Star Wars has never been the sort of franchise to glorify graphic violence, so it’s a bit of a shock to witness the bloodbath going on behind the scenes at LucasFilm.
Merely weeks after Ron Howard replaced ousted co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller on what we assume will be called Han Solo: A Star Wars Story, LucasFilm has once again announced a great disturbance in the Force: Colin Trevorrow will no longer be directing the third film of the current new trilogy, the forthcoming and still-untitled Star Wars: Episode IX. Now, just a few days after announcing Trevorrow’s dismissal, while fans and the media are still collecting their breath, LucasFilm has confirmed the return of “Episode VII” director J.J. Abrams to co-write and direct “Episode IX.”
It makes perfect sense for LucasFilm to revert to the man who successfully steered the relaunch of the saga with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You may think “Episode VII” is too much of a rehash of the best bits of the original trilogy, but there’s no denying Abrams made a movie that looks and sounds and smells and feels more like the Star Wars films of our youth than did any of its prequels.
The separation of a director from a huge movie is indeed a big deal, especially when the ousted director has shepherded the project through a lengthy pre-production process (see also Edgar Wright on Ant-Man), but for fans nonplussed by Colin Trevorrow’s stupendously successful but stylistically barren Jurassic World, and for anyone who caught a whiff of the putrid reviews for Trevorrow’s subsequent The Book of Henry, the news of his dismissal wasn’t exactly unwelcome. If I can speak for all of us Star Wars devotees, we’ve been scratching our heads ever since Trevorrow’s name was initially announced, so we say goodbye and good luck on any other movie—just so long as that movie doesn’t take place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
Trevorrow will join Gareth Edwards, Josh Trank, and Lord & Miller as other disgraced Star Wars ex-directors tossed into the Sarlacc Pit.
Gareth Edwards was reportedly unavailable for critical reshoots on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Tales of an unwatchable rough cut stressed the tone was way off the mark. LucasFilm hired writer/director Tony Gilroy, who also tidied up the script and is responsible for visualizing the film’s best set piece involving a certain mad Sith wielding a red lightsaber. I wasn’t blown away by Edwards’ 2014 rehash of Godzilla but figured the suits at LucasFilm could steer him properly. We may never know for sure the full extent of Gilroy’s contributions, but at least a dozen missing “money” shots from early trailers suggest a lot of Edwards’ material was jettisoned during the eleventh-hour reshoot and reedit phase. Rogue One is a mixed bag, to be sure, but it proves there is ample room in the Star Wars universe for stories not dominated by squabbling Skywalkers.
Josh Trank of Chronicle and the Fantastic Four reboot was hired by LucasFilm to develop a stand-alone Boba Fett movie. Reports of Trank’s combative prima donna behavior on the set of Fantastic Four led to his ouster, and even though a Star Wars bounty hunter movie sounds pretty cool, the project is currently dormant in favor of the upcoming Han Solo story and the newly announced Obi-Wan Kenobi movie.
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller evidently veered too far from the Han Solo script, and the central actor’s performance was reportedly compared to Jim Carrey’s antics in Ace Ventura—much to the chagrin of co-screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan and LucasFilm head honcho Kathleen Kennedy. After numerous warnings following disastrous screenings of dailies, LucasFilm gave the directing team a pink slip and recruited Ron Howard to get the project back on track and complete it in time for its rapidly approaching May 2018 release date. I won’t be surprised if this movie gets nudged back to Christmas 2018, and then “Episode IX” likewise pushed back from Summer 2019 to Christmas 2019—the yuletide time slot has twice proven to be quite lucrative for LucasFilm.
We’re presently three scant months out from the premier of Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we all expect it to be amazing, and we’ll likely be seeing a gorgeous new “final” trailer any day now. With so little turbulence during the production of “Episode VIII,” Johnson seemed to be the obvious choice to bring this current trilogy home, second only to J.J. Abrams, who famously admitted he loved Rian’s “Episode VIII” script so much he’s jealous he didn’t get to direct it himself.
