11th Sep2017

Culture Dump #8: Is Disney trying to direct it’s ‘Star Wars’ directors?

by Simon Bland

star-wars-episode-ix

Feel that? There’s been a disturbance in the force… Earlier this week Director Colin Trevorrow parted ways with 2019’s Star Wars: Episode XI just months before the debut of Rian Johnson’s eagerly anticipated The Force Awakens follow up, The Last Jedi. According to Disney’s official statement, ‘differing visions’ were to blame for the apparent ‘mutual’ parting, however exactly what the nitty-gritty details were that caused the Director and studio to butt-heads remain a mystery… for now at least.

One thing we do know? Trevorrow’s departure marks the third time Disney and Lucasfilm have ditched a director whilst they’ve been deep in production. Fantastic Four’s Josh Trank was the first to go. The studio giant announced his departure from a (still) mysteriously unnamed Star Wars spin-off shortly after he dropped out of a Star Wars Celebration panel at the eleventh hour, despite clocking up a year of prep work. Then earlier this year, Jump Street duo Chris Lord and Phil Miller were shown the blast doors while more than half-way through shooting their young Han Solo movie, with Ron Howard quickly installed to take their place. Clearly, these weren’t the directors the studio were looking for.

It makes you think: Do Disney and Lucasfilm really want these young filmmaking rebels to shape their coveted Star Wars universe or would they rather call the shots themselves? Recruiting talent with distinct styles has been the secret weapon of that other Disney powerhouse, the Marvel Universe. How else could they have escaped the repetitive strain of countless origin stories and stepping-stone sequels? Whether it’s Kenneth Branagh bringing a little thespian class to Thor or James Gunn setting a killer pulse to a relatively unknown property in Guardians of the Galaxy, a varying tone has been crucial in keeping audiences glued to their seats.

Star Wars is a different kettle of Nerfherders though. It’s a franchise so successful that most of us are unlikely to ever see the end of it. It’s also one that holds so much power and importance with fans, that those in control of its future are clearly quite cagey about steering it into new and uncharted territory. Getting a bad feeling about this situation? That’s because this trend of firing directors who get a little too familiar with the stories Disney have in mind and the universe Lucasfilm has spent decades fleshing out could very well lead to a decline in quality for the many Star Wars sequels and spin-offs currently in development. Especially considering the bad-blood stories that have surfaced months after each creative has been let go. Why would any emerging talent want to gamble their future career on such a high-risk investment?

It’s understandable though, to a degree. Nostalgia is undoubtedly a big part of Star Wars lore and while stepping too far off the beaten track would certainly be a misstep, Disney and Lucasfilm may have to loosen their force choke-hold on the directors they hire if they want to succeed with their ambitious multi-film plans. It could be their only hope.

Who do you think should take over Star Wars Episode IX? Let me know in the comments below!

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