Star Wars and Directors
I think that many fans are worried that Lucasfilm is not letting its directors have the creative control needed to make great, not just good, Star Wars films. In this age of shared universe film making a lot of the creative decisions are now made by film company executives in an attempt to ensure quality control of their product. It is show business for a reason. Purchasing Lucasfilm cost Disney $4.05 billion. Because of that gargantuan investment, Disney wants to make sure they get large returns. J.J. Abrams did that for them. The Force Awakens made $2.066 billion at the box office, making just about half of their money back for their purchase of Lucasfilm. However, when directors like Josh Trank or Colin Trevorrow had some failures in film making, they said adios. Creative differences with Phil Lord and Chris Miller led them to hire Ron Howard to complete the still untitled Han Solo film. When Gareth Edwards' Rogue One wasn't up to snuff Lucasfilm brought in Tony Gilroy for reshoots.
What all of this boils down to is safety. J.J. Abrams was the safe choice to replace Colin Trevorrow. J.J. Abrams made them a lot of money with The Force Awakens and the film was a satisfying enough entry into the Star Wars saga. He will likely be able to replicate those results with his direction of Episode IX. And for fans who remember the prequels, satisfying enough is often just fine. I remember going to each prequel film and hoping that this one would be the one to tie everything together and at least meet expectations. I never really found that until the last few moments of Revenge of the Sith and even that felt rushed. George Lucas took huge risks with his concepts for the prequels and ended up taking some huge losses. When safety produces a film that is a cut above the prequels I would say that J.J. Abrams is one the best choices for Episode IX.
Still, I would love to see a Star Wars film that really takes us into new territories as far its story and relationships. I would also love to see new visual techniques in Star Wars as well. One of the reasons I am really excited to see The Last Jedi is that Rian Johnson is supposed to be doing something unexpected and different. Even the trailer had the unexpected twist of Luke saying that the Jedi must end and that there was more to the Force than light, dark, and balance. These are all good signs. But despite Rian Johnson's statements to the contrary, I am worried that Luke and Rey's relationship will echo too much of Yoda and Luke's relationship. I am worried that we may have the Rebels on the run from the Empire again, except this time the names are changed to the Resistance and The First Order. I am not looking for another The Empire Strikes Back in terms of having a similar plot to that film. What I am looking for is a film that expands on the Star Wars universe in the way the The Empire Strikes Back did. Irvin Kershner, although a veteran director and George Lucas' film professor, was an unorthodox, and perhaps risky, choice for a Star Wars film. Irvin Kershner made films about relationships and drama, but that experience ended up being perfect for The Empire Strikes Back.
What I would argue is that great care must be taken to find a director that is fit for the task at hand. If the task of Disney and Lucasfilm is to keep making safe films on par with the likes of The Force Awakens and Return of the Jedi, then a director like J.J. Abrams is a great choice because he will make films of that standard. However, if they want to make another A New Hope or The Empire Strikes Back, they may have to stretch further and take some more risk. I would argue that you can mitigate some of that risk by bringing in an accomplished director who also has streaks of novelty and strangeness in their film making. Someone like Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, There Will Be Blood) would be a great choice in my opinion, not only because he has a lot of experience, but because he has also made very unique and captivating films. Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth, and Pacific Rim) has always been a no-brainer for me because of his experience on big-budget films and his use of puppetry and practical effects that could be easily married to the style of the Original Trilogy. He reportedly wants to make a Jabba the Hutt film and I honestly would be very excited to see that happen because I trust him to be able to deliver on the big-budget effects of such a movie and on the unique storytelling needed for a tale on the personification of scum and villainy. Plus, we really need to see a non-CGI Jabba the Hutt puppet again.
My above choices are just a couple of examples of great, but unique filmmakers who could take Star Wars to new heights. I hope filmmakers like them are able to make installments of Star Wars films one day and I have high hopes for Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi.
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