One of the best surprises from this year’s May the Fourth was the announcement that Taika Waititi would be directing his own Star Wars movie. The New Zealand filmmaker has made a name for himself with his wit and humor, managing to write, direct and star in both small indie comedies and big budget franchises.
After directing an episode of the first season of The Mandalorian, Waititi is now on-board to write and direct his own Star Wars feature along with co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns. But with so many new Star Wars projects in development right now, it’s anyone’s guess where Waititi’s film will go.
With the Skywalker Saga completed (for now), the galaxy far, far away is set to expand in every direction, and it’s a smart move to bring in as many fresh voices as possible. Disney has already achieved this once with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, hiring little-known filmmakers like Jon Watts (Spider-Man: Homecoming) and Chloé Zhao (The Eternals) to helm their multi-million dollar blockbusters. Now that Star Wars is in the company’s control, it looks set to do the same with this franchise. And Taika Waititi is a logical choice to continue the franchise on the big screen after having excelled in the MCU already.
Without knowing any details about Taika Waititi’s project, The Direct has examined his past films to try and predict what they could mean for his new Star Wars adventure.
No story details have been released about Waititi’s upcoming Star Wars film, but it will all begin with the script. In the past, Waititi has written all of his own films apart from Thor: Ragnarok, and he recently won an Oscar for writing Jojo Rabbit. Co-writer Wilson-Cairns will be the first female writer on a Star Wars film since Leigh Brackett co-wrote 1980's The Empire Strikes Back. Wilson-Cairins' background is in television as a writer on supernatural series Penny Dreadful, but she was also recently nominated for Best Screenplay for the WWII film 1917. It’s a safe bet that the script is in good hands and that the writing duo will craft a story that is unique, properly planned out and with a clear vision, which is something that the prequel and sequel Star Wars trilogies unfortunately lacked.
Creative freedom has been an issue in the Star Wars universe in the past. There was much excitement when Phil Lord and Chris Miller (The Lego Movie) signed on to direct Solo, but they were fired from the film mid-shoot, citing creative differences with Lucasfilm. Waititi has already proven himself to the Star Wars world by directing one of the best episodes of The Mandalorian and learning from the masters Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, so hopefully he’s earned enough trust to set his own creative vision.
What storyline the film could follow is up in the air, but based on Waititi’s previous films he’s not afraid to take big swings with the story. Spoilers ahead. Under Waititi's control, Asgard was completely annihilated in Thor: Ragnarok, IG-11 made the ultimate sacrifice in The Mandalorian finale and then there's that death in Jojo Rabbit. Waititi is a master of raising the stakes and keeping the balance between lightness and drama along the way.
Another major question is: What sort of story will this be? Will it be a prequel or sequel to an existing movie? Fans have been hoping for a second Solo movie, will this be it? Maybe it will set up a whole new series of films or be a single standalone adventure. The Direct has previously outlined some of our top picks for new story concepts the next Star Wars film could use, any of which are possible story arcs Waititi could run with.
Or maybe the film will be an adaptation? Waititi has shown his skill in adapting source material, having won his Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay with Jojo Rabbit and bringing the Ragnarok comic arc to life with Thor: Ragnarok. Perhaps his path could be to adapt one of the numerous canon Star Wars novels, maybe even the upcoming High Republic novel series.
When you think of a Taika Waititi film, you’re automatically drawn to the characters - some of whom Waititi performs. From Korg in Thor: Ragnarok, to IG-11 from The Mandalorian, to even his own spin on Hitler in Jojo Rabbit, Waititi puts a huge focus on his characters and takes time to make sure they’re unique, fully fleshed out and perfectly cast. But what sort of memorable characters can we expect in his new Star Wars film?
Waititi has proven he’s able to redefine a lead character in an established franchise such as Thor, so it’s possible he could be given a legacy character to highlight in his new film. All signs are pointing to Star Wars creating a larger shared universe. With Ahsoka Tano, Rex and Boba Fett set to make appearances in the new season of The Mandalorian, there are surely plans in the works to bring more ensemble characters to the forefront. Waititi's protagonist could even be an existing character from The Mandalorian, seeing as he’s familiar with that world already.
Waititi has a track record of creating amazing characters for children, who are often a huge focus in all of his work. In feats of excellent casting and directing, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Jojo Rabbit made instant names for their child actors. Julian Dennison went on to star in Deadpool 2 and Roman Griffin-Davis earned a Golden Globe nomination for his part as Jojo. Considering Star Wars films are, at their heart, movies aimed at children, Waititi has plenty of opportunity to bring more young actors into starring roles.
Another big theme in Waititi’s films are families, particularly father-son relationships. Waititi’s first feature film Boy focused on an eleven year old reconnecting with his absent criminal father. Thor: Ragnarok looked at Thor and Loki’s relationship with their father, Odin, and the effects of his death. Even Jojo Rabbit found a unique father figure in Jojo's imaginary friend of Hitler. And we all know that another huge franchise with daddy issues is Star Wars, which gave us the most iconic father reveal of all.
A more common way the franchise deals with this theme is through the Master and Apprentice approach. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon, Luke and Obi-Wan, Rey and Luke, Ezra and Kanan, Ahsoka and Anakin. Jedi Knights and their Padawans are intricate to the Jedi Order. Jedi younglings need someone to teach them the ways of the Force, and with so many families decimated by years of galactic war, they often find new families within the Jedi. Waititi has made a name for plenty of odd couple pairings, like putting Hulk and Thor together or the rebellious Ricky Baker and his offbeat foster uncle Hector in Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Waititi’s Star Wars film could absolutely bring us a new iconic Master-Padawan duo.
