Star Wars Sunday: Director Troubles

By Charlie Phillips | October 1, 2017


Even as anticipation builds for the next installments in the Star Wars film saga, The Last Jedi and the as yet unnamed Han Solo movie, there is also an undercurrent of worry. Directors Phil Lord & Christopher Miller were fired from the set of the Han Solo movie and replaced by Ron Howard, while the erstwhile director of Episode IX, Colin Trevorrow was fired after a dispute with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy.

Phil Lord, Christopher Miller & Ron Howard / Credit: Starpix

Subsequently, J.J. Abrams is now playing the revanchist and is slated to be Episode IX’s director. People naturally want future Star Wars movies to be enjoyable and all of this instability and conflict raises the specter of doubt. Obviously without a network of Bothan Spies we’ll never know the full details of what’s going on behind closed doors, but we can at least examine Lucasfilm’s public statements and try to read the tea leaves as it were.

George Lucas, Kathleen Kennedy & J.J. Abrams / Credit: Slash Film

For Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the reason given is “different creative visions on the film.” For Colin Trevorrow, they said their “visions for the project differ.” Lucasfilm’s press releases may not be loquacious but I’m inclined to take them at their word. Both the Lord & Miller duo and Trevorrow have proven themselves to be commercially successful and creatively celebrated filmmakers, Disney wouldn’t have fired them lightly.

Colin Trevorrow / Credit: Polygon

This also isn’t the first time the new batch of Star Wars have hit a snag creatively. You may remember the Rogue One controversy when reshoots were scheduled late in the game, leading many to worry that the movie would be disjointed and perhaps not even that entertaining. And while I can’t speak to everyone’s tastes, I found Rogue One to be enjoyable and there was no sign of the critical and financial backlash that accompanies a true cinematic stinker.

Gareth Edwards & Diego Luna / Credit: Vanity Fair

Ultimately, I’d say that losing two directors while in production is out of the ordinary but not unusual. Major Hollywood films have creative sign offs and ons quite regularly; to the extent that Star Wars sees this happen more often is most likely due to its higher profile and its need for a cohesive franchise.

Behind-the-scenes footage from The Last Jedi / Credit: Vanity Fair

In many ways, this spate of Star Wars spinoff movies is emblematic of the cinematic side of the saga usurping the function of the Expanded Universe and all of the creative dust-ups that have happened within it. In years past, the story of a young Han Solo might have been told through a comic book series or perhaps a novel. But now that it’s going to be a movie, the stakes are higher. Millions of people are going to see it and they expect it to “feel” like a classic installment of the saga. That’s quite a tall order.

The Force Awakens cast posing for June cover / Credit: Vanity Fair

So how should we feel about this? Personally I wouldn’t worry too much about what goes on behind the scenes. Whatever creative differences are occurring aren’t yours to worry about and ultimately aren’t indicative of how the movie will turn out. Plenty of films have gone on from troubled productions to become beloved classics, while plenty of no muss, no fuss productions come out as fun as a wet Wookie.

Your focus determines your reality. So why not focus on the fun part of Star Wars, reading the comics, watching the movies, etc, instead of the horse race business side of things?

Credit: Movie Pilot / Lucasfilm Ltd.

In the year 400 BC, Zeus in the form of a golden beam of light visited a mortal woman. The result of this union was a demigod! Charlie Phillips . . .  is not that demigod, but he is a fan of non sequitur, and comic books too if you can believe it. Charlie is a student at James Madison University where he studies Media Arts and Design. Currently he works as a writer for ComicBlitz and in television development.