Disney made more waves this week in regards to Star Wars directors. After having issues with how Gareth Edwards handled Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and letting Phil Lord and Christopher Miller go in the midst of shooting the Han Solo anthology film, Disney has now announced a split with Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow. This all comes before production on the film has even started.
The only movies that have been officially announced on the docket for Star Wars are the Han Solo film, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Episode IX, and the recently announced Obi Wan Kenobi movie. Although there will undoubtedly be many to follow, the most pertinent one at the moment is the final chapter of the sequel trilogy. In summary, the pick for director is tremendously important. We took a look at some of the favorites to take up Trevorrow’s seat for Episode IX, including one very familiar name.
7. George Lucas
That familiar name, of course, is Star Wars creator George Lucas. The odds that Disney might actually turn to him seem relatively slim, but it would be a nice way honor the creative vision of the man responsible for Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Princess Leia. Lucas once referred to himself as the “divorced father” of the new Star Wars movies, and he had his disagreements with how Star Wars: The Force Awakens was handled. But don’t forget that Lucas did approve of Rogue One, even visiting the set during filming and offering Edwards some creative feedback.
We can’t airbrush out the problems with this plan. Like with two divorced parents, Star Wars fans would feel quite awkward in the middle if Lucas and Disney had disputes over the creative vision. It’s easy to cow-tow to Disney’s plan when it’s Edwards or Lord and Miller, but Lucas is the man that created the whole thing. To say that it’s complicated would be an understatement, and that’s before digging into the whole prequels problem. No more unsightly CGI, Jar Jar, or trade disputes, please.
6. Ron Howard
Probably best known these days as the narrator on the cult comedy Arrested Development, Ron Howard has had a storied career in Hollywood. An actor early on with The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days, the talented Howard quickly turned his career to directing as he got older. He made several memorable movies, including Backdraft, Apollo 13, Ransom, A Beautiful Mind, and Cinderella Man.
Howard is already working on another Star Wars movie. After Lord and Miller were fired from the Han Solo project, Disney brought in Howard to pick up the slack. There is no doubting Howard’s ability, especially in a movie that requires an appropriate mix of action, comedy, and drama. The one thing that might be difficult would be the fact that the Han Solo movie is still in the filming stage, meaning jumping to working on Episode IX might be a bit tight. At best, it allows for minimal time off between the two major projects.
5. J.J. Abrams
The Star Trek director and creator of the hit TV series Lost did an admirable job bringing Star Wars back to the big screen for the first time in 10 years with The Force Awakens. Fans had their complaints, noting how the storyline followed a bit too closely to the plot of Star Wars: A New Hope – they essentially created a third Death Star – and that Abrams shoehorned in a bit too many cameos from recognizable actors. Seriously, how many Game of Thrones alumni need to appear?
But as far as picking a director for Episode IX, they could do a lot worse than Abrams. Again, The Force Awakens was successful. It hit the right notes and was well done, introducing us to Rey, Finn, Poe, BB-8, and the rest. And it’s not like he hasn’t remained involved, either. Abrams is an executive producer on The Last Jedi, so he understands where the story is going.
There is one big issue with bringing back Abrams, however; he has a ton of projects right now. Although he is only listed with producer credits, in total Abrams has 12 projects either announced, in filming, or post-production. Add in the fact that at least one source has said Abrams will not direct Episode IX, and it seems like this is a long-shot.
4. James Gunn
Writer and director James Gunn rose to initial fame with the 2006 movie Slither, but really became a household name among movie-goers when he directed Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Showing that his success with Marvel’s unlikely hit was no fluke, Gunn wrote and directed Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which many believe was even better than the first. Gunn’s tone-setting soundtrack choices for the movies are amazing, and the way he’s been able to make the silly characters lovable and relatable is a stroke of genius.
Unlike Abrams, Gunn doesn’t have a ton of announced projects that could get in the way. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is projected to hit theaters in 2020, but that would leave the director plenty of time to work on Episode IX. We aren’t sure how Disney feels about this idea, but we’d be pretty stoked if it ended up being Gunn in the director’s chair.
3. Kathryn Bigelow
Kathryn Bigelow isn’t quite a household name, but she’s one of the most talented directors in the industry. She hit the big-time with 1989’s police drama Blue Steel, then went on to make Point Break in 1991. Her biggest success came with the critically acclaimed The Hurt Locker in 2008, and she followed that up with Zero Dark Thirty a few years later.
Bigelow doesn’t currently have any announced projects, which means she could be the right fit for someone to come in and focus on nothing but Episode IX for the next year and a half. Disney has gone outside the box with several of their hires – including Edwards with Rogue One and Rian Johnson with The Last Jedi – so while this would be a bit of a surprise, it’s not exactly outside the norm.
2. Ang Lee
Another one from outside the box is Ang Lee, best known for his work on Sense and Sensibility, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain, and Life of Pi. Lee is an excellent story-teller that isn’t afraid to take risks, as seen with Brokeback Mountain – a movie that was seen as groundbreaking at the time, and also won several awards. Life of Pi, in particular, was an epic hit, detailing the story of a young boy going on an adventure with a Bengal tiger.
Considering Crouching Tiger for a moment, there could be some serious reasons to like Lee for Episode IX. Star Wars has always had somewhat of a samurai aspect to it, especially with the prequels when Jedi Knights and lightsabers drew a very clear line to samurai monks. The idea of Lee creating a fight scene like some of the best from Crouching Tiger would be pretty exciting. On top of all of it, he’s an outstanding director and a good pick to tell the story of Episode IX.
1. Rian Johnson
If we’re going to look for the most obvious pick, it has to be Rian Johnson. The director of The Last Jedi hasn’t been judged by the masses yet, but Disney has clearly been very happy with his work on Episode VIII. At the very least, they haven’t split with him – like they did with Trevorrow, Lord, and Miller – or meddled in the final product like they did with Edwards.
Heading into his pick to direct the middle film of the sequel trilogy, Johnson was best-known for directing Looper and The Brothers Bloom. He also directed two of the most prominently talked about episodes of Breaking Bad, 2010’s Fly and 2013’s Ozymandias.
Outside of the fact that the rumors already have Johnson selected as the favorite to take over Episode IX, we do think it makes quite a bit of sense. While Abrams opened the door with a safe but fun first chapter with The Force Awakens, he has remained in a role as executive producer to oversee Johnson’s work on The Last Jedi. At this point, Johnson is well-suited to help the franchise leap into the final chapter of this trilogy.
If Disney is truly thrilled with Johnson’s vision as director of The Last Jedi, they need to trust him to finish things out in Episode IX.