One last thing to be said for Waititi’s characters is that they’re all memorable. Sure, Thor: Ragnarok had amazing lead characters with Thor, Loki, Hulk and Valkyrie. But the ensemble characters were just as significant. Who could forget Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster or Korg and Miek? Waititi has an excellent track record with casting and is able to pull big names for the smallest of parts, but he also writes and directs actors in excellent roles.
SETTING AND TIME PERIOD
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… But just how long ago? And how far away?
Star Wars has infinite new planets to explore and Waititi’s slate of films have spanned a whole host of worlds and time periods. From space hopping between Sakaar and Asgard, World War II Germany or vampires in the New Zealand suburbs, Waititi has covered it all. Plus he's already well versed with the post-empire world that The Mandalorian exists in. Waititi is easily ready for whatever Star Wars throws at him, whether it's world building a new planet or recreating iconic locations.
Despite spanning three generations of Skywalkers, there’s surprisingly few time periods that remain uncovered in the current Star Wars timeline. The Star Wars Direct team previously predicted that the next Star Wars film would have the best chance of occurring during the High Republic period, which takes place at the peak of the Jedi Order, hundreds of years before Episode I takes place. Lucasfilm has said this will be a print-only initiative at this stage, but it’s hard to imagine it won’t also expand into films or television pending its success. With the High Republic promising a fresh and optimistic take on the Star Wars universe, this could be a logical slot for Waititi to usher Star Wars in a new direction.
The space and time between Return of the Jedi and the rise of the First Order in The Force Awakens is still mostly open at this point. Maybe during his time on The Mandalorian, Waititi had a stellar idea for a spin off that he just happened to pass by Jon Favreau and Kathleen Kennedy. But he’s also excellent at crafting a hit one-off story, so it’s possible his Star Wars movie will just be its own standalone adventure.
GENRE AND TONE
When it comes to genres, Waititi has basically covered them all: superhero, comedy, drama, sports, war, supernatural, science fiction. But the thread that links all his films is his personal brand of humor.
Based on this, most people would straight away think his Star Wars film will be a comedic take. Even his episode of The Mandalorian had stand out funny moments, from two arguing Stormtroopers to “do the magic hand thing”. He also pushed the comedic aspects to the forefront in Thor: Ragnarok, managing to balance an action packed superhero story with a lighter tone. No matter which genre Waititi’s Star Wars movie turns out to be, it’s guaranteed his sense of humor will play an integral part.
Looking back at the recent Star Wars movies, a lighter take is exactly what the franchise needs. The sequel trilogy imbued some of its charming humor in The Force Awakens, but by the time The Rise of Skywalker came around it was too weighed down by its own expectations. Rogue One was an excellent war film, Solo brought us an action-adventure and The Mandalorian has given Star Wars a gritty space western series. But a fresh perspective with a combination of fun and charm along with epic space action is something Waititi can provide to help rejuvenate the franchise.
A genre that would also be suited for Star Wars and Waititi’s humor could be an odd couple or buddy road trip movie. Star Wars has always had a ragtag group of heroes at its core, whether it’s been Rey/Finn/Poe or Han Solo & Chewie. And Waititi has plenty of experience with unusual pairings, as showcased in Hunt for the Wilderpeople and What We Do In The Shadows. Bringing a new unlikely crew of heroes to the screen as they road-trip through space could be a perfect scenario for Waititi to flex his imagination and humor.
Based on the information above here are some ballpark predictions for where Waititi’s film could go...
The High Republic
The High Republic takes an uncharted part of the Star Wars timeline and promises a new world full of optimism, before the great ‘wars’ of Star Wars. It currently has no announced film or television projects attached, meaning it is ripe for the taking. Many of the books announced also skew towards younger audiences. Waititi’s expansive imagination, humor and his talent for creating epic young heroes could be the perfect fit to bring this publishing initiative to the screen.
Having portrayed the character through motion-capture, if anyone was to bring the deadly bounty hunter droid IG-11 to the screen, it would be Waititi. IG-11 met his demise at the end of season one of The Mandalorian but there’s an origin story just waiting to happen. Plus, there hasn’t been a Star Wars movie with a droid as the lead character, so this could be a first for the franchise.
Not so long ago a fan movement cast Taika Waititi as Boba Fett in his own movie. While yes, Fett and Waititi both share the same accent, the character is set to return in The Mandalorian Season 2, possibly played by either Temuera Morrison or Timothy Olyphant. So it looks unlikely Waititi will wear the helmet. But that doesn’t stop him from directing the iconic bounty hunter in a new standalone adventure. A rumored solo Boba Fett movie has been on and off in development for a while now, but with his upcoming return there are many questions around the character’s backstory that need to be answered.
Tag and Bink
The little known Tag and Bink are cult favorites in the Star Wars fandom thanks to their spoof comic book series. The pair are two rebels who have appeared in a variety of odd situations that interlink with the main Star Wars movies and inadvertently affect the plot. It’s widely thought that the two stormtroopers who were seen running from Kylo Ren’s rage in The Force Awakens were a version of these characters. They are exactly the kind of underdog characters and spoof humor that Waititi would excel at and he could easily make Tag and Bink household names.
With everything on hold at the moment, it could be some time until more is revealed about Waititi's new Star Wars movie. But the one thing that is clear from Waititi's filmography is that the New Zealand filmmaker has consistently made a name for “doing your own thing”. And it’s a guarantee his Star Wars film will do the same.