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– by Joseph Jammer Medina

The news is out. J.J. Abrams is officially replacing Colin Trevorrow as writer and director of Star Wars: Episode 9. Of course, as the internet is like to do, they were quick to cast judgment on this directing choice. While Star Wars: The Force Awakens was an unquestionable success in the eyes of the studio (it grossed $2 billion in worldwide box office receipts), in the eyes of some fans, the film remains a heartless retread of A New Hope. Plus, between his involvement in this and two Star Trek films, hardcore movie fans seem to be a bit weary of the accessibility he brings to his movies.

But is this a bad choice for Lucasfilm? We don’t think so. That being said, we can’t exactly call it a cool, knock-it-out-of-the-park choice either. In fact, at this point, we don’t think any choice would be. No matter who they hired, Lucasfilm would seem to get a variation of the same product, or at least a different story that either feels very similar, or carries much of the same DNA of any other potential iteration.

Let’s dig a little deeper into this idea.

Does The Director Matter?

Directors Gareth Edwards, Phil Lord, Chris Miller, & Colin Trevorrow, all of whom have either fired or overruled by Lucasfilm.

Now, we don’t really know the specifics behind the scenes, but it’s very clear that Lucasfilm isn’t the easiest studio to work for. They brought in the likes of Colin Trevorrow, Gareth Edwards, Josh Trank, Phil Lord, and Chris Miller in hopes of bringing unique voices to the table. Sadly, as the years have gone on, it’s very clear they don’t want unique voices or unique visions.

Lucasfilm wants directors who will go in, contribute cool ideas that are in line with their pre-existing vision, and carry said vision to fruition. It’s not the easiest gig in the world to jump into, but as a TV veteran, and a filmmaker who clearly thrived in the system before, it’s one Abrams can acclimate to. This is what they need at this point. Someone without an ego who’s willing to play ball with them, because at the end of the day, it’s clear that Star Wars isn’t a director-focused franchise to Lucasfilm. It’s a franchise made by committee.

Yes, Abrams can come in and bring in his own ideas, but if they clash with Kathleen Kennedy’s overall vision, they seem to risk being overridden. The plus side there is we’re likely to get fun, accessible, and primal stories that are fun for the whole family to enjoy. The down side is that we likely won’t get a film that really stands out from the rest.

So yes, while the director change will ultimately made some differences here and there, it will all fall in line with the story Lucasfilm wants to tell.

Is This A Bad Thing?

It’s easy to look at that conclusion and call them out in anger. All of a sudden, we see them as “the man” — the studio that won’t let the filmmaker do their creative work. But let’s look at the facts.

So far, the studio has done a fantastic job shepherding their films post-George Lucas. No matter what you think of the last two films personally, they were both well received, and did gangbusters at the box office. While they may be a bit wanting in terms of unique flavor (though I find Rogue One to have quite a unique flavor for the franchise), I think they accomplish what they set out to do, which is important. Mainly, this is a negative for those who want something different from the franchise.

I hate to say it: but you’re never going to get something wholly different. You may see small steps in a different direction, but they’re careful to keep those swings narrow so as not to lose their core fanbase. And that’s not a bad thing.

So is Abrams ultimately a good option for them, with these thoughts in mind? I think this was as good a choice as we could have expected. As mentioned above, no matter what, this is Lucasfilm’s movie. Pretty much the director is there to carry out their vision, and a director is able to have their own vision so long as their sensibilities are in line with Lucasfim’s.

Lucasfilm is going to make their movie one way or another, as was proven with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Gareth Edwards wanted to give it a harder edge, but the studio pulled it back. What we ended up with was a film with a harder edge than normal, but with a temperate enough execution that it could succeed on a mainstream level. All in all, the director, it seems, pretty much determines just how easy or difficult it is for the studio to get their vision on screen.

But what do you think? Do you agree? And is this a good or bad thing? Let us know your thoughts down below!

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  • Facebook User

    this is a perfect article to explain the situation.. disney i think misrepresented themselves at first by saying they wanted all these different visions but the fact is they didnt. they want to keep it quite predictable. cant say i really blame them since if you stray to far one way or another your bound to piss lots of folks off and what for? its a money making franchise that they will milk until people hate it.. then stop and probably come back to again once people are hungry for more. its just the reality of blockbuster world today

    • Moby85

      Ok, you’re right…But about the “predictable” you can only play that card once. I was OK with Force Awakens being filled with echoes of Episode 4. I am not OK with episode 8 or 9 being the same.

      • Derek NOLA

        agree

  • I agree with Jammer. If you sign onto a Star Wars film you’re working in service of the material — save your auteur vision for the big projects you get BECAUSE you directed a Star Wars film. I’m not a big fan of The Force Awakens, but I totally understand why they repeated so many beats from A New Hope. There’s no way Abrams could make fans from the original trilogy, the prequels, and new fans all happy at the same time — those are three very distinct audiences with different expectations. Also, Star Wars isn’t trying to change the world; these films are safe, family entertainment — don’t go in expecting something revolutionary. Disney ain’t taking no risks on a multi-billion dollar cash cow, folks!

