This past week it was announced that Star Wars: Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow would be parting ways with LucasFilm. Though officially announced as parting ways over creative differences, Colin Trevorrow is now the third director to leave a Star Wars film before or during production in the new Disney era of Star Wars.
Back in June, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were replaced by Ron Howard four months into production of the stand alone Han Solo film. Prior to that, Gareth Edwards was forced to reshoot up to 40% of Rogue One, hence why the original trailer was so different from the final product. In 2015, Josh Trank was pulled prior to the production of an unnamed stand alone Star Wars film, after a dismal reception of his Fantastic 4 reboot with Fox.
Besides who will be replacing Colin Trevorrow as director in Episode 9, the biggest question being asked by Star Wars fans is: What is going on at LucasFilm?
Many are pointing their fingers at studio head Kathleen Kennedy to take the blame for the revolving door of directors. Others blame the executives at Disney for putting pressure on Kennedy and LucasFilm to hire inexperienced directors. Though there may be blame to go around on all fronts, I believe the rational for the revolving door of directors can be summarized in three areas.
The Next Big Thing in Hollywood
Trevorrow, has only directed two wide release films, one of them being the smash summer hit of 2015 Jurassic World. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who were pulled from the Han Solo stand alone Star Wars film in June, while still in production, had a little more experience in their directorial filmography, but it has only been in comedic or animated films, including 21 Jump Street. Josh Trank had his directorial debut in 2012 with the well received Chronicle but fell from Hollywood’s good graces with 2015’s fantastic flop, Fantastic 4.
All these directors have two things in common. They are young and have had a recent significant breakout hit film that propelled them to fame.
From a marketing standpoint, hiring a new young breakout director may be ideal. But this is Star Wars, you can’t play around! The entire Star Wars universe is connected. Whether it’s the eight films, the two animated series, the recently released comic books and novels or the upcoming amusement park lands in Disneyland and Walt Disney World, Star Wars cannon is sacred.
If a director begins to show signs of cracking or not being able or willing to deliver what LucasFilm wants, they are scrapped. Even if that is in the middle of production. The real question is why is LucasFilm taking chances on these young directors, only to part ways with them all, with the quasi-exception of Gareth Edwards? That’s unknown, but Star Wars is one of those franchises you don’t want to leave in unexperienced hands.
It could be said that the reason LucasFilm is having trouble with directors is as a production company they haven’t done a whole lot recently.
Think back to 2012 when it was announced that the Walt Disney Company would be buying LucasFilm and we would be getting new Star Wars movies every year for the foreseeable future. Can you name a single LucasFilm production since Star Wars Episode 3 besides 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? Most people can’t, because there were only three. The Clone Wars Animated film, Red Tails, which flopped and an animated film called Strange Magic which is LucasFilms biggest box office flop to date, even bigger than 1986’s Howard the Duck!
It’s not that LucasFilm doesn’t know what they are doing, in the grand scheme of things though, they are a medium sized production company with little recent experience. There is a learning curve here. It could be said that LucasFilm head Kathleen Kennedy in all her experience in Hollywood, has recognized and fixed the problems early enough that ultimately none of these films were far enough along in production or post production where the problems could not be rectified before wide release.
Since it’s acquisition by Disney, things at LucasFilm have been going at hyperdrive speeds. A new Star Wars film every year along with a new Indiana Jones film among other things, has put LucasFilm in it’s busiest season in history.
Revenge of the Prequels
What’s your favorite Star Wars film? I bet you didn’t say one of the prequels! What’s your least favorite Star Wars film? You probably said Episode One, Two or Three. Though the prequels were a financial success, and there are some who love them, in my personal and popular opinion, they were bad. Very bad! The special effects and CGI were overused and did not hold up over time. The directing by George Lucas is comparable to that of a first year film student. The acting was dry and uninspired. The writing and storytelling relied on exposition and pointless dialogue. I could go on for a while, but I’ll spare you.
A George Lucas-less LucasFilm is very aware of the distain film fans have for the Star Wars prequels. One major misstep and the pop culture hammer of judgment will come down hard. LucasFilm, probably with the encouragement of Disney, wants to learn from the sins of it’s past, so they are determined not to repeat the mistakes of the prequels.
Many who are pointing the finger at Kathleen Kennedy are probably unaware of her vast experience as an associate producer, producer and executive producer on over seventy films. Kathleen Kennedy is one of the most experienced, influential and talented producers in Hollywood in the last 40 years. At the risk of sounding like a Kathleen Kennedy fanboy, there is no one more qualified to be at the helm of LucasFilm.
With all that said, I don’t worry all that much. In Kathleen I’ll trust! The ship will be righted. Star Wars will be okay! Let’s not let the memory of the prequels worry us Star Wars fans too much. At least until they produce that Aunt Beru stand alone film!
Andy Herndon is a husband, dad, film geek, Disney nerd, video editor, YouTuber, host of the DCast Podcast and film student at Southern Oregon University currently residing in Southern Oregon. You can follow him on all the various social media networks at @andyherndon, listen to him on www.thedcast.com or see him on YouTube at youtube.com/andyherndon.