Star Wars: Episode 9 – Does The Director Even Matter?

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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Joseph Jammer Medina

Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and contributor at LRM Online. 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.

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