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EDITORIAL: Do We Really Need “Star Wars” Spin-Off Movies?

So what really went wrong with the Han Solo film? Probably the best answer is that it should have never been made. I’m a huge Star Wars fan and I know a lot of Star Wars fans out there and I have yet to hear from any of them that were looking forward to this movie or even wanted it to be made. Harrison Ford is Han Solo and for many of us he is the only one that should play him. As an example, this goes all the way back to The Prequels when casting Anakin Skywalker. We had never seen what Anakin Skywalker looked like but most of us had a preconceived notion, or expectation, of how the character should look and how he should be portrayed. And for some, the end result was disappointing. But it’s canon now and you can’t unsee it, and the same applies to everything that will be in the early adventures of Han Solo. Is it fair to put all of the blame on the actor or the writer? Not at all, but we so love the character that we just don’t want a performance or a story to ruin that character for us.

I’ve been following the drama surrounding the exit of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller from the Han Solo movie and it comes down to a “he said, she said” argument. After the success of The Lego Movie and the 21 Jump Street movies, Lord and Miller were chosen by Lucasfilm to helm the production of the second Star Wars spinoff movie, Han Solo. Everyone at Lucasfilm was happy because they believed they had two very talented guys on board that would infuse some comedy and lightheartedness into the project. But it soon became apparent that Lord and Miller’s vision conflicted with the screen writer, Lawrence Kasdan, and the president of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy. Lawrence Kasdan was the screen writer for the project and a lot of  the success of The Empire Strikes Back goes to him. George Lucas asked Kasdan to come back and work for him on The Prequels, but Kasdan refused. Kasdan did however come back for The Force Awakens and it did seem like the magic that we had missed for so long was finally back. Bottom line is that Kasdan deserves a lot of respect for his contributions to the Star Wars franchise. Lord and Miller are known for going off script and instructed the cast of Han Solo to ad-lib frequently. Kasdan was upset that they were using his script more as a guideline, but when they felt like going off script, they did, and they did that a lot. Surprisingly it was revealed that Alden Ehrenreich, who portrays Han Solo in the movie, contacted Lucasfilm and informed them that he had concerns about his portrayal of the character. Lucasfilm had seen the dailies and an early rough cut of the film and told Lord and Miller that they did not like the changes that were made to Kasdan’s script. Going forward they had to stick to the script. But Lord and Miller chose to ignore them and continued to have their actors ad-lib and change the script around. Lucasfilm warned Lord and Miller and told them that they would have to do re-shoots and make severe changes to the movie but Lord and Miller refused and basically said this is why you hired us to make our version of the film. Lord and Miller were then fired and Ron Howard came on board with the difficult task of trying to salvage the footage that they did and have a movie ready to be released next May.

The main problem is that Kennedy and Lucasfilm wanted to make a Star Wars movie first, with some comedy in it and Lord and Miller wanted to make a comedy first, that was set in the Star Wars Universe. On one side, you have a director’s vision and most feel it should not be tampered with. But on the other side, this is Star Wars and Star Wars is really bigger than anything out there. Kennedy’s job is to protect the characters that George Lucas created. You don’t want Han Solo to be flying the Millennium Falcon wearing a baseball cap that says “I Beat The Kessel Run” or a shirt that says, “I’m With Chewie” and it does appear that this movie was becoming dangerously close to a Spaceballs movie rather than a Star Wars movie.

Ron Howard has always had a good relationship with George Lucas and Lucasfilm. Lucas gave Howard his first starring role in American Graffiti and Howard directed the movie Willow for Lucas. But is Howard the best choice to take over this project? He was once an up and coming director with movies like Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind, but his last few movies were duds. There was Inferno, which was the Da Vinci Code sequel that no one wanted, and In The Heart Of The Sea, which was the story behind Moby Dick that sunk at the box office. And then the movies he directed right before those movies were Rush and The Dilemma. Anyone ever heard of those?

Let’s go back to the history of the Star Wars spinoff movies. Originally they were called Star Wars Anthologies, which was a terrible name, but Lucasfilm decided they needed an even worse name and came up with A Star Wars Story. Lucasfilm wanted to keep the spinoffs separate from the Episodes and felt it was best to stick it right in your face that this is A Star Wars Story. It still didn’t work because I heard someone in my theater while watching Rogue One ask, “Where is Rey and Kylo Ren”? Just call them Star Wars: Rogue One or Star Wars: Han Solo. If the audience gets confused, they’ll learn, eventually.

