Lucasfilm doesn’t normally seem like the kind of company to screw up the production of a movie all that badly.
Well, at least not in recent years. And hey, even The Phantom Menace had a relatively smooth descent into madness.
So for Kathleen Kennedy to straight up fire a pair of directors off a movie while they’re part way through making it? That’s a big step, and one which suggests that something was going majorly wrong with the Han Solo film that couldn’t possibly be fixed in the edit.
What was this big, horrifying schism that led to the implosion of one of Disney’s most important 2018 moves?
According to a new report from Entertainment Weekly, sources close to the movie have said that the feud between Kennedy and the now ex-directors of Han Solo, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, stemmed from a fundamental misunderstanding of what the movie should be.
Apparently, Miller and Lord were hired to direct the movie in order to bring some light moments of comedy to the film that Lucasfilm had already established the groundwork for. The script had been written, production was gearing up, and the pair behind 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie were brought in to film everything, so that while doing so, they could sprinkle some of their trademark humor into the project.
It seems, though, that Lord and Miller misunderstood what Lucasfilm wanted them to do with the project. Instead of thinking that they were there just to tick some humor boxes on a checklist, the pair thought that they were, y’know, actually being allowed to make a movie with their own artistic vision.
Naturally, Miller and Lord, surrounded by some absolutely incredible comedians like Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Donald Glover, began letting the movie slide literally off-script as they allowed their actors to play around with ideas, improvise dialogue and add jokes into the movie so much that the whole thing was turning into a comedy.
Lucasfilm, it’s claimed, came down hard. Dailies were showing a direction that the studio wasn’t happy with, as the movie veered too far from the cookie cutter mold that had been established. Phil Lord and Chris Miller were making something unique, original, and risky – that had to stop immediately.
This sucks. It’s an understandable attitude from Disney’s executives from a financial perspective, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.
Lucasfilm has proven that the studio has a working formula with movies like The Force Awakens and Rogue One, which involves telling stories that are as aesthetically similar to the original trilogy of Star Wars movies as possible. These films take very few risks, and when an occasional new idea is introduced (such as “hey, what if everybody gets blown up?”), critics and fans laud the movie for its originality despite it being a literal copy of every other popular Star Wars movie.
This isn’t just a problem that Lucasfilm suffers from – every major movie studio similarly errs on the side of unoriginality when it comes to making movies because it’s financially safe, if somewhat culturally stale. This is a particularly big issue with Disney, though, as most Marvel movies fit the same formula and even often have the same story beats, which on the animation side of things, the princess tropes are so ingrained at this point that the company couldn’t break away from them if it tried.
The two Disney Star Wars movies that we’ve had thus far have been commercial and critical success, but it’s hard to say whether this is because they’re good, solid stories, or whether it’s a certain amount of nostalgia talking. After all, the prequels also made enormous amounts of money, so it’s safe to say that we can’t trust Star Wars fans to be objective.
Chris Miller and Phil Lord represented something that we haven’t seen yet from Disney’s time with the Star Wars brand. The pair were looking to make an original, iconic movie that sparkled with their own personality and wit. Their vision for the Han Solo movie would have been rooted in their own sensitives as directors.
This is not what Lucasfilm wants. A strong directorial vision has not always served Star Wars well – again, all roads lead back to the prequels when we explore the studio’s failures. George Lucas had a strong vision for Star Wars, and people hated it, so it’s no wonder Disney now wants Lucasfilm to stick with what works without deviating from that pattern.
What Star Wars needs, though, is fresh ideas. There’s only so long that audiences will be excited by this brand if it doesn’t innovate – especially considering how rich, fresh, and limitless the setting is.
A pure comedy would be a great new idea for Star Wars, as would, say, a romance movie in this setting, or a crime drama, or a political thriller.
Okay, maybe not a politics movie, but there are different directions to go in. Making the same movie over and over is pointless, and Lucasfilm have really lost out on an opportunity by not letting Phil Lord and Chris Miller make the funny, silly, colorful Han Solo movie that they wanted to direct.