Han Solo Film Directors Fired = I Got A Bad Feeling About This

Solo cast fired directors

The movie world, not to mention Star Wars fans, are still in absolute shock over yesterday’s stunning news that the directors of next year’s Han Solo film, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, were fired from the film. What made the announcement so jaw dropping is that most of the film has been completed with only three weeks of principle photography remaining. That is just unheard of and feels unprofessional on the part of Disney and Lucasfilm to just let two talented filmmakers go when their film is nearly complete. On top of this, Lucasfilm is still standing by the film’s planned release date of May 2018. That is probably not going to happen.

So what happened? The truth is we may never really know. All we do know, based on trade reports, is that Phil Lord and Chris Miller clashed repeatedly with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and the film’s executive producer and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan. Much of that had to do with the improvisational directing style of the two directors that made the old guard executives uncomfortable with their take on a Star Wars film and the iconic character. Kasdan, who wrote the book on Han Solo in the original Star Wars film and Episode VII, has a distinct viewpoint of the space pirate. He saw Han as selfish and cynical, and wanted him portrayed in that manner. Meanwhile, the two young directors wanted to present Solo in a lighter, more comedic light. This would have complemented their humorous directing style as seen in the 21 Jump Street films, The Lego Movie and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. Face it, Lord and Miller are more known for their comedic films so it was a surprise that they were chosen to direct Solo: A Star Wars Story (if that is indeed the final title).

The problem here is that they had been hired to direct the Star Wars spinoff film for quite some time. They were involved with Solo: A Star Wars Story from the beginning and started shooting it earlier this year in January. Shouldn’t the executives have known that these two would not fit into the world of Star Wars? Why let them go on for so long? Why didn’t someone at Lucasfilm had the foresight to nip the problem in the bud and replace them much earlier? Kennedy, Kasdan and other executives had to have worked closely with the two directors and had meetings with them. They must have stressed that the film was to be a certain way. They had to have picked up the notion that Lord and Miller may have wanted to try a different approach and be defiant. Whether Lucasfilm wants to admit this or not, Phil Lord and Chris Miller have genuine film creds. They have delivered well done films that pleased critics and audiences. Why not just have some faith in them and let them finish the film? The film studio could have then just taken over post-production like they did with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and edit it into the kind of Star Wars film they wanted.

We get that Disney and Lucasfilm are protective of their IP, after all, they spent billions to acquire it. With that mentality they are entitled to keep it safe and the best way to do that is to play it safe. So why go to the trouble of hiring these two to direct the film headlining the franchise’s most beloved hero? The reason to recruit new blood into the Star Wars franchise is to bring in fresh ideas and different outlooks into the Star Wars films. Firing Phil Lord and Chris Miller this far into production just shows a lack of confidence in this approach. Consider that director Garth Edwards was pushed aside in post-production of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story because Lucasfilm felt the film wasn’t quite a Star Wars film. Now this happens. Lucasfilm might as well just hire workhorses and yes-people to direct future films and give up this idea of bringing in new talent because clearly they are not welcome.

Now, Lucasfilm has to shut down production and find someone willing to come in at this late hour to complete Solo: A Star Wars Story. Will Lucasfilm pull a Salkind and have most of the film re-shot as what happened with Superman II? If so, kiss May 2018 goodbye. Can Ron Howard (the currently rumored frontrunner to take over UPDATE: Howard has officially been hired to finish the film) or Joe Johnston or someone safe come in and finish the film, while imparting their own vision? Finishing it is doable, but trying to leave their own mark is impossible with so much already filmed and with so little time. Who would want this burden?

In any event, the message is clear to other would-be Star Wars directors, especially those foolish enough to think they will have some measure of control: You can play with the Star Wars toys but at the end of the day, you have to give them back in the shape you found them.

José Soto

Post Script: After Ron Howard was picked to complete the film, Lucasfilm has been in full-scale PR damage control. Stories are circulating that the film’s star, young Han Solo himself, Alden Ehrenreich, was the first one to voice concerns about the direction of Solo: A Star Wars Story. Reportedly, the film was too comedic and slapsticky for the execs’ taste. On the one hand, Star Wars needs to branch out creatively, but on the other hand, a Han Solo film may not be the best venue to go full-scale comedy. If all this is true, the question still stands as to why Kennedy, Kasdan and the other higher ups let this go on for so long? The few bright spots coming out of this debacle are that Phil Lord and Chris Miller are now free to jump onboard the stalled Flash movie, which fits their style anyway, plus Howard has already shown that he has a lot of class with his recent praise of Lord and Miller’s work on the film. Given his close ties to Lucas and his solid directing background, he is the best choice to come in and salvage the film.

