1. He's directed and starred in The Mandalorian
What better qualification for a Star Wars movie? Waititi helmed the series finale episode of the hit Disney+ series, which has scored highly with critics and audiences. The series, conceived by The Lion King's Jon Favreau, takes a decidedly more gritty look at the Star Wars universe, injecting it with the flavour of a classic outlaw Western.
In this instance, said outlaw is titular bounty hunter The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal), who navigates the darker, seedier corners of the Star Wars universe. The show, including Waititi's contribution, has been praised for taking the franchise in a bold new direction, and the filmmaker also pulled double-duty, voicing droid IG-11.
2. He's already made a space opera movie
Released in 2017, Marvel blockbuster Thor: Ragnarok could be considered Waititi's dry run for a feature-length Star Wars movie. The film galvanised the somewhat stodgy Thor series, lightening up the Asgardian template with plenty of incandescent visuals, great jokes and a decidedly more tongue in cheek central performance from Chris Hemsworth.
Waititi cited the likes of 1980 cult classic Flash Gordon, itself inspired by Star Wars, as an influence on the visual and emotional tone of Ragnarok. Certainly, the bold primary colours and the buzzing synth work on Mark Mothersbaugh's soundtrack make it very apparent. In fact, so impressed were Marvel with Ragnarok, they've enlisted Waititi to direct Thor: Love and Thunder, in which a returning Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) lifts Thor's hammer, Mjolnir. The film will hit us in early 2022.
More importantly, however, Ragnarok proved that Waititi isn't easily fazed by an effects-heavy blockbuster set in a fantastical realm. The confidence and brio with which he tackled the third Thor movie surely sets him up well for a new Star Wars project.
3. He's got a wicked sense of humour
This one goes without saying. Waititi's brilliantly offbeat humour has breathed life into the likes of What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. The former is a hysterically funny mockumentary about vampires flat-sharing in New Zealand, which gave rise to a recent, acclaimed TV series. One of the funniest sequences involves the vampires (Waititi's Viago among them) encountering a group of lycanthropes who announce they're, "werewolves, not swearwolves".
Wilderpeople, by contrast, is a chalk and cheese buddy comedy that sends unlikely duo Sam Neill and Julian Dennison into the New Zealand wilderness, all the while hunted by child protection services. It's sweet and funny all at once.
This kind of quirky humour could revitalise the Star Wars universe and give it a unique texture, the likes of which we haven't seen in the franchise before. After all, the series is now 42 years old, and any filmmaker who can give it a refresh ought to be championed.
4. He can deeply invest us in his characters
Waititi branched out with recent book adaptation Jojo Rabbit. Loosely inspired by Christine Leunens' novel Caging Skies, the movie takes an irreverent, yet ultimately moving, look at the spectre of Nazi tyranny, as seen through the eyes of a young child.
Impressive newcomer Roman Griffin Davis plays Jojo 'Rabbit' Betzler, a boy in the Hitler youth who imagines the Nazi leader (played by Waititi) as a buffoonish, Jiminy Cricket-style presence. But when Jojo discovers his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) is harbouring young Jewish girl Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie), Jojo is torn between nationalistic fervour, and sympathy towards Elsa's plight.
Although the movie features Waititi's usual offbeat humour, the film steadily reveals itself as a dark, sombre story of one boy grappling with a cruel, violent world. Waititi's juggling of disparate tones saw him awarded with an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, and there's no denying that parts of Jojo Rabbit hit harder than many of his other films. It demonstrates that he can build a sense of empathy with people in dire straits, and Star Wars needs a director who can fashion a strong link between audience and character.
5. He has A-list support
So, it's clear that Waititi has the technical qualifications and CV that make him perfect for Star Wars. But the icing on the cake is the support of previous Star Wars filmmakers, primarily Rian Johnson.
The man behind the (admittedly divisive) The Last Jedi, not to mention the terrific whodunit Knives Out, has expressed his delight at Waititi's appointment to the role. Here's hoping the idiosyncratic Kiwi filmmaker doesn't let the side down.
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