The widely-negative response to director Colin Trevorrow’s The Book of Henry (read our review) has many fans concerned about the prospects of his upcoming Star Wars: Episode IX, but viewers should expect the filmmaker to still be behind the camera by the time the sequel makes its way into theaters. At the time of his hiring, Trevorrow was a polarizing pick for Star Wars 9, as his biggest claim to fame was 2015’s Jurassic World. A soft reboot of the Jurassic Park franchise, the movie managed to break box office records and earn $1.6 billion worldwide, but left some feeling cold due to puzzling storytelling decisions and thin characterizations. The hope was Trevorrow’s experience with dinosaurs would help him for his trip to a galaxy far, far away. After all, his debut, Safety Not Guaranteed, was critically acclaimed for its heartfelt narrative.
But while Jurassic World was slightly divisive at worst, Book of Henry is another matter altogether. As of this writing, its Rotten Tomatoes score is a paltry 22 percent, with pundits admiring its ambition, but taking issue with its baffling execution. The film attempts to balance three different tonal shifts, dealing with some pretty heavy and depressing subject matter. Instead of delivering an emotional experience, many were left in disbelief by The Book of Henry, with some accusing it of being manipulative and a disaster. Granted, a majority of the problems seem to deal with the script (which Trevorrow did not write), but as director, he deserves part of the blame for the way things turned out.
If the ever-passionate Star Wars fandom was iffy on Trevorrow based on Jurassic World (a fun, however silly, time at the movies), the reviews for The Book of Henry are cause for panic. With Episode IX poised to be the possible conclusion of the Skywalker saga, there’s a great deal of pressure on it to stick the landing and bring things to a satisfying close. Trevorrow is very much aware of this, but the fact is his résumé isn’t nearly as strong as his fellow sequel trilogy helmsmen, J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson. Some are calling for Trevorrow to be removed from Star Wars 9, but how realistic is that and how can Lucasfilm make sure Episode IX is as good as it can be?
Can Trevorrow Be Removed From Star Wars 9?
Viewers may recall that Josh Trank was removed from his planned Boba Fett spinoff film following reports about his unruly behavior on the set of Fantastic Four, so there is precedent here. However, the situations are radically different. Whereas Trank had barely started work on his movie, Trevorrow is deep in development of Episode IX. He was hired back in August 2015 and has been working hard on cracking the story ever since. For the better part of two years, Trevorrow has been in communication with Abrams and Johnson to ensure all three installments of the new trilogy line-up to tell a cohesive narrative. He’s already turned in a script draft, and Lucasfilm is happy with the progress enough to schedule Star Wars 9 for May 2019.
Of course, Trevorrow could be taken off the project, but it would set Lucasfilm greatly back. The studio is aiming to begin principal photography on Episode IX in January 2018, which is seven months from this writing. There would obviously have to be massive delays if Trevorrow was replaced, and this theoretical new director could be inclined to do a page one rewrite. Johnson mentioned there was no mapped out story for the sequels, which allowed for the filmmakers to have autonomy over their movies. If someone else came in and didn’t like where things were headed (when the story group is), it’s difficult to envision a new screenplay being completed in half a year (plus all the other pre-production work, like location scouting and casting new roles that has probably been done). And since Lucasfilm still has not announced the third Star Wars anthology, there’s currently nothing officially in the cards to slide up to that 2019 date to maintain the annual release schedule. That could change, but Lucasfilm would prefer to have another spinoff come out in 2020.
An argument can also be made that if Trevorrow is fired, it would be a bad look for the studio that could be interpreted as a knee-jerk reaction to one bad film. Nobody’s track record is spotless, and Trevorrow’s other two films have not inspired such vitriol. He caught the attention of none other than Steven Spielberg with Safety Not Guaranteed, an indie darling that Trevorrow worked on with screenwriter Derek Connolly (who is listed as a writer on Episode IX). While obviously a much smaller-scale film than Star Wars, Safety showed that the duo was more than capable of crafting fun character dynamics and an engaging story. One of the greatest strengths of the sequel trilogy is its ensemble, with fans responding positively to the likes of Rey, Finn, and Kylo Ren. The truly bizarre nature of The Book of Henry would make it a challenge for even the most legendary directors to handle properly. Trevorrow deserves credit for trying, and now that he’s seen the reaction, he’ll learn lessons that he’ll ideally carry over into Star Wars 9.
The bottom line is that even though Lucasfilm could take Trevorrow off Episode IX, that doesn’t mean they should. If The Book of Henry debacle happened a year or two ago instead of in 2017, the discussion would have more merit to it. As it stands, so much has been done on Star Wars 9 already (including starting from scratch following Carrie Fisher’s death), that Kathleen Kennedy and company just have to bite the bullet and hope for the best. They’re obviously pleased with Trevorrow’s work, or else he would have been removed a long time ago. For better or worse, the Jurassic World helmsman is their man, and now it’s on them to make it work out.