Han Solo Director Roulette

Sarah Posted by Sarah at June 21, 2017 17:21:29 June 21, 2017 17:21:29

In the wake of the shocking exit of directing team Lord & Miller, the young Han Solo movie is now looking for a new director. A few names started to emerge overnight, and given that Disney is sticking with the May 2018 release date—although I won’t be surprised in the least if it ends up getting kicked to later in the year—they will undoubtedly move fast to get this train rolling again. The top name is apparently Ron Howard, an experienced blockbuster director and also FOGL (friend of George Lucas). I can see the appeal—an established, old-school director who is capable of making very good movies but is also the definition of “conventional”. Kathleen Kennedy and the LucasFilm brain trust apparently couldn’t handle the loose, free-wheeling improvisational style of Lord & Miller, and so a more traditional, by the book director makes for a good cleanup man.

But what’s in it for Ron? Make a Star Wars movie, sure, except it won’t be HIS movie. Look no further than Peyton Reed and Ant-Man to see how this plays out for whoever steps into the breach. Reed added plenty of his own mojo to Ant-Man but his contributions were attributed to Edgar Wright because public sympathy was so thoroughly on Wright’s side. It’ll be the same here—anything people like about young Han Solo will be stuff left over from Lord & Miller, and anything people don’t like will be Ron Howard’s fault, whether or not any of that is true. And the press tour will be a nightmare, with constant questions about Lord & Miller. Why would a director as accomplished as Ron Howard want to put himself through that?

Another name floating is Lawrence Kasdan, co-screenwriter of Han Solo and also writer of The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens. He’s part of the LucasFilm brain trust, and since he was someone also clashing with Lord & Miller, he must have an idea of what he’d like to change. And while he has done good work as a director (credits include Wyatt Earp and The Big Chill), he isn’t so established that he’s risking his reputation. He fits in with the Tony Gilroy hire on Rogue One—someone who knows the business well enough, but isn’t a powerful personality or recognized auteur.

Whoever gets the job, though, will have a lot of work ahead of them. They have to finish the last few weeks of shooting, and then oversee the reshoots later this summer. What was supposed to be a couple weeks—which is the actual norm for these things, when you think you’re only in to fix some bad lighting and get a different angle on a particular scene—will now undoubtedly be several months of retooling. (At this point, the Han Solo movie sounds like Rogue One Redux, except this time the directors weren’t willing to play along like Gareth Edwards did.) It’s becoming normal to hear about a franchise flick reshooting half the movie in the middle of post-production, but I’m going to keep saying it—good movies don’t work like this.

And improvisation doesn’t have to be the enemy of studio filmmaking. Taika Waititi and Chris Hemsworth played around A LOT on the set of Thor: Ragnarok, and Marvel is lit up like Christmas over how their effort is turning out. But then, Marvel seems to be loosening the reins a little, and is more willing to indulge filmmakers to put their own stamp on their movies. There’s still a line to be toed, for sure, but they seem to have learned—thanks Joss Whedon, thanks Edgar Wright—that you can’t force a filmmaker to work against their grain. (Although they aren’t immune to drama and Avengers: Infinity War sounds…lively.)

The Han Solo movie is now in the same basket as Justice League. There’s still hope it will turn out okay, but that’s the best we can hope for: Okay. Whoever takes over, whether it’s Ron Howard, Lawrence Kasdan, or Alan Smithee, has a thankless task ahead of them and an awkward press tour to follow. This isn’t how anyone likes to do business, but increasingly it’s becoming the way of blockbusters. It begs the questions—how much longer can everyone go on like this? Franchise fatigue might set in faster for the people making the movies than it does for the audience watching them.


Attached - Ron Howard out in LA last month.

gotpap/ Bauer-Griffin/ Getty Images

Previous Article Next Article