    • Facebook User

      id argue if they take any bigger risks its on the anthology series. hence why i preferred rogue one

      • You’re right, anthologies could be the playground for Star Wars… except canon. When I worked at LucasFilm (years ago) their licensing division — a small group of key decision-makers — steered and controlled the narratives, characters, and props that go into every book, game, comic, film, and show. So anthology films like Han Solo or Rogue One might have more freedom than TFA, TLJ, or Episode IX, but they still have to respect canon. My hope is that subsequent anthology films delve into other corners of the universe and build new storylines, character, and situations that are not so beholden to canon.

        • Facebook User

          thats a reasonable solution .. but one must think that this all plays into disneys future streaming service.. these riskier star wars stories are going to more than likely find their home there… and maybe have small introductions in the big tent poles

      • Moby85

        Well so far you don’t need to argue I’d say it’s tough to defend against that. Rogue One was certainly a film that did not rely on being derivative and took some risks – such as Kassian doing some unpalatable things that heroic “Rebels” haven’t done in the series so far. Such as cold-blooded murder.

    • Moby85

      Right David, but the problem is LucasFilm is being Janus the two-faced “god”. They’re hiring avant garde, young, up-and-coming directors with unique styles…Only to immediately tell them to shelve their styles and make a conservative film according to what Ms. Kennedy thinks is best. Hell, Bob Iger seems to have more creative say in these films than the directors do.

      • Derek NOLA

        thats why i thought it was misleading of disney to say they wanted this.. my thought is disney thought they wanted this type of director only to discover they dont

  • M@rvel

    All I know is JJ has a directing style that is so polished and crisp, that at the VERY least we can expect another beautiful looking film that is “safe” at its worst.

    • Facebook User

      i just want some fresh ideas and a movie that feels like it has something to tell other than just rehashing all things that should be star wars.

  • Victor Roa

    I think the thing is, no one is really asking for a “vision” they just want to see lightsabers and xwings.

    • Moby85

      I want to see a major space battle ala, dare I say, Return of the Jedi? Fleets, no Death Stars.

      • Victor Roa

        I personally enjoy seeing the Gonk Droid or a Mouse Bot. I can do with out bad ass action, I enjoy a cute little anthropomorphic droid

  • Moby85

    Rogue One got lucky. They got lucky that, likely with the help of major reshoots, they had some good action, cheesy, if arch-typically memorable Star Warsy dialogue “I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me” an all-time great character (K-2SO), and that at the last minute they shot the best scene in the entire Star Wars saga (The Hall Scene).

    All of my friends via texts and Facebook think that JJ is a moderate upgrade over Trevorrow. All agree that JJ does indeed know Star Wars style and can produce a properly looking and tone-accurate Star Wars film. But what they want, more what they CRAVE, is some sort of originality in a trilogy that seems sadly lacking in that area.

    I have not encountered a single person who outright hates the choice of JJ to finish this off.

    • Victor Roa

      what’s ironic…. I like the “Look” of Rouge One, but hate the characters, BUT I love the characters of Force Awakens and Hate the look of it.
      I don’t think Star Wars is a complete dumpster fire but Rouge one really is a big missed opportunity and instead just devolved into fan service bating which was the problems of Revenge of the Sith’s antics. Just compared to Clone Wars of Rebels, I really do feel that’s where the meat and potatoes are in this franchise.

      • Moby85

        Yes, Rogue One definitely was fan service baiting. But, to be honest, it seems to have worked.

        • Victor Roa

          yeah, I mean it’s not a complete dumpster fire of a movie, like Suicide Squad. So yeah, I’m like you, very critical of it and feel that’s a good thing to at least understand what to do moving forward.

  • the50sguystrikesback

    I’ll take J.J. over Colin any day.

  • syambo87

    “JJ gave us Blaster Fires caught in mid air using the FORCE”

    a Lightsaber Catch passing by Kylo into Rey’s Hands!!!

    “the Piece of Junk will do”…

    Poe destroying Tie Fighters consecutively in 1 Pan Shot…

    there were alot of Epic Great Moments… beautifully shot…

    but also some lame points like…

    its a Death Star but a Planet.. and its called Star Killer..

    Kylo throwing tantrums like a child who lacks parental attention…

    R2D2 waking up… hes a droid… if he doesnt start… they can send him for servicing… or he goes into the junkyard… keep him under a blanket till he wakes back up… Fodder

  • Brian Moran

    What I don’t get is some of the stuff JJ was able to do with The Force Awakens, like changing the opening scroll at the last minute without running it by the Lucasfilm Storygroup, or the galaxy-wide visibility of the destruction of the Hosnian system, which some members of the LSG have publicly decried, and he was able to hide these antics from oversight because he brought in his own production company. I don’t get how Kennedy and Lucasfilm, who as you say have been bringing the hammer down to keep directors working within the lines, would bring back a known offender AND let him bring Bad Robot in with him.

Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and editor-in-chief of LRM. A graduate of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Television, Jammer's always had a craving for stories. From movies, television, and web content to books, anime, and manga, he's always been something of a story junkie.