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Rogue One: The Most Pivotal Star Wars Film To Date

star-wars-rogue-one-characters-names-vehicles The very first Star Wars spinoff film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is scoring big in theaters and with audiences. Despite its faults, the film is a rollicking success not just in terms of box office dollars but for its many merits. This is critically important considering that a lot was riding on this particular Star Wars film that many do not realize, at first.

Of course, with its Star Wars credentials Rogue One was bound to open huge and have its own core fan base. The question before it premiered was would it not just resonate with fans, but establish its own identity without relying (for the most part) on the central tenets of a Star Wars film: the Skywalker clan, Jedi and Sith, lightsaber duels and some overreaching multi-film storyline. Rogue One is largely self-contained with its main characters making their only appearance in a Star Wars film. So no, you won’t see Jyn Erso or K2S0 popping up in future films. That is a huge gamble for the Star Wars juggernaut since this limits its marketing potential, at least with some narrow-sighted marketing heads.

Pushing The Envelope

Furthermore, as those who have seen the film will agree, this isn’t a typical Star Wars film. There isn’t an opening crawl, the film’s tone is distinctly more mature and feels more like a war film with actual consequences and has many characters with shades of grey. Honestly, this was to the film’s benefit because this shift in tone helped set it apart from Star Wars and pushed the envelope for what can be done with Star Wars in general. At the same time, it is clearly a part of the established Star Wars lore and serves as an important link not just to the Prequel and Original Trilogies but to the animated TV series Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels. Doing this last linkage now establishes both TV series as part of official canon.

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Storywise, the events in this film were extremely critical to the Star Wars universe. Think about it, the main story is about Rebel spies trying desperately to steal the plans to the Death Star. If they failed there would not be A New Hope. C-3P0 and R2-D2 would never have fallen into the hands of Luke Skywalker. He would never have destroyed the infernal Death Star and set off events leading to the Galactic Empire’s demise.

For these reasons, Rogue One was a huge test, a proving ground, for the Star Wars film franchise. erso-andor-and-droidBeing that it is the first spinoff that is quasi-independent of the “Saga” trilogies, there was a question if audiences and fans would accept it. If it failed either in ticket sales or not have excellent word of mouth, the fate of future Star Wars spinoffs would be in question. Of course, Lucasfilm would not abandon the spinoffs altogether, but the film studio might have only concentrated their spinoffs on established characters like Han Solo. The fact that the swashbuckling space pirate is the focus of the next Star Wars spinoffs is evidence that Lucasfilm was hedging its bet and planned on playing it safe in case Rogue One faltered.

Thankfully, Rogue One is a hit, partly because it did not play it safe while at the same time it took advantage of the rich Star Wars backstory. It’s the same formula that worked for the Star Trek spinoffs. The first one, Star Trek: The Next Generation, followed the same premise, a starship exploring the unknown except with new characters. Its success allowed for future spinoffs to try different tones, plots and characters, the best example being Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

What Lies Ahead

Now that Rogue One has proven that a Star Wars film doesn’t have to rely on established tenets to tell a riveting story that resonates with fans, what other stories can be told? After the Han Solo prequel, there is rumor that an overdue Obi-Wan Kenobi spinoff will follow and at one time a Boba Fett film nearly went into production before its assigned director Josh Trank blacklisted himself with his dismal Fant4stic debacle.

dash-rendarThose films sound intriguing since they’re about popular and intriguing characters with the potential to carry their own films. However, Lucasfilm should take heed of Rogue One’s success and tell stories with new characters and situations. Or adapt popular ideas from other media. Live-action versions of Knights of the Old Republic or Shadows of the Empire would make terrific films. Perhaps, as C.S. Link suggested in his Rogue One: A Star Wars Story review, a film taking place in between Episode IV and V could be done. This concept of filling in the gaps between films or trilogies can be done with several films and there are many questions about what happened after Return of the Jedi and before The Force Awakens that are worth exploring.

rogue-one-on-the-beachRogue One: A Star Wars Story has opened up many possibilities in future Star Wars films. It passed the hurdle of not relying on classic characters and situations to tell a compelling story. And it liberally and skillfully took elements from other films and TV shows without overdoing it or aping the same story beats and characters. This is why Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the most pivotal Star Wars film for now.

