By Tom Holste
Sep. 9, 2017
By now, you’ve probably all heard about Colin Trevorrow being removed as director from the as-yet-unnamed Star Wars Ep. IX, the final film in the Skywalker saga. (There will be other Star Wars films, but this will be the end of the Episodic cycle involving the Skywalker-Solo clan.)
This news comes barely two months after Phil Lord and Chris Miller were removed from the upcoming unnamed movie about a young Han Solo, replaced with Ron Howard, an old friend of George Lucas and an accomplished director in his own right. And it also comes after director Tony Gilroy was brought in to do extensive reshoots on Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One last year (although Edwards cooperated with the reshoots and got to keep his name on the film). And this is after director Josh Trank was removed from an untitled Star Wars spinoff movie.
While it’s natural to be slightly nervous about all these abrupt behind-the-scenes changes, I suppose it means that Kathleen Kennedy (the current head of Lucasfilm) is leaving nothing to chance, so perhaps it’s cause for relief.
As for Colin Trevorrow, I enjoyed Safety Not Guaranteed, and Jurassic World was passable fun, but I don’t think it had very much to do with the direction. As stated in an earlier blog post, I think it had more to do with good timing on a film fueled by nostalgia that offered a nice alternative to people tired of superhero movies. Don’t get me wrong, Trevorrow did his job well, but I don’t think the film’s massive success was about that.
Many people are suggesting that Rian Johnson, writer-director of the upcoming Episode VII: The Last Jedi, should take over Ep. IX as well. Rian Johnson might be a good choice, but frankly, I’ve been a little nervous about his work. Looper is certainly a clever film, but there’s nothing in that movie at all that suggests that Johnson knows how to handle the light-hearted, family-friendly tone of a Star Wars film. And yet, they let him write and direct this Episodic film and co-write the next one. Add in Mark Hammill’s comments about “fundamentally disagreeing” with every choice Johnson made regarding Luke, and I’m a little on edge about this one guy having so much say over my favorite franchise.
Having said all that, Kathleen Kennedy has seen Johnson’s work on this film and kept him around, when she hasn’t done the same for others. We know she takes this too seriously to just let anyone do whatever they want, so I consider it a high compliment to him that he’s been allowed so much creative control.
I’m not outright saying he’ll do a bad job. I’m saying I don’t think it’s wise to hand over direction of the next film to him when we don’t know how audiences have reacted to this film yet. (All that being said, I’m still looking forward to December. Again, I haven’t seen Johnson’s work on The Last Jedi, while Kennedy has, so I’ll defer to her judgment if she picks him for Ep. IX.)
So who should Lucasfilm go with? Here are my thoughts on the other names I’ve heard bandied about:
JJ Abrams: He did direct some Star Wars-y stuff before working on The Force Awakens, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by his work on this franchise. He initially resisted taking on the job because he didn’t think he was the right choice; he thought he was too attached to the source material to have an objective eye. He may have been right on that.
George Lucas: Yes, heaven help us, a lot of fans are insisting that this is the time for George to step back into the franchise. There’s even an online petition to get Disney to hire him. I say: No, no, a thousand times, no! George is great at many things — he’s a creative visionary and a technological genius — but he is not a director of actors, nor is he a good editor.
Joe Johnston: The director of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Jumanji and Captain America: The First Avenger — as well as an old-school Lucasfilm employee who created Boba Fett’s armor, among other things — is a solid choice, but he’s working on the next Narnia film, The Silver Chair, and I think Narnia needs him more than Star Wars at the moment. I hope he doesn’t jump ship on that project. I’d like to see him direct a different Star Wars film later on, though.
Ron Howard: He’ll probably do a solid job on the Han Solo movie, but I don’t want him to feel rushed trying to also get Ep. IX out the door.
Brad Bird: Would do a great job, but is busy with Incredibles 2 at the moment.
Steven Spielberg: Gets asked every time. He isn’t interested because this isn’t his franchise.
Robert Zemeckis: The director of Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Forrest Gump is rumored to be in talks to direct DC Comics’ Flashpoint, but if that doesn’t happen, he would be an exciting choice for Ep. IX, and his career could use a boost right now (his recent films haven’t done so well), but I don’t know what his interest level is. He reportedly turned down directing one of the Episodic prequels (as did Spielberg and Ron Howard).
Ryan Coogler: Director of Creed, so he knows how to take long-running franchises and give them new leases on life that are both popular and acclaimed. He’s also finishing up work on the Marvel movie Black Panther. I have no problems with this choice; I only put it at the bottom because I haven’t yet seen any of his movies.
Now here are some names I haven’t heard, but would be interesting choices:
Jon Favreau: Director of the first two Iron Man movies, among others. I know a lot of people don’t like the second one, but I don’t think its problems were related to the direction (and I kind of love the movie anyway).
David Fincher: Yes, as with Rian Johnson, his work is very dark, but he’s also another former Lucasfilm employee (ILM, specifically) that’s gone on to direct movies, which makes him an interesting choice.
Hettie MacDonald or Rachel Talalay: It would be nice to have some women behind the camera, and both of these directors have helmed fan-favorite episodes of Doctor Who. MacDonald worked on “Blink,” nearly everyone’s choice for best episode ever, and Talalay directed the acclaimed season finales of the past two seasons. Yes, TV is somewhat of a different animal than features, but they’ve shown that they can handle special effects and tight pacing while pulling strong performances out of their actors.
Anyway, it will be interesting to see how this all develops!