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Star Wars has been having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week.
On Tuesday came the shocking news that Phil Lord and Chris Miller had been taken off of the Han Solo stand-alone movie, with only a few weeks of principal photography left. The unprecedented move was announced late in the day with statements from the directors and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy that had a lot of talk about “different visions” and “creative differences.”
As The Hollywood Reporter reported Tuesday night, the reason for the split was in-fighting on the production between the old guard and new. The irreverent humor of Lord and Miller — the filmmakers who had the task of taking the ‘80s TV series 21 Jump Street and Lego bricks and spinning them into gold — clashed with the preconceived notions of what the feature should be according to Star Wars heavyweight Lawrence Kasdan, who penned the stand-alone with his son Jon. Lucasfilm’s Kennedy sided with Kasdan, and the rest is Twitter freak-out history.
The only person that would have any reason to be even remotely relieved about the Lord/Miller exit is Colin Trevorrow, who will be at the helm of Episode IX, and recently released a smaller passion project titled The Book of Henry.
The movie, which had been marketed as the “most original film of the summer,” was panned by critics and received a tepid response at its Hollywood premiere June 14, which was not attended by its biggest stars, Naomi Watts and Sarah Silverman. The premiere was a rough launch for a project that was largely ignored by audiences during an opening weekend that included Pixar’s Cars 3 and Tupac biopic All Eyez on Me.
The Book of Henry is holding at a 31 on Metacritic and a 24 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. The Focus Features limited release grossed a muted $1.4 million in its opening weekend across 579 theaters. In other words, Henry has not been reassuring for fans looking to Episode IX. The stakes couldn’t be higher since tragic circumstances have made Episode IX even more of a creative and emotional challenge than expected: Lucasfilm and Trevorrow have reworked the story following the untimely passing of Carrie Fisher in December.
The past week casts a pall over next month’s D-23, the fan event at which Disney will tout its upcoming projects. Two years ago, fans were treated to the first footage ever seen of Captain America: Civil War, while the first photo of the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story cast received praise. Lucasfilm is skilled at protecting its brands and delivering wows in a convention setting. But what will its messaging be for Han Solo, one of its biggest prizes of 2018? Will a new director, if named by then, be on hand to tout his or her vision for the project? Will fans be treated to the first footage? Perhaps the best way to handle it is to show off a new cast photo and the film’s title, and leave it at that.
It’s entirely plausible Lucasfilm didn’t plan to show off Han Solo at D-23. After all, Star Wars Celebration in April essentially ignored the spinoffs and put the focus on Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which is set to open six months earlier than the Han Solo movie. Likewise, Lucasfilm previously kept the lid on Last Jedi in favor of letting Rogue One have its time to shine, holding back a Last Jedi trailer until Rogue One had a chance to earn more than $1 billion at the box office.
What has become evident over the past few days is that the recent disturbance in the Force is two sides of the same Republic credit. In the case of Lord and Miller, it is clear that Lucasfilm didn’t actually trust the young filmmakers to whom it had bequeathed its franchise. In the case of Trevorrow, it’s apparent that maybe they shouldn’t? It’s worth noting Rogue One was a success after reshoots, and Lucasfilm will go to great lengths to make no movies that would hurt the brand. But either way you flip it, the confidence in the future of the Star Wars universe, both anthology and canon projects, have been called into question. And it’s only Wednesday.
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