If war is hell, then Star Wars is beginning to look like the filmmaking equivalent, at least where the spinoff movies are concerned.
In a surprise announcement Tuesday, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have stepped down from the directorial roles on the still-untitled Han Solo spinoff movie, five months into production and with the pic's release still scheduled for May 2018. The Hollywood Reporter's Erik Hayden, Graeme McMillan, Ryan Parker and Aaron Couch are still trying to wrap their heads around what's happening next.
McMillan: So, it looks like the movie industry has worked out how to take advantage of that exhausting 5 p.m. Pacific hunger for dramatic news that we've been trained to have from recent political stories. Am I the only one who feels utterly blindsided by this? What is even going on?
Couch: Lord and Miller have such a good track record that their hiring sparked a sigh of relief (followed by loud cheers) response akin to Joss Whedon joining the first Avengers movie or Rian Johnson boarding Episode VIII. It felt like a sure-thing. The movie was in good hands. At least, that's how I felt.
Hayden: Making a young Han Solo movie seemed like the trickiest spinoff story from the beginning. The character is based on a beloved actor whose legacy could easily overwhelm the film. And Harrison Ford wasn't that "old" when he first played the smuggler in the first place. So maybe that was why Lord and Miller could have attempted to do something more than a typical origin story, which led to inevitable Lucasfilm pushback?
Parker: I am just not excited for this film. Didn't like the idea from the beginning. It makes no sense. All that is going to be accomplished is some of the mystique of the character is going to be ruined. And like Erik pointed out, Harrison Ford was 35 in A New Hope. He was young Han Solo!
Graeme: If nothing else, this is another sign — after last year's last-minute Rogue One reshoots — that Lucasfilm keeps a tight leash on its property — even in the theoretically tertiary projects. But it's still a surprise: Lord and Miller feel like directors whose work would be tonally in sync with Star Wars as a whole. Between this, the Rogue One reshoots and Josh Trank leaving his own spinoff project before production, the Star Wars Story movies are beginning to feel like a poisoned chalice. Or, at least, a heavily overseen one.
Couch: A poisoned chalice? That's interesting. Rogue One turned out well, but Gareth Edwards hasn't set a new project yet. Who could begrudge a much-needed break? But it's curious.
Hayden: Maybe one reason why Rogue One worked well, despite reshoots and all the bad buzz that preceded its release, was that the Lucasfilm team knew the story that it needed to deliver. It had to match up with the beginning of A New Hope perfectly. We know nothing about the plot of the young Han Solo film, but it could include anything. And that's where those plans can turn into those irreconcilable "creative differences" that led to Lord and Miller's departure. Was it going to be too much of a comedy? A Western? Didn't its cinematographer recently say they were going to "break some rules"?
Graeme: So, what happens to the movie now, realistically? Lucasfilm has said that the movie is still scheduled to be released 11 months from now — that feels like something that might change, considering that it was going to be the first summer Star Wars since 2005. Pushing it back to the mid-December date of The Force Awakens, Rogue One and The Last Jedi buys it some breathing room without making it feel that delayed. (In fact, it might even feel better to have more than six months between Star Wars movies. Heresy, I know!)
Couch: There are a few weeks left to go on shooting — plus previously scheduled reshoots. This feels fairly unprecedented, but then again I wonder how different this is than the Gareth Edwards situation, when Tony Gilroy became more influential on Rogue One. I can't help but think all the way back to 1980's Superman II, which saw Richard Donner exit and second unit director Richard Lester step in. Do they literally just need a shooter? It seems like they need more than that, to see it through not only in completing the filming but also through post, where so much of a movie can be found.
Parker: It must have been a massive disagreement. Perhaps something was changed to be too kid-friendly? I know these two directors did the Lego films, but they also did the Jump Street films, so clearly they like their adult content to have some bite.
McMillan: We'll likely never know the answer to this, but one last question: How much of what's been shot in the, what, five months of production to date will end up in the finished movie? Is there going to be a great "lost" Han Solo movie for Lucasfilm to release in 2038 due to fan demand, or is what's going to be seen onscreen essentially going to be what was always meant to be seen, just with different editing?