So Who Should Have Directed The New Star Wars?

When I expressed dread at the upcoming Star Wars movie yesterday, I got a lot of people floating their dream directors for the project.  And I have to say: given the idiotic constraints Disney put on the film, JJ Abrams is probably the best director they could have gotten.

Which is to say that Disney treated Star Wars as “release date first, everything else second.”  They’d locked down the date so all the other movie studios would get out of the way, and are now lurching towards that date come hell or highwater.  As noted, it’s coming eighteen months from now, and they haven’t finished the script.  (It took Lucas four years to write the script for the original Star Wars, and about eighteen months for everyone concerned to finish the script for Empire Strikes Back – and that was with Lucas’ overarching story notes.)  Clearly, what the big D wants is “A huge profit center,” and the actual quality of the movie is secondary to dominating Christmas 2015 with the inevitable Star Wars juggernaut.

So given that a huge quality film often takes years to develop, and they needed to toss something together quick, JJ Abrams is a good choice.  He’s flashy, he works quick, he’s clever.

But if we had infinite time, and Disney had treated the Star Wars films as though they were, you know, Star Wars and not some expensive direct-to-video sequel to the Lion King, who would have been best qualified to direct?

Not Kevin Smith.  Disclaimer: I like Kevin Smith. He’s directed some funny movies.  But I can’t recall a film of his where he’s had a memorable action sequence (and yes, I’m recalling both Dogma and Red State), and his characters are often all quips and no depth.  The glory of Star Wars is that it has things both ways – Han is both snarky and a real character, as is Luke, as is Leia.  Kevin Smith would certainly nail the quips, but would you really root for his heroes the way you did for Luke and Han?  I doubt it.  Plus, Kevin’s kind of a lazy writer.

In addition, Kevin’s a big Star Wars fanboy.  That’s actually not a real bonus for me.  When you have someone who treats the original material with such reverence, what you get is a sort of Christopher Columbus-does-Harry Potter movies thing where you have someone working so hard at emulation they forget to do anything actually interesting.  I think Kevin, with no experience helming big-budget, high-SFX projects, would be a disaster.  (Though script-doctoring?  Oh, bring in Kevin!)

Not Joss Whedon. 
I also like Joss, but when all this hooplah started he was committed to Marvel via an adamantium contract. I’ll hold out for quality, but I don’t really wanna wait until 2021 for my movie.

Plus, Joss needs to be restrained to work properly.  When he has his own projects, he winds up making all his characters miserable.  Do you really want Luke to die, Wash-style, at the end of this new Star Wars?  I almost guarantee you something like that’d happen; Joss loves his heroic sacrifice, and who would be a bigger moment than watching Harrison Ford get the noble sacrifice he was pushing for all the way back in Return of the Jedi?  You might see Luke and Han and Leia going out in a blaze of glory.

James Cameron. 
Given that he’s obsessed with Avatar, you’d have to back a truckload of money up – maybe even buy him the sunken remains of the Titanic.

But seriously, gripe though you might, Cameron is the spiritual successor to Lucas.  Corny dialogue that actually works for most people?  Check.  Ability to direct the best action sequences put to film, sequences that could only really be appreciated on the big screen in an age of video streaming?  Check.  Familiarity with SFX?  Check.  Overreliance on the Campbellian hero archetype?  Checkity-check.

Yes, Cameron would probably bring his techno-fetish to the new Star Wars, and make it a little more military than I’d be comfortable with.  And the new Star Wars wouldn’t appear until 2018 at the earliest, even if he started the day of the announcement.  (The man takes his time.) But assuming you could get him to do the job, he’d be damned perfect for it.

But Cameron would probably have turned it down (who’s to say he didn’t?), so that leaves me with my next bet…

Brad Bird.
“Who?” You ask.  The guy who directed The Incredibles, that’s who – perhaps the best superhero film of this century.  The guy who directed Iron Giant, and don’t you dare tell me you don’t tear up when you hear the robot saying “Superman.”

