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Taika Waititi and Bryce Dallas Howard Among ‘Star Wars’ Series Directors

One ‘Star Wars’ veteran and four fresh additions to this directorial slate hint at an unexpectedly idiosyncratic series.
The Mandalorian First Look
By  · Published on October 5th, 2018

The Galaxy Far, Far Away is about to get especially quirky with The Mandalorian. The official word from the Star Wars camp has revealed the involvement of some excellent directors in the production of the franchise’s first live-action streaming series.

In what is set up as Jon Favreau‘s inaugural TV writing gig, The Mandalorian will include the various talents of Dave Filoni (Star Wars: The Clone Wars), Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok), Deborah Chow (Jessica Jones), Rick Famuyiwa (Dope), and actress-turned-filmmaker Bryce Dallas Howard (who also happens to be the daughter of Solo: A Star Wars Story helmer Ron Howard) .

Filoni is specifically set to helm The Mandalorian’s first episode. Meanwhile, Waititi, Howard, Chow, and Famuyiwa (yay for women and people of color!) will each take charge of individual chapters thereafter.

As announced by Favreau himself only a day earlier, The Mandalorian will follow its eponymous lead character to “the outer reaches of the galaxy.” Between the fall of the Empire and the rise of the First Order, this “lone gunfighter” operates out of the New Republic’s reach, presumably taking up the classic Mandalorian trade of bounty hunting.

Or at least, we can assume that he does, because the Mandalorian is clearly rocking that Boba Fett silhouette. Along with the aforementioned announcements comes a brand-new picture of the series’ mysterious protagonist from Lucasfilm.

As The Mandalorian slowly but surely takes shape, I’m tentatively changing my tune to something more positive. As someone who isn’t a fan of the Fetts but is still curious to see just how Mandalorian culture can be further explored in a live-action setting (after it made solid appearances in The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels), I was actually determined to be rather neutral about the whole affair.

Narrative-wise, there are various potential pros and cons to this series. The fact that so many details about The Mandalorian are understandably kept under wraps for the time being only suggests that this wholly original character we’ve never met before has a lot to prove right off the bat.

Enter this eclectic group of filmmakers, though! Filoni, Waititi, Howard, Chow, and Famuyiwa have each dealt with different facets of filmmaking, and are primed to bring a certain “oomph” of personality to the proceedings.

For the series’ opener, a tried-and-true director like Filoni is absolutely ideal. Apart from spearheading the feature film version of The Clone Wars and acting as supervising director on the subsequent TV series of the same name, Filoni has been creatively involved with Star Wars Forces of Destiny, too. He even did voice work in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Outside of the Lucasfilm umbrella, Filoni contributed to one of the best animated shows of all time, Avatar: The Last Airbender. I don’t want to spoil our own list over here, but we can truly credit him for the empathetic and thrilling storytelling that makes A: TLA so damn excellent.

After Filoni, all bets are off. Waititi is a bizarre filmmaker in the best possible way. He has managed to totally disrupt the formulaic approach to superhero movie-making. Waititi created Thor: Ragnarok with such an offbeat spirit, proudly retaining his signature weirdness while spectacularly delivering on the visual sumptuousness that any superhero film requires.

Long-time Waititi fans are also keenly aware that his movies tend to tout a perhaps surprising amount of depth when you least expect it. He never shies away from dark topics, and the inexplicable profundity of his cinematic worlds are both poignant and gently impactful.

Meanwhile, Howard – who is mostly recognized for her efforts in front of the camera – has dabbled in directing for a few years. She has yet to helm a feature film of her own, but her shorts speak volumes for the talent she is constantly fine-tuning. Howard’s work can be adequately described as intimate character studies, regardless of the genre she’s tackling.

She could be exploring the plight of a blue-haired alien girl (played by Lily Collins) as she falls to earth in an M83 music video…

…or participating in a five-part short film anthology about mental illness titled Call Me Crazy: A Five Film

…and even crafting Solemates, the simplest portrait of a family’s life cycle that is captured from the point of view of their shoes.

Howard relishes in the little moments of connection in her films. I’m intrigued to see her dive headfirst into the cultural mainstream with Star Wars after these smaller offerings. And as an aside, it’s also heartwarming to know that two members of the Howard clan have found their way to a galaxy far, far away.

Comparatively, Chow takes a similarly internal approach to her directorial career and expertly demonstrates an ability to anchor all manner of projects with an emotional hook. Look what she does with Marvel’s Iron Fist and Jessica Jones during either show’s weaker season (that is, first and second, respectively). Chow’s precise direction draws out the emotional core and significance lost within convoluted or otherwise unfocused plots in order to get these series back on track to some extent.

Moreover, many of us would’ve seen Chow’s work on TV elsewhere, anyway, even without realizing it. She has an extremely broad resume that includes Better Call Saul, Mr. Robot, The Vampire Diaries, Reign, and Fear the Walking Dead. The Mandalorian makes for an excellent addition to her filmography.

Finally, Famuyiwa feels like the diametric opposite of Chow, in that he has barely done serial TV before (except for the pilot of The Chi). Regardless, his extensive work on the big screen has evolved over the years to feature a remarkably fresh and authentic style. Famuyiwa started out with the coming-of-age romp The Wood, a heartfelt snapshot of the lives of three best friends who grew up in Inglewood, California. He then followed it up with an equally sweet and character-driven romantic-comedy titled Brown Sugar, confirming a penchant for observant as well as thoughtful genre cinema.

Famuyiwa did hit a roadblock with Our Family Wedding, turning in a less memorable rom-com than was expected of him. Thankfully, the effervescent Dope eventually took the 2015 Sundance Film Festival by storm and re-energized his slate. With Dope, Famuyiwa revisits a coming-of-age refrain confidently and originally through the lens of heists and unexpected romance.

Overall, Filoni, Waititi, Howard, Chow, and Famuyiwa prioritize a healthy mix of grounded characterization, plot, and a maintenance of their own personal style. Whether seasoned or decidedly green, every single one of these directors will bring something undeniably unique to Favreau’s series. The Mandalorian is already in good hands.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)