We’ve been told that there would be standalone/spinoff Star Wars movies in addition to the new main trilogy pretty much since Disney announced it was acquiring Lucasfilm more than a year and a half ago. Today, we received the first official confirmation that such a movie was moving forward. Gareth Edwards, director of the just-released Godzilla, has been tapped to helm the project, with Gary Whitta (The Book of Eli, After Earth) tapped to write the screenplay. The film is due out December 16, 2016, meaning that beginning next year we’ll be getting Star Wars projects on an annual basis.
The one bit of crucial information that Lucasfilm has left out so far is exactly what the movie will be about. As it’s being called a “stand-alone film” by Lucasfilm, we can be sure it won’t be a competing series (although we’re sure Star Wars fans the world over would think interlocking trilogies showing events from both sides of a conflict might be pretty cool), but that doesn’t mean it won’t have anything to do with the new movies. A Boba Fett film has long been rumored (we’ve already addressed why that might not be the best idea), but we can envision a scenario similar to the Avengers leadup where a character introduced in the standalone movie later intersects with the trilogy.
In fact, it’s Disney’s other ultrapopular cash cow (we’re assuming Star Wars will be even after the prequel debacle) that seems to be the blueprint here. Marvel’s recent run of success has depended greatly on filmgoers with a prior interest in the material, certainly, but the comic book nerd masses alone cannot account for the more than $1 billion that The Avengers pulled in worldwide. While the level of Marvel oversight on all their movies would appear to be high, the studio has also been smart about the directors it has hired. Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Iron Man 2), Joss Whedon (The Avengers), and the Russo brothers (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), along with a number of Marvel’s other choices, were all directors who had proved themselves rising stars with the ability to connect with viewers. Some came with more cache than others; with Serenity, a writing credits on Toy Story and Atlantis, and a history of TV success with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, Whedon sure appeared ready to take over something on a larger scale.
Hmmm. Some feature film success and a history of producing much-loved television? Sounds an awful lot like J.J. Abrams.
Likewise, Gareth Edwards looks a lot like an amalgamation of Favreau and Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn. Like Gunn, Edwards directed some very small but fairly well received indies, and with Godzilla, he’s already got one big-budget picture under his belt – not unlike Favreau (Elf, Zathura) when he was brought on for Iron Man.
But let us not forget that we also have a writer. After Earth may be a bit of a blemish, but with Will Smith and M. Night Shyamalan also stirring that screenplay pot, it’s possible that Gary Whitta may have been overruled at some key junctures. His other credits – The Book of Eli and The Walking Dead video game – portend better things. Eli was solid, but for our money it’s the Walking Dead game credit that gives us the most hope. Writing for an episodic video game certainly has its differences from writing for a feature film, but the emphasis on narrative and accolades for the same which the game received are hard to overlook.
And finally, a note on the timing of this particular piece of news. On one hand, it may seem a bit odd for this to come out right as Star Wars: Episode VII is getting into production, but on the other, it couldn’t make more sense. By announcing this movie now, Disney is capitalizing on the success (at the box office if not critically) of Godzilla, and therefore selling high on Edwards.
Doubtless there will be plenty of speculation as to what this movie will actually entail, and we’ll bring you updates as we hear them. You can find the entire press release for this announcement here.