On Star Wars Day 2020 (May the 4th) Disney/Lucasfilm announced that Taika Waititi would direct a future film in the franchise. There were no specifics about what characters, stories or worlds would feature. The New Zealand born director has grown in status in recent years. His early films, such as What We Do In The Shadows, have become cult classics. In 2016, The Hunt For The Wilderpeople, while perhaps not widely seen, drew great critical acclaim. He then entered a different stratosphere, joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe to direct Thor: Ragnarok. He delivered one of the funniest, wackiest and best entries in the MCU. Waititi followed that with the impressive JoJo Rabbit, which earned him his first Oscar, for adapted screenplay.
All sounds good, right? So why shouldn’t we get excited? Because this is a road that modern Star Wars has gone down many times in the last few years, as we’ll explore.
It starts all the way back in June 2014. Josh Trank was signed to direct a stand-alone Star Wars film. He’d already done Chronicle, and the Fantastic Four reboot was about to come out. It turned out to be a critical flop. By mid-2015 he was off of the Star Wars project. Reports are mixed about the cause, and whether it was his choice or Lucasfilm’s. Trank suggested he wanted to do smaller stuff after Fantastic Four. Others suggest that a troubled production on that movie resulted in his ousting.
Whatever the reason, he was out.
After the successful return to film with The Force Awakens, Disney decided to fill in the gaps between trilogy entries with the anthology stories. First up: Rogue One, to be directed by Gareth Edwards. Edwards had directed the small hit Monsters, then Godzilla before coming to Star Wars. However, it is unclear how much of the final film is Edwards’ vision. Screenwriter Tony Gilroy, a director in his own right, became increasingly involved in reshoots and post-production.
Despite the turmoil behind the scenes, Rogue One was a success, showing that the anthology movies could work. Next up: Solo, and a pair of directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Coming off the back of Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs and The Lego Movie, they had shown they could deliver entertaining movies. Filming commenced in early 2017 and by the summer the directors were gone. Veering off script? Too much improv? Too funny? Whatever the reason, they were out and replaced by the safe-hands of Ron Howard.
To helm Episode IX, Disney chose Colin Trevorrow. He’d made indie hit Safety Not Guaranteed, then gone bigger with Jurassic World. Spot the pattern. However, by September 2017 he had left the project, due to creative differences. He and the producers couldn’t agree on a script and he was gone. The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams stepped in to replace him.
In November 2017 it was announced that Episode VIII director Rian Johnson would write and direct an all-new Star Wars trilogy. It would explore new worlds and new characters. Then, in December of that year, The Last Jedi was released to mixed reviews. It definitely divided fans, and perhaps that explains why this trilogy doesn’t seem to have developed further. Two and a half years later Johnson is basking in the success of Knives Out and is still a ‘hot’ director. It will be interesting to see his return to the Star Wars universe actually happens.
In February 2019, there was news that Game Of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss would be developing a new series of Star Wars films. By October that plan was abandoned. The duo signed a big deal with Netflix and decided they could not commit to both. You do wonder though if the backlash against the final season of Thrones put them off entering another world with such devoted fans. Or maybe it put Disney off.
What does all this tell us?
Firstly, being announced as part of a new Star Wars project is no guarantee that it will happen. Second, even if you start filming your vision you may not get to finish it. There’s a clear pattern of Disney/Lucasfilm selecting trendy directors, with careers seemingly on the up, and it not working out.
The advantage Taika Waititi has though, is that after his work on Thor: Ragnarok, he is known to Disney. Not just Disney either, he’s been involved with Lucasfilm on The Manadalorian. As well as voicing droid IG-11, he directed the season one finale. Good signs.
Next up for Waititi is Thor: Love and Thunder. The Marvel movie is due to start filming in August this year and is scheduled to come out in February 2022. Presumably Waititi wouldn’t be able to start work on Star Wars until after that date.
If Taika Waititi is to make a Star Wars film, its release is still far, far away.
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