It has been no secret that there’s been a game of Director Musical Chairs being played at Disney in regards to their newest and most lucrative acquired franchises: Marvel and Star Wars. I mention Star Wars and not specifically Lucasfilm because, while they now also own Indiana Jones, development has been moss-gathering for that project in comparison to Star Wars. First, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller get pulled from the Han Solo spinoff to be replaced by safe choice Ron Howard, who let’s face it, also makes Disney movies without the logo.
Now, Colin Trevorrow (of Jurassic World fame), who apparently got the call two years ago to direct episode nine, has been cast off. What creative, unique and franchising loving filmmaker replaces him? None other than JJ Abrams! That name might sound familiar, as he is the guy who already made a Star Wars movie, Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Another safe pick. Another uninspired, paint-by-numbers, safe pick.
Seems like just an empty chair, doesn’t it? But man, these cast off directors try to make it seem like they’re not under the heel until they get the boot. When Trevorrow first got the gig he went on record to say the job of being at the helm of the picture was “not an assignment.” Well now, I think you know how much your input is truly valued. The truth is, Star Wars fans have ideas in their heads as to the kind of stories they want to tell, and if it matches the studio’s ideas, then you’re golden. If you try to do something daring or different, you end up outside of the House the Mouse Built like Lord and Miller. But hey, at least they got to make SOME of their movie.
With the hiring of Abrams, it signals the end of a brief moment of originality. I would say it died with Ron Howard coming onboard, but now it shows that Disney won’t even chance it.
Rogue One stands alone
I loved Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It was different, good different. It was gritty (god knows I hate that phrase), romantic, and depressing. It was like my Empire Strikes Back. What was most spectacular was that grit. The grit of war, sacrifice of your moral center, sacrifice of your beliefs and even your life. It was heavy. You look at the war between the Rebellion and the Empire through human eyes. Because, while human in name and whiny attitude, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo are little different, aren’t they? They’re a little bigger than human. Leia was bigger than human, Chewbacca, literally bigger and not human…what was I saying? Oh yeah! War! Rebellion! Sacrifice! All things that seem to be missing from the first series. You forget that people are fighting this war that apparently gets decided by religious wizards wielding glow swords.
Stakes are high…and real! I have a friend that gets wet at the sight of Darth Vader because she loves fucked up guys but bitches about them when she dates them. Apparently, murdering children is ok but looking at porn is a no no (#priorities). Not only that, VERY shortly into A New Hope, we see Darth and Tarkin fire the Death Star at full power and completely destroys Alderaan. Millions of people gone just like that. In Abrams’ effort we see multiple planets destroyed by, get this…an even BIGGER Death Star. They’re gone and I feel nothing. Meanwhile, on Jedha! We saw the non moon’s ability to wreak havoc at less than full strength. We saw a wave of earth crash upon the city and obliterate life. I felt those deaths. Would a director like Abrams even be allowed to recreate elements of this movie with his newest effort? I posit, no.
This is re-dawning of the studio system. Look, re-shoots and re-castings, and hirings and firings happen all of the time in Hollywood. They happened quite a bit even on large budget and large box office films in the past, before the age of the Internet. However, the main difference now is that the studios have a schedule to keep. Studios like Disney and Warner Bros. want to put out these blockbusters every couple of years to keep that money train a-rollin’! They cannot afford to have a potentially billion dollar grossing film lying in development hell for years at a time. So the studio has that mandate: either our way or the highway. They don’t want to test out new and different ideas. They don’t want these “creative types” fucking with their money. They have a system. A system I totally buy, by the way! They got their hooks in me, I won’t lie. I’ll see them all! But ultimately, I go and I watch, and I walk out of the theater and think about the things that I would’ve done to make it cooler for me, but then I remember this is just about the kids.
I go back to Trevorrow’s first interview in 2015 when he first got the director spot, and he says this is about giving Star Wars to our kids. And I’m curious as to why? Episode four came out when my dad was just 12 years old. Those first three Star Wars were his generation’s Star Wars. Now, the prequels came out when I was a teenager, but I still consider four, five, and six to be my Star Wars. I never understood why Abrams had to rehack the same beats from A New Hope, because A New Hope already existed.
I’m excited for The Last Jedi, bro. It looks kind of depressing, and for some reason I like that kind of shit (maybe just a sad commentary on my life). Although there had been no reports of the studio butting heads with director Rian Johnson during filming, he was offered the seat for episode nine and declined. Part of me wonders why. Part of me has a hypothesis. Part of me is a cynical asshole.