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:
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.