Today, Lucasfilm and Disney announced that Gary Whitta will write the first spin-off of the new Star Wars trilogy and that Gareth Edwards will direct.
Edwards is coming off of his Godzilla reboot, which had a killer opening weekend and mostly positive reviews. The quality aspects of that film undoubtedly belong to Edwards and his cinematographer Seamus McGarvey. The film is gorgeously shot and has some of the best tension-building sequences in a blockbuster in several years. Edwards proves that he knows how to handle big effects showcases.
What he also proved was that he couldn’t direct actors very well and Godzilla‘s script is mediocre. Edwards’ direction makes it pop. And the screenwriter for this new film, Whitta, hasn’t exactly scored a slam dunk yet. His two feature scripts are the ok-at-best Denzel Washington vehicle, The Book of Eli, and the Will Smith-nepotism project After Earth. Critics hung up that film by its toes and beat it with a nailed bat last year, but I’m willing to bet that the problems with that film come more from the director, M. Night Shyamalan, and the Smiths.
Whitta has found the most acclaim as a writer for Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead, so maybe he’s a lot better than his feature film record indicate. Likely, actually. But under the umbrella of Star Wars, he probably won’t get to flex those muscles. I could be wrong. I hope I’m wrong. I’d love to get a good Star Wars movie and with the astonishingly-mediocre J.J. Abrams at the wheel of Episode VII, it’s almost a guarantee that this spin-off will at least look better. Edwards is a gifted director who desperately needs a great script and good leading actors if he’s going to make a truly great film.