One of the first directors that was hired to take on a Star Wars spinoff movie was Josh Trank. That movie was to focus on the early adventures of Boba Fett. Trank’s previous work was on Chronicle, and that mess of a reboot, Fantastic Four. After Fantastic Four, why would anyone hire this guy? They also hired Gareth Edwards for Rogue One and his previous movie was 2014’s Godzilla. Again, why hire a guy who directed probably the most boring Godzilla movie ever made that contained very little of the main character. Later it was revealed that while working on Fantastic Four, Trank was very difficult to work with and was the center of drama. He would lock himself in his trailer, have fights with the cast and he even destroyed a house he was renting while making the movie. So Lucasfilm acted quickly and fired Trank and the Boba Fett movie was put in limbo. Then Edwards completed filming Rogue One and a rough cut was made available to Lucasfilm and they weren’t crazy about. They announced that they were going to do 2 months of re-shoots and it turned out that they did not want Edwards back to supervise the re-shoots. So it was somewhat similar to what happened to Lord and Miller, except Edwards was OK with Lucasfilm altering his movie. And as much as I am concerned about the directors hired for the Star Wars spin off movies, Lucasfilm went out and hired Collin Trevorrow. Trevorrow directed Jurassic World and that movie made an insane amount of money at the box office, but that movie did not scream, “this director should helm the final chapter of the latest Star Wars Trilogy”. His most recent movie, The Book Of Henry, is getting blasted by the critics. And before Jurassic World, he barely did anything. I sometimes think that Lucasfilm is just throwing darts at a dartboard over what directors to hire and which movies to make. One thing I am grateful for Lucasfilm is that at least if they see something is not working, they hit the brakes. They don’t just allow directors to finish what they started if they feel there is something seriously wrong with the direction of the film. Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales says hello.

I think it is obvious that Disney and Lucasfilm are rushing these movies to recoup Disney’s $4 billion purchase of Lucasfilm. They are sacrificing quality for quantity and that never works out in the end. These spinoff movies are their own thing. They are not connected to the Star Wars Episodes, but I guess it is debatable with Rogue One. But still, Rogue One is Rogue One. It is not Star Wars: Episode 3.5. My point is the bread and butter for Disney and the fans should always be The Episodes or the Star Wars Saga. We all have a vested interest in those tales as they are the continuing story of the Skywalker family, so far. It seems that the time frame for the recent Episodes being released is about 2 years and in a way that may be pushing it. I would rather wait 4 years for an amazing Star Wars Episode than to have a deadline created by Disney so that they can pump them out every two years and they are expected to add to their revenues on their annual financial reports. It just seems like Disney is trying to follow the formula of the Marvel movies.  They now need one Star Wars movie every year, maybe even two in the future. That will be an addition $1 billion, at least, on their financials and make their shareholders happy.

Rogue One was constantly referred to as an experiment. They wanted to see how audience received a Star Wars movie not centered around the Episodes. And of course, how much money would they bring in. But the stories being thrown out there just dont sound interesting. Solo films for Han Solo, Boba Fett, Yoda, Obi Wan Kenobi. I think what would work better is to introduce unknown characters in their own adventures.

Here is a perfect example. Two cinematic trailers from the game, “Star Wars: The Old Republic”. Tell me you wouldn’t love to see something like this on the big screen.

Star Wars: The Old Republic – Knight Of The Fallen Empire trailer:

Or this!

Star Wars: The Old Republic – “Deceived” Cinematic trailer:

You slap Star Wars on the title and people will still come, but if you want them to keep coming back, make them good stories and dont rush them.

I think Disney and Lucasfilm should take a step back and really think about the direction of these Star Wars spinoff movies. It seems from the very start they have been riddled with problems and a lot of it has to do with studio interference over a director’s vision and that for the most part, release dates are set in stone. But like I said, this is Star Wars, and Star Wars is like no other franchise. These are not the Star Trek movies. It’s almost expected that every odd number sequel in the Star Trek franchise will be bad. But Star Wars has a higher standard to live up to. Star Wars is a way of life for people.  Last year, after the release of The Force Awakens, Kylo was ranked number 901 in the list of most popular baby names. Spock wasn’t on the list. Maybe Ron Howard can work some magic and save the Han Solo movie, but even if he was originally announced as the director, I still would not have been interested in it. I just don’t want to see a Han Solo: The Early Years movie. Some things should remain a mystery and just because you can make a Han Solo movie doesn’t mean you should.

