for Hec and the new life he has is his own catalyst. He is far away from the city that he loves. He doesn’t know how to survive in the wilderness that he finds himself in. Like we talked about before, Waititi loves to put two things together that do not mix and he has done that so hard with this. He has created a way for us to see plot movement by forcing these characters to share the same space.
Finally, we have Bella. She is the glue that holds these two characters together and the only reason that they are in the same space. She then leaves them, and they are not sure how to stick together. They fight it, at first. They want to be apart, like two magnets that have the same poles. We get to see the power of a character when they aren’t there. The point of a plot is not that the character needs to be there, but whatever will drive the plot even harder is what will make us love it more. That is a hard concept to grasp for a lot of movies, especially ones with Tom Cruise.
Grief is an incredibly hard part of life. We have grief for anything that we lose that can manifest itself in so many ways. We cry for the loved ones we lost. We get angry for the amenities we lost from our job. We are distraught because of the sandwich we accidentally dropped on the ground, this one hits close to home. Grief is so incredibly human that it’s impossible not to feel it at some point in your life. Where Wilderpeople does so well is seeing how people deal with grief. We get to see Hec, a stubborn stoic old man, cry. We get to see Ricky deal with the grief of losing the life he has come to love. Grief is the main emotion I felt from this movie and learned just how important it is to deal with that emotion in your own way.
We also get to see a simple man, one that can’t even read, show us how he deals with the world around him. We like to think of those who are less smart as compared to us as being lesser humans. Hec is a simple man. He has a had time putting into words how he feels, but when he says the world around him is “majestical” we still know exactly what he was talking about and we get to see him show some of his emotions. Another important lesson to learn from this movie. We don’t need to compare, unless we are going to be celebrating the differences, we have from those around us.
I have brought my emotions to this piece. Talked about how I felt. Realized and learned a few biases and off-parts within myself as I wrote this. But the most important thing to take from this review is to remember that Taika Waititi is amazing. He can tell a story in such a unique, clever, and beautiful way, that it’s hard to hate him. Whether he’s telling us about vampires in London, A boy in Hitler’s youth, or a foster kid dealing with a new surroundings, he brings his A game in storytelling and that’s just great.