A million voices crying out in terror, but hardly silenced. Padawans across the Twitterverse fear something terrible has happened. Five months into production of the (as yet untitled) Young Han Solo movie, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy has fired its directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.
The film’s release date of May 25, 2018 remains unchanged, for now.
Following reports by The Hollywood Reporter and Variety, each sourced by unnamed insiders, opinions have erupted across professional and social media landscapes. Reactions are overwhelmingly on the side of Team Lord/Miller, the guys behind The Lego Movie, the 21 Jump Street films, and TV’s The Last Man On Earth.
Feeling like a lonely Obi-Wan in Tatooine exile, I find myself siding with Team Lucasfilm, even as I’m entirely perplexed and concerned by the move, especially in its timing. The truth is, Lord and Miller never should’ve been hired in the first place.
I say that as someone who greatly admires their talents and the very specific niche (and voice) they’ve carved out for themselves within the industry. But why on earth Kennedy and writer/Star Wars guru Lawrence Kasdan ever thought the Lord/Miller style of comedy was a right fit for a Han Solo tale (young, old, or otherwise) has always baffled me.
I’ve been skeptical from the start about this mismatch of directors and material, deferring to trust Kennedy and Kasdan based on successes thus far. That trust felt justified with the hiring of a superb cast.
But when I read this statement from a source in The Hollywood Reporter, it nutshelled my concerns from Day One:
- “People need to understand that Han Solo is not a comedic personality. He’s sarcastic and selfish.”
Exactly. And a very dry, laconic version of that personality too. Lord and Miller are great, but they are very off-brand for Han Solo.
So here we are, in the middle of a firing that, while I believe was necessary, is particularly shocking given its timing. How was this shift not made way back in 2016 during pre-production? Why did it take five months of actual filming to finally arrive at this conclusion?
I’ll grant a mulligan for trying something different with the initial hire, but the development process should’ve been more than enough for Lucasfilm to realize that Lord and Miller would not make the kind of Star Wars movie they wanted to produce. I’ve no doubt Lord/Miller could make a smart, clever send-up of the Star Wars mythos, and I’d even love to see it, but I don’t think it should be done in canon. Kennedy came to that same conclusion, too, but well-past due of what is fair to all parties involved (including, especially, the film itself).
Initial rumors of a replacement have zeroed in on Ron Howard as the front-runner, with Joe Johnston (Captain America: First Avenger, The Rocketeer) also a reported possibility. Generally speaking I have my reservations about Howard, but they revolve more around his penchant for Oscar-baiting. When it comes to big budget pop cinema, though, Howard could offer very reliable hands (if not particularly exciting ones), especially given his familiarity with Kennedy and her producer husband Frank Marshall.
Anxieties could be tempered, too, when realizing that this situation isn’t all that different from what happened on Rogue One. In effect, writer Tony Gilroy (the Bourne movies) was brought in after initial shooting was completed and oversaw extensive rewrites, reshoots, and final edit, relegating director Gareth Edwards to a second-tier collaborator. The only big difference between the two situations, it seems, is that Edwards was willing to submit to Lucasfilm’s creative authority and, for right or wrong, Lord & Miller were not.
Based on trailer clips that never made it into the stand-alone’s final cut, there’s a very intriguing alternative Rogue One out there that we’ll never see. Even so, it’s hard to complain about its success, both at the box office (2nd highest grossing Star Wars film ever) and overall positive reaction from fans and critics (some even hailed it as the best Star Wars movie since Empire). So as troublesome as this dramatic shift for the Young Han Solo movie is, it’s not without successful precedent.
The Variety and Hollywood Reporter pieces are definitely worth reading. Their references to on-set creative clashes between Lord/Miller and Kennedy, plus the directors’ penchant for improv conflicting with writer Kasdan’s stick-to-the-script ethic, all make for very insightful reportage.
(UPDATE: Another great scoop, from Star Wars News Net, about what led to the firing. The first person to speak up with concerns, it seems, was Han Solo himself – Alden Ehrenreich. #HanShotFirst)
As of now, I feel both worried and relieved. Relieved that a severe miscalculation within the Star Wars Canon has been averted, but worried if anything good can be salvaged at this late stage.