Skip to main content

Taika Waititi can’t save Star Wars unless Lucasfilm gets out of his way

Update 5/4: Disney just confirmed that Taika Waititi will be directing a new Star Wars feature film, which he’ll co-write with 1917 screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns.

The corpse of the Skywalker Saga has barely cooled down, but apparently Lucasfilm is already plotting the next era of the franchise, with The Hollywood Reporter reporting that people have approached Taika Waititi to develop a new Star Wars film.

Waititi has been on quite a run the last few years, with a string of diverse films including vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, psychedelic superhero film Thor: Ragnarok, and Jojo Rabbit, an Oscar-nominated, coming-of-age story about a member of the Hitler Youth whose imaginary friend is the Fuhrer himself. He’s a dynamic director, but even if he ends up taking a job on Star Wars, it won’t matter much if the powers controlling the franchise keep stamping out any traces of creativity.

Thor: Ragnarok Image used with permission by copyright holder

Since Disney acquired Star Wars in 2012, the franchise has seen a surge of new films — one every year from 2015-19 — that have largely dominated the box office and, whether positively or negatively, cultural discourse. Despite this, production on these films has been a bumpy ride, full of director turnover and “creative differences.” And none of the new movies have had the creative spark that Star Wars used to have even at its worst — despite the many things wrong with them, the prequels at least had a distinct vision.

JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens, which kicked off the Star Wars renaissance in 2015, aped A New Hope in both story and style. The second film, Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, drew praise for questioning the legend of the original trilogy, but still ended in largely the same place as Empire Strikes Back: The scrappy band of good guys rebels is on the back foot as the evil empire marches toward victory. Abrams returned to direct the conclusion to the sequel trilogy, 2019’s The Rise of Skywalker, a film so mindlessly subservient to the original trilogy it even resurrected its villain (although some of us disagree).

If the main trilogy was meant to restore faith in the competence of the franchise, one might hope the spin-offs would have shown more flair, yet they too have largely been by-the-numbers exercises in adventure filmmaking.

solo a star wars story review
Image used with permission by copyright holder

There’s been a lot of production drama behind the scenes, as the franchise churned through directors. Gareth Edwards, who made a name for himself with the quirky if uneven Monsters, was originally in charge of Rogue One before Tony Gilroy was brought in for extensive reshoots and rewrites.

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, directors of The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street, were hired to direct the prequel Solo, but were eventually replaced by Ron Howard.

According to an extensive report by Variety, “A crew member who worked on the film … says Lord and Miller drew Kennedy’s ire for stretching days out with experimentation,” adding that “their ideas were constantly overruled … In their minds, Phil and Chris were hired to make a movie that was unexpected and would take a risk, not something that would just service the fans,” says the source. ‘They wanted it to be fresh, new, emotional, surprising and unique. These guys looked at Han as a maverick, so they wanted to make a movie about a maverick. But at every turn, when they went to take a risk, it was met with a no.’”

Solo’s watered-down final product ended up being a critical and financial disappointment (for Star Wars films, anyway), so much so that Lucasfilm put a hold on any more spin-off films as a result. Lord and Miller went on to produce the much-beloved Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which Lord also wrote.

The new regime has seemed determined to remove any creativity from the new films, and that bodes poorly for any director who takes up the challenge of the next phase of films.

Waititi does have some advantages: He’s at a much bigger stage in his career than Edwards, Lord, or Miller were, and he’s already proven that he can reinvigorate a staid series with the colorful and over-the-top Ragnarok. Moreover, while the films have been a drag, the Disney+ series The Mandalorian has shown that the series doesn’t have to revisit the same characters and themes (not so coincidentally, Waititi directed the first season’s finale).

Star Wars has a whole galaxy and thousands of years of history for visionary directors to play around in, but even Waititi won’t be able to save it unless the studio lets him fly free.

Editors' Recommendations

Will Nicol
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Will Nicol is a Senior Writer at Digital Trends. He covers a variety of subjects, particularly emerging technologies, movies…
Spotify celebrates Star Wars Day with soundtracks and audio books
The Mandalorian and Grogu in a poster for the Disney+ series.

In May 1977, the original Star Wars hit theaters and changed cinemas forever. And although the actual release date was May 25, 1977, fans have embraced May the Fourth as the annual Star Wars Day celebration (for obvious reasons). To celebrate this year's Star Wars Day, Spotify has something special in mind for music fans and audio book connoisseurs.

Composer John Williams' iconic Star Wars music from all nine of the main feature films is streaming under Spotify's Best of Star Wars Playlist alongside some more recent additions to the musical canon. That includes Stephen Barton and Gordy Haab's score for Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, the hit video sequel that just hit stores at the end of April. Kevin Kiner's music from Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, and Star Wars: The Bad Batch is also featured, as is Michael Giacchino's powerful score from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Additionally, Spotify's Playlist for The Mandalorian now has Joseph Shirley's score from season 3 alongside Ludwig Göransson's soundtracks for the first two seasons.

Read more
Every time we’ve seen Order 66 in Star Wars movies, video games, and TV shows
Anakin marches to the Jedi temple in Revenge of the Sith.

Twenty years ago, if you asked a Star Wars fan to name the most pivotal moment in the franchise’s fictional history, you could be confident that they’d answer with the Battle of Yavin, the climax of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. After all, this event serves as the starting point of the official Star Wars calendar; fans and producers alike measure time in Star Wars in terms of years BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin) or years ABY (After the Battle of Yavin), endowing the destruction of the Death Star with a historical importance within the fictional galaxy that's equivalent to the birth of Christ. Though the BBY/ABY calendar is still in service today, the ever-expanding Star Wars continuity now revolves around a different moment of historical import: Order 66, the flashpoint of the Jedi Purge and the rebranding of the Galactic Republic into the Galactic Empire.
First depicted in Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith in 2005, Order 66 has become the most revisited moment in the current Star Wars canon, and explored from a multitude of perspectives. Then-Supreme Chancellor Palpatine’s directive to execute the entire Jedi Order, from the ruling council to the youngest student, is now the inciting incident for Star Wars as we know it. Every character active in galactic affairs in the year 19 BBY has their own Order 66 story, and several of them have been depicted in film, television, and video games. Let's takea look back at each substantive on-screen portrayal of the Jedi Purge to determine what (if anything) each of them adds to our understanding of the tragedy and its repercussions on the Star Wars galaxy.

Revenge of the Sith shows the broad strokes of the Jedi Purge

Read more
The Mandalorian season 3 finale gives the Star Wars series a much-needed reset
Bo-Katan holds up the Darksaber in The Mandalorian season 3 finale.

And just like that, The Mandalorian season 3 is over. Coming off a seemingly game-changing episode last week, the series’ highly anticipated season 3 finale, titled The Return, premiered this Wednesday on Disney+. To say that the episode wraps up all of The Mandalorian season 3’s remaining loose ends would be quite the understatement, too.

Not only does the finale give fans the climactic confrontation between Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal), and Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) that they’ve long waited to see, but it also sets the latter two characters on totally different paths. For Bo-Katan, her role in the reconstruction of Mandalore seems to be just beginning. For Din Djarin, a new road has been laid out in front of him that isn't all that different from the one he used to walk.

Read more