With Abrams now confirmed to steer this new trilogy home, we can start buttering our popcorn for the imminent “Episode VIII,” and also keep our eyes peeled for evidence of actor Clint Howard popping up somewhere in Han Solo: A Star Wars Story.
While awaiting the announcement of a director for “Episode IX,” fellow Star Wars geeks had fun contemplating the list of filmmakers who could conceivably take over the reins of the saga.
With limitless Star Wars Story spin-off ideas and future subsequent “Episode” trilogies a fiscal certainty, let’s consider some of these possibilities for future filmmakers who have earned a right to play in the Star Wars sandbox:
Recent updates from the set of Han Solo are very encouraging, and LucasFilm is apparently quite happy with how efficiently Howard is fixing the broken ship he inherited. His reward for saving the movie—assuming it turns out to be good—could be another Star Wars gig.
Four words (three movies) that ought to make any sci-fi fan slobber with admiration: Sunshine, Dredd, and Ex Machina. Garland directed only the latter, but his next film—an adaptation of the fantasy novel Annihilation—sounds very ambitious. He also fits the mold of LucasFilm hiring young breakout directors who can be bossed around. Er, I mean, who can fulfill the vision of the company.
Okay, so he hasn’t ever directed a huge blockbuster, but for his storied history of screenwriting on LucasFilm classics, methinks it’s time for the Star Wars overlords to give the man a shot in the pilot’s chair.
I wouldn’t have initially though the writer of the first three Bourne Identity movies and the director of Michael Clayton and The Bourne Legacy would be an ideal match for LucasFilm, but if Gilroy is indeed responsible for the resuscitation of Rogue One and credited for its success, then he seems a safe choice to take on any future Star Wars Story.
He made his bones working on the special effects crews for the original trilogy films, he has a history of working in the art department on other LucasFilm projects from the Ewok movies to Indiana Jones, and he directed The Rocketeer and Captain America: The First Avenger. Why hasn’t this guy directed a Star Wars movie yet?
He made the best of the eight Harry Potter movies, and his sci-fi credentials include Children of Men and Gravity. His wistful touch would make for a distinctive and perhaps even charming Star Wars movie, but just how much license would LucasFilm grant him to tweak the tone? As evidenced by the tumultuous productions of Rogue One and Han Solo, perhaps not too much.
Who says a woman director cannot play in the Star Wars sandbox? Bigelow is certainly qualified to take on a huge production like Star Wars—just look at how “big” Point Break, Strange Days and K-19 seem despite their relatively modest budgets, and her Oscar-winning work on Iraqi war story The Hurt Locker and her taut direction of the Osama Bin Laden flick Zero Dark Thirty elevate her to the top tier of action directors, male or female. Sure, everybody in Hollywood is currently gaga for Patty Jenkins and her much-deserved smash hit Wonder Woman, but Jenkins’ commitment to Wonder Woman 2 will keep her otherwise occupied for a while. If the director of a future spin-off story or perhaps even “Episode X” is to be a lady, LucasFilm would be wise to give Bigelow a call first.
Fincher got his start in the filmmaking world working on the visual effects for Return of the Jedi, so it would seem somehow poetic for him to return to the Star Wars universe as a director. Fincher has been known to join a film project then drop it like a hot potato, so fans may wonder if the famously fickle director might think Star Wars wouldn’t sufficiently satisfy or challenge him artistically. Still, a geek can dream. Speaking of which…
We all know George Lucas is no longer calling the shots on Star Wars, but Spielberg’s long association with Lucas on Indiana Jones, combined with their life-long friendship, makes him an obvious choice. A pipe dream? Perhaps, but didn’t Spielberg once say he’d love to do a Star Wars movie? If we discount the other branded godfathers of contemporary cinema—neither Tarantino, Nolan, Scorsese, Burton, Zemeckis, Cameron, Peter Jackson, nor Ridley Scott would likely be interested in (or available for) a Star Wars movie—Spielberg is the only name that makes any sense.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens December 18. The line starts right behind me.