Star Wars has just experienced its first full-blown scandal since the prequels angered fans the world over. Lauded comedy directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller have been fired from the solo Han Solo movie, with creative differences cited by all parties. Reportedly, the film was only three weeks from the end of principle shooting, with the main source of contention being the reshoots. Industry insiders claim that Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy wanted to change the production to be more quintessentially Star Wars, while the directors didn't want to compromise their vision.
And herein lies the problem. With the firing of Lord and Miller, Lucasfilm has made it very clear that they aren't interested in any risk-taking or new interpretations. We're left wondering who really knew best in this scenario, and whether Kennedy's method is the best way to ensure all Star Wars movies are recognizable as such — or whether this adherence to tradition will nip anything innovative in the bud, dooming the franchise to endlessly repeat itself.
The Good: Continuity, Style, And Depth Of Story
Continuity is one of Lucasfilm's driving forces in this new age of Star Wars. As soon as Disney purchased the franchise from George Lucas, they took steps to ensure that their new vision would be the only vision from now on. This meant banishing the fan-beloved Expanded Universe from canon so that Lucasfilm could start afresh, creating a web of interconnected stories that flesh out the movies while planting hints for The Force Awakens and beyond.
So far the results are, as Darth Vader would say, most impressive. Everything from Marvel's Star Wars comics, to new novels, to the Disney XD animated shows is tied together. Avoiding pitfalls like inconsistent plot threads and characters, Lucasfilm has managed to corral its sprawling franchise thanks to the efforts of the Story Group, who oversee all Star Wars creations as they rewrite this galaxy's fictional history.
While the divide between MCU's TV and film divisions becomes more obvious, and other studios like Warner (DC) and Fox (X-Men) forego connecting their TV and movie projects, Lucasfilm stands apart as the only studio that has truly realized the potential of an interconnected universe. And that's nothing to sneer at.
Above all, this is thanks to Kathleen Kennedy's influence. With one of the best producing resumes in Hollywood — she's been involved in classics like E.T., Indiana Jones, Schindler's List, Back To The Future and many more — Kennedy approached Star Wars with a carefully strategized battle plan. We have her to thank for innovations like Rey, Star Wars' first female protagonist, as Kennedy has spoken frequently about how she champions diversity in Hollywood.
But as much as Kennedy is forging forward, she learned the hard way that Star Wars must always feel like Star Wars. Everyone at Lucasfilm keenly remembers the backlash to the prequels; as much as these films were critiqued for bad writing and direction, the sticking point was that they strayed too far from the original trilogy, with technology that was too advanced and a story riddled with plot holes. Because of this, Kennedy must ensure that all new spin-of movies — and there are many in Star Wars' future — stay true to the original vision. And yet, this method might just prevent the franchise from becoming truly great.
The Bad: A Franchise Stuck On Repeat Forever
As much as The Force Awakens was a much-needed return to Star Wars' roots, it also had its share of criticisms for being too repetitive. Although The Last Jedi hasn't come out yet, it's already looking to be very reminiscent of another dark second film in a Star Wars trilogy — though Rian Johnson keeps shooting down the idea that The Last Jedi is just another Empire Strikes Back.
Perhaps in a bid to prove that Star Wars isn't stuck on repeat, Lucasfilm keep hiring high profile indie directors like Gareth Edwards, Rian Johnson, and of course Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Yet as interesting a move as this is, it seems that Lucasfilm will still bash these directors into shape, preventing them from really making the films their own. Which somewhat defeats the point of hiring them in the first place.
Take Gareth Edwards, for example. Rogue One had infamously extensive reshoots which changed so much about the film that barely any footage from the trailers made it into the final cut. We'll never know exactly what was changed, but we can tell that Jyn's personality was drastically altered, and much of Edwards' vision for the movie was tweaked in the final cut.
According to reports, Edwards was fine with the six month reshoots, which were ordered by Kennedy — yet, after Kennedy pushed reshoots for #HanSolo, Miller and Lord protested so much that they were fired. Although the final cut of Rogue One was fantastic, we'll never know whether Han Solo really needed extensive reshoots, or whether Lord and Miller's vision would have resulted in the alternate Star Wars movie the franchise is desperate for.
The fact is, Star Wars needs a bit of innovation if it's going to survive as long as Lucasfilm want to rake in those ticket sales. Granted, the episodic saga movies need to retain the feel of Star Wars, but the anthology films are quite literally a different story. Many other franchises have employed several genre styles to keep their movies fresh — the MCU has featured a political thriller (The Winter Solder) and a space opera (Guardians Of The Galaxy), and even the DCEU is starting to branch out with Wonder Woman as a war movie epic. So the question is: Did Kennedy firing Lord and Miller mean that she prevented Han Solo from becoming the comedy-action heist movie we all hoped it would be?
Of course, playing with genre is all well and good, but Star Wars is such a scifi staple that it practically is its own genre — a space opera / fantasy blend with enough tropes to inspire countless ripoffs. Straying too far from that might mean we end up with another prequel situation, and that's not what we want for Han Solo, a movie focusing on one of the franchise's most recognizable, influential, and enduring characters. Perhaps that's why Kennedy clashed with Lord and Miller — other reports have claimed that Kennedy wanted Solo to be less comedic, more suave, to really do the legendary character justice. In this case, maybe firing the directors really was the best decision, but we'll never know for sure.
Moving forward, we can only hope that Lucasfilm's dedication to the Star Wars style doesn't prevent the studio from daring to branch out a little — because as much as we love the franchise, there's only so many repetitive Star Wars movies audiences can take.
Tell us in the comments: Do you think firing Lord and Miller was the right thing for the Han Solo movie?