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About the author

Joe Hogarty

Joe moved from New York to Florida back in 1997. He currently resides in St. Petersburg and visits the parks frequently. His first visit to the Magic Kingdom was when he was 8 years old back in 1974. Joe originally originally started as a photographer for WDWNT and is now the host of WDWNT: Nerd Alert, our movie reviewer and reports the news for WDWNT.

20 Comments

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  • I also couldn’t disagree more.
    I’m looking forward to the Han Solo film (esp. with Ron Howard at the helm now). Interesting how a certain consensus in the Star Wars ‘fandom’ always gets to speak for the rest of us.
    Rogue One utterly blew me away. It was 10 times the film any of George’s prequel films were (and I’m one of those that happen to like them, too).
    I mean, this whole “do we ‘need’ this kind of film” thing could be said for nearly 80% of all Hollywood. I mean, how many Spiderman reboots do we need? At least the Star Wars anthology films are trying to flesh out the infinite Star Wars universe with new stories and new characters..,and give us background on those we love. Let alone flesh out parts of the timeline, particularly in the prequel era (which weren’t exactly executed as well as they could be by George).
    As for issues about quantity, again, look to the rest of Hollywood ‘franchise filmmaking’. Also, it’s been 1 film, and a bad turn on one in production. To write off the whole thing is grossly premature and reeks of a sort of entitlement in Star Wars fandom that I find all too often.
    I’ve also noticed that the issue seems to be that LucasFilm isn’t doing the material that the vocal minority in the fandom want…which seems to be the ‘Old Republic’ stuff. Sure, I’d love to see that stuff too. Give it time.

    I look forward to all future Star Wars films, particularly if they’re done on the level of Rogue One. What matters is good stories and good films. If they can execute that, I’m all in. If some fans don’t care for them, don’t go see them. But don’t ruin it for the rest of us.

  • I know my husband would really dig an Obi-Wan origin story…but only if Ewan McGregor was cast. I think that would be pretty neat considering he is definitely the proper age to do something like that now! He agrees with what you are saying in general though. He is a big fan, I am a fan but not quite as much, so my opinion is meaningless lol.

  • For me, I’m less interested in the Episodes than I am in the spinoffs but I agree with you that they should largely be made about new characters.

    I’m kind of over the whole Skywalker thing.

  • You’ve not heard of the film Rush? It’s really good! Great performances from the leads, especially the guy playing Lauda. I was excited for the anthology films, especially the Han Solo films. I have read the books about his and Chewie’s early years so why not have films? And I do believe that the original release date for Episode VIII was May 2017, so not set in stone???

  • I’m very much looking forward to the new Han Solo film (as I am of any new Star Wars films). And with Ron Howard now steering the ship, I certainly have more hope. He is a solid filmmaker.
    I also don’t understand the issue with having more Star Wars films…not like Hollywood hasn’t rebooted Spiderman god knows how many times now? Or Batman? Or Superman? I mean, franchise filmmaking is the industry now (whether we like it or not). Of all the various creative IPs, the Star Wars narrative and universe lends itself to much more exploration than we have been given (and not like it hasn’t been done for the last several decades with the now “Legends” universe). I’d much rather see characters and timelines and various unexplored territory get the proper treatment cinematically from a creative universe that has so much more potential compared to what other studios are doing with their franchises. If Rogue One was any indication, I’m more than excited. That film far surpassed my very high expectations, and laid incredibly strong groundwork for these ‘anthology’ films . Maybe the process is a bit messy right now, but for me, Disney and LucasFilm are batting 2-2 right now with both TFA and RO. I look forward to the future.

  • You lost me at “I’m a huge Star Wars fan and I know a lot of Star Wars fans out there and I have yet to hear from any of them that were looking forward to this movie or even wanted it to be made”. I am a huge Star Wars fan going back to 1977 and I want to see this and have heard many other fans that also want it. I have heard few fans say this is bad idea.

    “…were Rush and The Dilemma. Anyone ever heard of those?”

    Rush might not have been a box office success, but it’s clearly a quality movie having been nominated for Golden Globes, BAFTA’s, SAG and many other awards.

    Let’s not forget that there has only been ONE spinoff movie released so far, Rogue One, which did well with critics, fans and at the box office, and this is a movie that, as you say, also went through some difficulties during production. Yes, these spinoffs could end up being a disaster, but I am cautiously optimistic at this point.

