Any child of the nineties should have a soft spot for New Zealand actor Sam Neill. Not only did Neill help launch one of the biggest franchises in film history in Jurassic Park, he also played a key part in the first Jack Ryan adaptation (Hunt of the Red October), anchored a brilliant science-fiction horror movie (Event Horizon), and helped turn Jane Campion’s The Piano into one of the most critically acclaimed movies of 1993. And now, after a long and storied career in film and television, Neill is finally getting the recognition he so rightly deserves: he’s been given a small role in a Marvel movie.
If you’re one of those people who thinks that this past summer proved that movies are dead, may I cheerfully offer you Hunt for the Wilderpeople as Exhibit A in Hollywood’s defense? Not only did Taika Waititi give us one of the year’s best films in his hilarious and moving coming-of-age film, he also reminded audiences that Sam Neill is the kindly uncle we all wish we had in real life. Movies like this are one of the big reasons that Marvel was so quick to snap Waititi up for the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok movie… and why the current state of cinema is as good as it’s ever been.
Sam Neill is a prolific actor, perhaps more so than most people seem to realize. Best known to a particular generation for roles in Jurassic Park and Event Horizon, Neill’s long and fascinating career can’t really be reduced to a certain genre or character type. So it’s both pleasantly unexpected and not at all surprising to see him as a curmudgeonly and stoic, but ultimately kind-hearted uncle in Hunt For the Wilderpeople, the adventurous new coming-of-age comedy from Taika Waititi — the director of What We Do in the Shadows, who also recently signed on to helm Thor: Ragnarok for Marvel.