Women are not invited to the franchise table
On Friday news broke that writer/director Rian Johnson, who previously made the most excellent Looper and Brick, would be writing and directing Star Wars Episode VIII and writing the treatment for Episode IX. He won’t actually direct IX — he probably won’t even write the final script—but he’ll set it up and, presumably, be the driving creative force of the Star Wars franchise, sort of like how Joss Whedon is steering the Avengers (and a dead cat is steering the Justice League).
LucasFilm has been aggressively recruiting top genre directors for Star Wars. Josh Trank, who made Chronicle and is reviving the Fantastic Four at Fox, is going to make a stand-alone spin-off in the Star Wars’ universe, and so is Gareth Edwards, fresh off the success of Godzilla. These are some of the best and brightest young filmmakers operating today, and it’s making it nearly impossible not to get my hopes up in re: New New Star Wars not sucking. (Still, the shadow of Old New Star Wars is long.) But there are a couple things we need to talk about.
First, there was a weird and immediate backlash to this announcement on Friday. People were lamenting Johnson’s participation in franchise filmmaking. It wasn’t, “I’m sure this is a childhood dream of yours, but I feel some sadness that we won’t see original output for several years now,” but a clear “F*ck franchises for taking away all our cool toys.” On the one hand, I understand being conflicted. Johnson is a talented writer and he won’t be able to produce original content for several years. But how can you begrudge a truly talented creator being handed the reins to a property we all love? We’re all so nervous about New New Star Wars, but LucasFilm/Disney seem committed to giving it the best shot possible at being genuinely good. Let’s just agree to be excited for the break Johnson has gotten and then hope that once he’s done with Star Wars he goes back to original filmmaking.
And second, with so many plum franchise gigs being handed out, why are there no women in the mix? I’m not saying give a lady director a job just because it looks good—that’s tokenism and it doesn’t help anyone. But there are a lot of talented female filmmakers out there and they’re not part of the conversation. They’re not even getting to interview for the position. The closest we’ve come to a woman helming a major franchise is Patty Jenkins and Thor 2, and Marvel fired her after just a few months on the job. Since then, nothing.
Going into Phase 3, Marvel has three projects, including The Avengers 3 and Thor 3, without a director (more if they go ahead with expanding the Guardians of the Galaxy into a franchise). Warner Brothers/DC has a very aggressive (unconfirmed) slate through 2018 with five director-less projects, including a potential Wonder Woman movie. New Indiana Jones will need a director in the next few years. A lot of directing gigs being handed out. Surely one—JUST ONE—could be directed by a woman. (Gwyneth Horder-Payton is a real person who exists.) Will women get to be part of the conversation any time soon?