“But those are cartoons!” you say, and I’ll counter that he directed the last Mission Impossible with its breathtaking “Tom Cruise leaps off the side of a Dubai skyscraper” sequence.

Brad Bird is the perfect choice, because he really cares about melding character with action, the old Star Wars way.  He’s got good lines in him (especially if you get a Kevin Smith in to funny it up).  And he really knows how to direct some amazing action sequences with ratcheting tension, which is what Star Wars is known for.  It’s a shame he turned Disney down because they needed him to start directing ASAP, but I’m still looking forward to Tomorrowland (coming 2015 to a theater near you).

Gore Verbinski. 
Okay, yeah, he just bombed and bombed hard with The Lone Ranger, so nobody would want him.  And his work on Pirates of the Caribbean sequels were, shall we say, exactly the sort of crappy sequel that I fear (and that Disney rushed out in the same way that they are rushing Star Wars).

But my hope is that Gore has learned his lesson – and when he’s on his game, he makes the original Pirates of the Caribbean and The Ring.  He’s visually inventive, and I’ll put the original Depp-vs.-Bloom duel in Pirates, complete with witty banter, up against anything in Star Wars.  If he understands that his job is to fight the studio’s onrushing deadlines and work to get only quality, I think he’d actually do a damned fine job.

Darren Aronofsky.
Okay, the guy who brought us Noah, The Black Swan, Pi, and The Fountain would be a terrible choice, transforming the visuals into hunched dark landscapes and Luke into a zealot seeking redemption at all costs… but damn, if anyone’s going to wreck the series, I want to see the way he wrecks it.

Someone I Hadn’t Considered.
Hey, Peter Jackson was not on my radar when Lord of the Rings was announced, but he turned out to be a fine choice.  “The guy who directed Evil Dead” would not have been my go-to for revitalizing Spider-Man.  The Spanish guy who did that film about two dudes taking a roadtrip would not have been my pick for directing the best movie in the Harry Potter franchise.

If I was going to go for Star Wars, I’d probably skip the guys who’d had multimillion dollar hits and choose someone who’d had success with limited budgets, someone who knew how to take $1,000 and make it look like a million, someone with the same hungry eye that Lucas had when he started out.  After all, if you were going to direct the new Star Wars, would you choose the guy whose biggest hit ’til then was a film about teenagers in the 1950s?

But you know, that film was American Graffiti and that director was one Mr. George Lucas, so it just goes to show: you never know.

5 Comments

  1. caleb
    Apr 10, 2014

    To be fair, JJ Abrams is also a giant star wars fan. In fact, he said the main reason he did the recent star trek movies was because he thought it’d be the closest thing he’d get to star wars. That’s probably why the new star trek movies are actually star wars. And since he has already shot two star wars movies and they were terrific, I’d give him the reigns no matter the time situation.

  2. Chris Hallquist
    Apr 10, 2014

    Disagree with you about one thing: Luke obviously needs to die in Episode VII. If the inter-trilogy time skip is as large as the one between the prequels and the original series (and if they bring back Mark Hamill to play him), Luke will be the old mentor guy in Episode VII. And it has been established that at the beginning of each Star Wars trilogy, the old mentor guy dies. The pattern must not be broken.

    Really, when you think about, the Star Wars films are surprisingly not-shy about killing major characters. Episode IV killed off not only Obi-Wan, but Luke’s aunt and uncle, numerous minor good guys including Luke’s childhood friend Biggs, and literally every single bad guy not named “Darth Vader.” Look back to Phantom Menace, and I’m pretty sure the only characters to survive all 6 movies were the droids.

    Now killing off Artoo, that would be cruel.

    • TheFerrett
      Apr 11, 2014

      I have to say, you make a damned fine case for killing Luke.

      Though it pains me to say that.

  3. Sex Mahoney
    Apr 11, 2014

    Brad Bird is a pretty solid selection, but the best director for the new Star Wars would be Gregg Araki.

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