"The Book of Boba Fett" has left a mixed impression across its five episodes so far. The new Disney+ series has struggled to find a tone, trying to balance the nostalgia of older "Star Wars" properties while trying something a bit different. That said, it seemed inevitable that a callback to "The Mandalorian" was coming sooner or later — and episode 5 delivers that and more.
Not only does Din Djarin, a proven fan-favorite, return in the latest episode, but so does Bryce Dallas Howard, who directed two of the strongest episodes of "The Mandalorian." The actor-director started strong with the season 1 episode "Sanctuary," and later honed her storytelling skills on season 2 of "The Mandalorian" with "The Heiress" before lending her talents to "Boba Fett."
Howard has yet to direct a narrative feature film (though she recently debuted with the documentary "Dads" and is set to helm the "Flight of the Navigator" remake for Disney+), but she's a lifelong student of the cinema. Before "The Mandalorian," Howard directed a handful of short films, and clearly spent her time as an actor soaking up all she could behind the scenes. Her work for "Star Wars" TV has established her as a competent director, one who understands "Star Wars" and all that makes it tick. At this rate, it's only a matter of time before Howard gets her own "Star Wars" movie… Right?
Howard's Filmmaking Roots
Bryce Dallas Howard has been with "Star Wars" since the first season of "The Mandalorian," but her roots with "Star Wars" itself — and its innumerable influences — go back even farther. Howard, of course, comes from Hollywood royalty: she's the daughter of actor-turned-Oscar-winning-director Ron Howard, himself the son of actor Rance Howard. Naturally, she's chock-full of endearing anecdotes of her encounters with Hollywood heavyweights. In the first episode of the "Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian" documentary special, she even shares the story of a dinner she attended with her father, George Lucas, and legendary Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa (whose films were among the biggest influence on "Star Wars") when she was five or six years old.
Howard put her knowledge of Kurosawa to good use in "Sanctuary," which paid homage to the classic film "Seven Samurai." It wasn't the first (or even second) time that the franchise borrowed from Kurosawa, but Howard deftly balanced spectacle and story — as well as influence and innovation — to create a world of "Star Wars" that had scarcely been seen before. She demonstrated that she could make "Star Wars" her own without abandoning too much of what fans have come to expect.
Apart from grounding the action of "The Mandalorian" with a perfectly-balanced grit, Howard also has a knack for depicting the series' female characters with nuance and intention. In her hands, characters like Cara Dune and Julia Jones' Omera are imbued with equal parts femininity and sharp-eyed competence. Those qualities have always coexisted in characters like Leia (or, more recently, Jyn Erso), but it's amazing to see it carrying over to Disney+.
An Actor's Director
Howard uses the female characters that Din encounters to help adhere him to the story, though never in a way that feels reductive or even derivative. The trend continued when Howard returned to direct "The Heiress" in season 2, and Bo-Katan Kryze — a fan favorite from "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" and "Star Wars: Rebels" — made her live-action debut. Fans had been anticipating Bo-Katan's return since the "Rebels" season finale in 2018. But Katee Sackhoff, who has portrayed Bo-Katan in all three series, was equally excited about working with Bryce Dallas Howard. Sackhoff praised Howard in an interview with StarWars.com:
"I've been a fan of her for a very long time as a performer, but then also as a director. And seeing the voice that she is developing for herself in this industry as a director and as a teacher is really important … Not only is she there leading you and teaching you, but she's learning at the same time. She's such a great director and she's such an actor's director."
She may still be learning, but Howard has put her experience on film sets to incredible use in such a short time. The director has only gushed about how much she's gleaned from working on "The Mandalorian," and it seems she's only grown in her time between that series and "The Book of Boba Fett." The fifth episode of the new series boasts many impressive sequences, most of them in quick succession. The cold open puts Mando at the center of a gritty fight sequence, reestablishing the very tone that some Boba Fett fans were hoping to see throughout the series.
StageCraft — the technology used to create and immerse actors in computer-rendered worlds without the use of green screen — is also expertly employed in a subsequent scene. It involves a one-take shot where Din delivers his bounty and retrieves the reward at a saucy party, and returns to a turbo lift while the scenery changes around him. It's genuinely impressive filmmaking on every level.
The Future Of Star Wars
Though the credit for these scenes can't lie solely with Howard, she does execute them all flawlessly. Her egoless, competent direction has helped create some of the best "Star Wars" TV in recent memory, and it's about time the films got the Bryce Dallas Howard treatment as well. Despite whatever recent "Star Wars" directors may say, the films have suffered from competing visions, and from the egos driving those respective visions. Given the recent trajectory of the films, maybe an "actor's director" is just what the franchise needs moving forward.
The narrative on recent "Star Wars" projects hasn't always made cohesive sense for one reason or another. Even with the best intentions, the story in question can be lost behind spectacle. Howard, who cut her teeth on the collaborative "Mandalorian" set, is a storytellers at Lucasfilm with an understanding of the larger narrative — in every sense of the word. She's also got a refreshing perspective for "Star Wars" moving forward, and seems to know exactly when to rely on nostalgia and when to introduce new ideas.
Howard's slate is, understandably, pretty full for the foreseeable future. With her feature debut on the horizon — and the "Jurassic World" franchise gearing to return — it's not clear when or even if Howard would be able to direct a "Star Wars" film. Still, she seems keen to continue her work behind the camera, and if all goes well with "Flight of the Navigator," it'd make sense for her to continue her collaboration with Disney.
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The post Okay, Bryce Dallas Howard, You Can Direct a Star Wars Movie Now appeared first on /Film.