José Soto

Star Wars Movie Retrospective: Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi

jedi poster

” I am a Jedi, like my father before me” – Luke Skywalker

Anticipation was immensely high for the grand finale of the Star Wars saga and for good reason. The first two films in the trilogy were both critically acclaimed and financial successes. The last film The Empire Strikes Back, considered by most people as the best Star Wars film ever, ended on a tantalizing cliffhanger and with many unanswered questions. Given this background, it would be difficult for Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi to match the previous films. Regrettably, that proved to be case, but nevertheless it was a generally rousing conclusion to the Star Wars saga.

death star 2

The film takes place long ago in a galaxy far, far away. A Galactic Civil War is reaching its conclusion with the evil Galactic Empire readying a decisive blow against the Rebel Alliance. In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, the Empire’s battle station, the moon-sized Death Star, was destroyed by the fledging Jedi Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Now, the Empire is constructing a second Death Star that is orbiting the forest moon of Endor. Sith Lord Darth Vader (David Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones) arrives at the nearly complete battle station to oversee the finishing touches. He informs the nervous imperial officers that Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) himself will arrive soon to ensure that the station is finished on schedule.

As the construction continues, Luke goes to his home planet Tatooine to rescue his friend Han Solo (Harrison Ford) jabba 2from the gangster Jabba the Hutt. Han owed Jabba, a humongous slug-like alien, outstanding debts and in the previous film was captured by Darth Vader and the bounty hunter Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch) and entombed in carbonite.

Luke sends his two droids C-3P0 (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) as gifts to Jabba at his lair and to relay a message about bargaining for Han’s release. Jabba refuses this offer and at that moment, a helmeted bounty hunter called Boushh enters the lair with Han’s friend Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), a Wookiee, in chains. Later that night, when Jabba and his minions are asleep, Boushh, who is actually Princes Leia (Carrie Fisher), frees Han. Before the lovers can celebrate, they’re captured by Jabba’s guards. Unknown to Jabba and the other criminals is that one of them is actually Han’s old friend Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams).

luke at jabbas

The next day Luke arrives in person and is also captured. Now he, Han and Chewbacca are sentenced to death while Leia is kept as a chain-bound slave. The trio are taken out to the desert wastes of the planet as Jabba and his entourage watch their sentence carried out from a nearby floating barge. At Luke’s signal, R2-D2 shoots out Luke’s lightsaber at the Jedi and Luke uses it to free his friends and decimate Jabba’s forces. In the end, Han accidently kills Boba Fett, while Leia strangles Jabba and Luke destroys the barge.

sand barge battle

They leave the planet in Han’s ship the Millennium Falcon to rendezvous  with the Rebel fleet. Luke instead travels to the planet Dagobah to meet with Jedi Master Yoda (Frank Oz) and complete his Jedi training. Visibly withered, Yoda admits that he is dying of old age and that Luke doesn’t need any further training, but needs to destroy Vader before he can become an actual Jedi. He also confirms that Vader is indeed Luke’s father and before he dies and fades away, reveals that there is another Skywalker.

Grief stricken, Luke is soon met by the ghost of his old mentor Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi (Alec Guinness). The old Jedi explains Luke’s family history, revealing the story of how Anakin Skywalker fell to the dark side of the Force, the mystical life/energy field that is used by the Jedi and their enemy the Sith. He also reveals that Leia is actually Luke’s twin sister and that he and Leia were hidden at birth to keep them away from Vader, who must be destroyed by Luke.

Later, he reaches the spaceborne Rebel fleet and joins his friends as they meet with the Rebel leaders. An assault is planned to destroy the Death Star before it’s completed. But, before the Rebel fleet can engage the lando at helm 2Death Star and its guarding ships, a strike force has to land on the forest moon and destroy an imperial base that is emitting a force field protecting the Death Star. Luke, Han, Leia and Chewbacca volunteer to head the strike force while Lando, now a general, will pilot the Millennium Falcon and a contingent of ships to destroy the Death Star.

The four reach the moon in a stolen imperial shuttle along with the droids and several Rebel soldiers. They soon discover imperial stormtroopers and engage in battle. During the fracas, a few soldiers escape using speeder bikes and Luke and Leia chase them down with a seized speeder bike. The twins successfully stop the soldiers but get separated. Leia later encounters a small, bear cub-like creature wearing tribal gear. He is Wicket (Warwick Davis), an Ewok, and takes her back to his village as his guest. Meanwhile, Luke, Han, Chewbacca and the droids try looking for Leia in the thick forest, but are captured by Ewoks. C-3P0, however, is mistaken to be a deity and treated as a revered guest.

speeder bike

At the Ewok village, the golden droid convinces the Ewoks to free his friends thanks to an assist by Luke, who uses the Force to levitate C-3P0. Soon, the group enlists the Ewoks to help against the imperial soldiers stationed at the moon. Luke, however, is troubled after sensing Vader’s presence and is afraid he is jeopardizing his friends. During some festivities in the village at night, he confides to Leia about their true relationship and Vader, who he thinks he can redeem. Luke bids her a sad farewell as he leaves the village and later surrenders to Vader. Despite Luke’s efforts, Vader refuses to denounce the dark side of the Force.

