Yet again the Star Wars franchise is having difficulties with directors. After recently announcing that Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow and Lucasfilm have “mutually chosen to part ways on Star Wars: Episode IX” since apparently their “visions for the project differ,” Lucasfilm have now announced that The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams will return to the director’s chair to wrap up the sequel trilogy – also meaning that the release date has been pushed back seven months, from May 2019 to December 2019.
All definitely a blow for Star Wars fans… or is it?
A long time ago in a studio far far away… Star Wars was being made and directed by none other than writer and creator George Lucas. A few years later, the director’s chair was handed to the wonderful Irvin Kershner for The Empire Strikes Back, one of the greatest sequels of all time. Then move on to Return of the Jedi, where Richard Marquand steps in to direct. After a small hiatus, the prequel trilogy hits cinemas, with George Lucas back to direct all three (something many people wish he hadn’t). 10 years pass before we get to The Force Awakens, directorial duties in the very capable hands of J.J. Abrams, followed by spin-off Rogue One, directed by Gareth Edwards, and the upcoming spin-off and sequel The Last Jedi and the Untitled Han Solo Film, helmed by Rian Johnson and Ron Howard respectively.
Obviously Star Wars has a history of playing musical chairs with its directors – now seeing a total of seven directors over eleven films (three trilogies and two spin-offs). But it’s been especially mad with the last two big announcements; namely Phil Lord and Christopher Miller departing from the Untitled Han Solo Film to be replaced by Ron Howard, and now Colin Trevorrow is swapped out for J.J. Abrams. Changing directors after they’ve worked for so long on a project is a bold move, showing perhaps a sign of weakness or sign of fascistic strength on the part of Lucasfilm – either way it doesn’t make them look good (especially now they’re part of Disney, whose Marvel franchise also is known for being hard-handed with a way of getting rid of directors (namely Joss Whedon and Edgar Wright)).
What seems strange though is that they all seem to be perfectly sound and excellent choices for directors, on paper at least. Trevorrow may have been (unfairly) criticised harshly for his recent Book of Henry, but he’s still the man behind Jurassic World, an excellent example of a film that was both a huge box office success and a very good and enjoyable film in its own right. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller come under this banner too – whilst I may not personally be a fan of 21 Jump Street, that film, along with its sequel, did very well critically and commercially, while The Lego Movie too was a huge hit. These are not edgy directors trying to change the status quo and do something wild and different in an attempt to revolutionise cinema – these are just talented directors who have a proven and effective ability to make enjoyable, successful films. So should Lucasfilm/ Disney be criticised for getting rid of them?
Sadly, unless you’re in the loop and depending on whose side you’re on, this is impossible to say. We know what’s been announced, and we can analyse that however we want and take what we can from it. In many ways, I respect Lucasfilm for being so hard-handed – whereas a director can come in, make the Star Wars movie he wants, and just leave, Lucasfilm have to continue, seeing the bigger picture and striving to make sure that everything fits into place. More than this, even when they get rid of what should be perfect directors for their films, their projects do still seem to land on their feet, as they get more great directors to fill their shoes – Ron Howard and Star Wars veteran J.J. Abrams are just as excellent choices as their directing predecessors.
So long as Lucasfilm are passionate and sure about the bigger picture they want Star Wars to be, and if they can still replace directors with equally talented filmmakers with a history of success behind them, then we shouldn’t worry and should put our trust that they will continue to give us wonderful adventures in a galaxy far far away…
Despite all this, however, it is worrying and I can’t help but feel a disturbance in the force… but clearly Colin Trevorrow wasn’t our last hope – there is another…