Disney’s twin suns, Marvel and Star Wars, are still blazing bright at the box office with few signs of fading. But as the latter franchise plans its mysterious next stage following the conclusion of a recent sequel trilogy, it’s anyone’s guess where the galaxy far, far away will go next.
Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins’ Rogue Squadron has been delayed, and so Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige’s project is likely to be the next Star Wars movie in theaters. (Thor: Ragnarok helmer Taika Waititi’s planned Star Wars project is said to be in earlier stages of development.)
Now, thanks to a rumor circulating widely online, we may know the identity of the exciting filmmaker Feige will partner with to push his new Star Wars movie into warp speed.
Eternals director Chloé Zhao may be the next Marvel all-star to make the jump over to Star Wars, according to One Take News and Star Wars scoopster Jordan Maison (via reputable leaker Charles Murphy of Murphy’s Multiverse). In recent interviews, Zhao has also hinted at her own interest in the Star Wars franchise.
So what does it mean for a Marvel director to be taking the reigns of Star Wars? And what about Zhao in particular? Let’s take a closer look.
An Oscar-winning director for Nomadland, which netted her a Best Director trophy before winning Best Picture, Zhao entered the Disney empire in grand fashion with Eternals, which debuted in the top spot at the U.S. box office despite mixed reviews.
An unusually ambitious outing for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the centuries-spanning Eternals was praised for Zhao’s naturalistic filmmaking. Critics and fans also applauded Zhao’s steady hand in introducing an effortlessly diverse array of new superheroes brought to life by an ensemble cast that included Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, and Kumail Nanjiani. In other words, it’s a mighty impressive calling card to any similarly scaled franchise looking to plot its next move. (Especially if Feige’s Star Wars movie plans to introduce a new batch of characters like Zhao did with Eternals.)
Earlier this year, Loki showrunner Michael Waldron was also reported to pen Feige’s Star Wars script, suggesting that the film could shake up the galaxy far, far away in exciting and potentially risky ways.
At Marvel, Zhao and Waldron were once considered surprising hires. Zhao’s past films were intimate, human-scaled dramas. Eternals, correspondingly, strayed far from Marvel's formula to strike a more philosophical tone and pursue a more sprawling scope. (Critics and audiences have been split on the results.)
Waldron, meanwhile, comes from the world of comedy, having previously worked on Rick & Morty. His comedic sensibilities turned out to be an asset on Loki, as did his skill with balancing increasingly tangled sci-fi timelines. He’s also writing the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, meaning Star Wars and Marvel are now set to share more creative DNA than ever before.
Though both hailing from Disney and commanding passionate fandoms, Star Wars and Marvel follow different formulas. From the beginning, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has employed healthy banter and a certain levity amid all its spandex-clad action. Star Wars, by contrast, is an epic and more serious space opera, though its sense of humor has emerged from dry-witted supporting players like Harrison Ford’s Han Solo.
That said, as Disney franchises, Marvel and Star Wars share an interest in crowd-pleasing spectacle while aiming for family-friendly themes and eschewing tonally dark subject matter.
Is Star Wars on a course to eventually overlap with Marvel in more blatant ways? That Feige and Zhao may set their next collaboration in the galaxy far, far away suggests that could ultimately be the case.