  • I agree with the post. I have been a big Star Wars fan my whole life but have no interest in a young Han Solo movie. I’m not against it, just have no interest in it like I had for Rogue One.

  • There has only been one spinoff so far, Rogue One, and as a huge Star Wars fan, they completely NAILED it!!! I truly believe that Rogue One was as good, if not better than Force Awakens. Now that might be because it was set very close in relation to the original Star Wars story, but still, extremely excellent “spinoff”.

  • I will comment on some snippets of your editorial.

    “Kasdan did however come back for The Force Awakens and it did seem like the magic that we had missed for so long was finally back.”

    Sorry but TFA didn’t bring any magic back. If anything, it made people cherish the prequels and that for some is not a good thing. They might have brought Kasdan back but he was not the only person involved with the script. Maybe that’s part of the problem with TFA but the biggest problem it had is that all they did for TFA’s script was taking the scripts from ANH & half the scripts of ESB & RotJ, put them in a blender and hit Frappe. Blame Abrams if you like.

    “Kennedy’s job is to protect the characters that George Lucas created.”

    If this was her job, Lucas wouldn’t have disappeared into the sunset. Her job is to make Disney money out of their investment on Lucasfilm (something you acknowledged later on) and to create new characters that have nothing to do with those created by Lucas so Disney can cash in marketing them and this needs to minimize the presence of old characters. This was quite obvious in TFA. You’re confusing keeping the hype about Star Wars with keeping protecting Lucas’ characters.

    “They are sacrificing quality for quantity and that never works out in the end.”

    Spot on. This is the current Disney mantra. It permeates in everything they do from movies, parks & merchandise.

  • “But the stories being thrown out there just dont sound interesting. Solo films for Han Solo, Boba Fett, Yoda, Obi Wan Kenobi.”

    The only one that sound boring and unnecessary is the Han Solo movie. I’m skipping it. The rest sound interesting if done properly, like Rogue One.

    “It seems from the very start they have been riddled with problems and a lot of it has to do with studio interference over a director’s vision and that for the most part, release dates are set in stone.”

    I’m gonna rephrase that paragraph.

    It seems from the very start they have been riddled with problems and a lot of it has to do with the studio choosing ill fitting directors with very little experience, overhyped movies (Trank’s Chronicles is, to me, one of the most overrated movies ever) or with single visions (Lord & Miller are mostly interested in doing comedy) which the studios will have to interfere later on when they realize their mistake.

  • I have no real problems with doing spin offs not related to the main saga flicks. Even with me being 501st and rebel legion there just doesn’t seem to be the excitement for Han Solo like there was for rogue one. But I suspect because this is about Han freakin solo and people don’t really want to know vs the mystery over 40 years of how a bunch of no name rebels stole the Death Star plans.

    But I do wonder if what happened was Lucas film was so caught up in ep 7 they sort of didn’t pay enough attention to the paths they were going down with the solo films at first. But after the huge success of TFA they realized they needed to take a step back and pay more attention to whom they had selected and what was going on.

    Case in point being rogue one. I think Edwards did exactly what they wanted him to do but realized they didn’t want to be as experimental as they thought and decided to make it fit better into the feel of what makes Star Wars, well, Star Wars.

    I think ultimately they should make fewer films rather then keep ramming them out once a year. They have thousands and thousands of stories they can tell. No need to rush them.

  • There are many stories that would be great ‘spinoffs’… Clearly Knights of the Old Republic would be great.

    What would really be great would be a series on the New Jedi Order… but to make them properly, they would be dark stories of the death and utter destruction of the Galaxy by the Yuzhong Vong. It would be awesome!

  • I think that Rogue One hit the nail on the head. It gave true SW fans something fresh. Something new. When the credits rolled on TFA, I was disappointed. We’ve seen that story already. When the credits rolled on RO, I was excited again for the future of SW. I don’t care what anyone says but TFA is ANH2.0 period. That being said, I don’t think we need a backstory on Han Solo. I’d prefer a Boba Fett or Yoda movie over a Solo movie anyday. Don’t get me wrong. I’m gonna see the Solo movie, but I’m keeping my expectations very low. Personally, I think Harrison Ford’s attitude ruined the Solo character for me. I wish Lucas would have given Ford his wish and let him die in ESB.

  • Glad to see Rogue One getting a lot of love here. It really exceeded my expectations, and I thought it was the better of the two between it and The Force Awakens.