Luke is taken up to the Death Star and meets Emperor Palpatine, who is eager to corrupt the young Jedi as he did with his father years ago. With Vader at his side, the Emperor plays mind games with Luke and admits that he knows about the Rebels’ attack. In reality, the Emperor allowed this to lure them into a trap.

rotj death star attack

Down on the moon, an attack on the fortified imperial base by the Rebels is quickly defeated. However, the brave Ewoks mobilize their own army and join the fight against the Empire, but are clearly outmatched. Meanwhile, the Rebel armada arrives in the Endor system and Lando quickly realizes that they’ve jumped into a trap. Then, the Rebel fleet is swarmed by overwhelming imperial ships. As Luke witnesses the firefight outside in despair, the Emperor divulges that the station is operational by having it open fire on the Rebel ships. This goads Luke into lashing out at Palpatine with his lightsaber but Vader parries the would-be killing stroke. As the climatic battle rages outside and on the moon a final confrontation between father and son, good and evil commences.

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Disney Buys Lucasfilm! Star Wars Episode VII On Its Way!

In a surprise move that rivals their acquisition of Marvel Entertainment a few years ago, Disney announced today that they bought Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion. Obviously, the sale includes the rights to the Star Wars franchise.

Kathleen Kennedy, who was the co-chair of Lucasfilm with George Lucas before the sale, has been named as president of Lucasfilm. Disney CEO Robert Iger announced that a new Star Wars film will be released in 2015 to be followed with more films coming out every two or three years.

At the moment, it wasn’t clear what would be the fate of the current Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series or the attempt to bring about a live-action Star Wars TV series. For all we know, The Clone Wars may cease production much in the same way that popular Marvel animated shows were canned following Disney’s purchase of Marvel. In the same way that Disney then launched new Marvel animated shows, they could produce a new Star Wars animated series. Additionally, Disney now has the rights to the Indiana Jones franchise, though no information was available on the production of future films of that franchise.

In a prepared statement, George Lucas said, “For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next.” In some ways this news isn’t that surprising given his announcement earlier this year that he was retiring from popular filmmaking. In the same statement Lucas added, “It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers.” This most likely means that he won’t be directing the new films, which should cheer some fans. But it’s hard to imagine that the future films won’t have some kind of input from him, at least on an advisory basis.

For Star Wars fans this is undeniably shocking and exciting news. As some suspected after Star Wars: Episode III was released, we haven’t seen the last of Star Wars on the big screen. Like it or not Star Wars: Episode VII is coming.

José Soto

One Man Star Wars Trilogy

 

“The Force is strong with this one” I’m not talking about Luke Skywalker, I’m talking about One Man Star Wars writer and actor, Charles Ross. One Man Star Wars is a hysterical show where Ross singlehandedly performs highlights from the George Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy.  Not only does he play the roles of the characters, he also acts out the parts of many of the ships suchs as the X-Wing fighters, TIE fighters and Imperial Walkers. One of the highlights includes Luke Skywalker’s reaction to Darth Vader when he has his helmet and mask removed, it was hysterical! Ross started touring this theatrical oddity in 2002, he has performed the show over 1,200 times in more than 180 cities across four continents and still finds a way to keep it fresh. 

Ross takes a few breaks between each movie and asks the audiences questions such as “Has anyone here watched all six Star Wars Movies in One day?” He answers the cheers with “You’re in the right place.” He said he started the show as a comedy act where he performed highlights of the first movie. The act was a huge hit and prompted him to expand the act to a full show that covered the complete trilogy. He had performed the show for a few years and came home one day to an email from Lucasfilm. The subject line said “Future project”  When he opened it the message said “We know about you, please contact us” He then realized he had never contacted Lucasfilm to ask for their permission to perform the show. He thought Boba Fett was going to show up and take him away. He sent a tape of the show but was asked to see them in CA. When he got there he was asked to perform the show at a Star Wars convention in front of thousands of die-hard fans. The fans loved it and Lucasfilm worked out a deal that allowed Ross to keep performing the show.

After the success of his Star Wars show, Ross left outer space and traveled to Middle Earth to write and perform One Man Lord of the Rings. “One ring to rule them all” or as he puts it, “One nerd to perform the whole trilogy” based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and Return of the King. This show has also been a huge hit for Charles. Sir Ian McKellan (Gandalf) himself said “If you liked Lord of the Rings, You’ll love Charlie Ross’ version.”

The Force is strong with this one, my Precious. You shall not pass… the chance to see these shows so check out www.OneManStarWars.com  and www.OneManLordoftheRings.com to see tours dates for Charles Ross’ performances.

Jim McLernon

Visit Jim McLernon’s website: http://www.leopardmanstudios.com/