There has been a great disturbance in the Force. In fact, there's been a lot of disturbances in the Force recently. It's almost like something is wrong with Star Wars.
So, Colin Trevorrow has been removed as director of Star Wars Episode IX ahead of the film's early-2018 production. These sort of headlines may be familiar to you as just three months ago we were reporting on the removal of Phil Lord and Chris Miller from Han Solo, swiftly replaced with the social-savvy Ron Howard. And troubles as Lucasfilm are hardly 2017 news either: in terms of movie coverage, 2016 was dominated by reports of reshoots on Rogue One that boiled down to director Gareth Edwards' down-and-dirty vision being replaced by rewrites, reshoots and reedits overseen by Tony Gilroy; and in 2015, Josh Trank was ousted from the Boba Fett film weeks before a showreel was set to premiere at Celebration. And all that's ignoring the fact Michael Arndt was replaced on screenwriting duties by safe hand Lawrence Kasdan and Jack Thorne has already taken on Episode IX scripting.
Yes, Trevorrow's departure is just the latest in a line of behind-the-scenes issues at Lucasfilm on the Disney-era Star Wars. We have four films where directors have been replaced to varying degrees. That's four out of six, a worse troubled production batting rate than the oft-maligned DCEU. It's bad PR and based off tweets from other filmmakers under the Disney umbrella may cause some serious hiring issues in the future.
Of course, the movies we've got thus far have been successful and it'd be churlish to say what's coming up looks anything other than great. But, production-wise, we're at a point where Star Wars is seemingly off the rails. And that's a serious problem.
Why Does Lucasfilm Keep Hiring Duds?
Let's first look at the two recent departures. The biggest difference here is obviously that Lord and Miller almost got 85% of the way through production (and not a percentile more) before they left, whereas Trevorrow was still months off cameras rolling, but still both departed years after signing on - and have been handled in an oddly similar way.
For Han Solo, it was said in an official statement that "we had different creative visions on this film, and we’ve decided to part ways". For Episode IX, the line was "we have all come to the conclusion that our visions for the project differ". Both of those are fanciful ways of citing "creative differences", that age old adage, although considering the time these directors were on their respective projects - regardless of production development - it's strange. Solo's pair were hired in July 2015 and left in June 2017; Trevorrow came on in August 2015 and had now just left. Both were on the project for years before these differences seemingly became clear.
Sure, there can be miscommunication, but how can you go through one of the biggest casting calls of all time and a prep phase wherein the director managed to fit in a whole other film without differences of opinion emerging? If you can spend that long on a project with no one realizing something's off then there's a serious issue. Throw in Trank only leaving after Fantastic Four's behind-the-scenes drama (oh boy, look it up) and something's off.
What all these directors have in common is the reason for hiring: Trevorrow is said to have been eyed by Kennedy because of debut Safety Not Guaranteed before his billion-and-a-half smash Jurassic World; Lord and Miller were hired on Kasdan's recommendation; Trank presumably got in off the success of Chronicle. Basically, they were all hired on the promise of earlier films prior to major breakthroughs. Or, to put it another way, they were picked off early success without an understanding of how they got there.
When Disney first acquired the rights to make new Star Wars movies, there was a sense of them wanting to have unique voices who could provide a fresh take on the saga. That, quite simply, hasn't happened. J.J. Abrams was always going to deliver something fitting of the franchise and Rian Johnson (who seems to have gone through The Last Jedi with minimal drama) is the exception that proves the rule. Besides that, Kathleen Kennedy keeps hiring directors who prove to be unsuitable. And that's the problem.
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018