Kathleen Kennedy steps in to resolve ‘creative differences’

Kathleen Kennedy

Apollo 13 director Ron Howard will take control of the untitled Han Solo movie after Phil Lord and Christopher Miller left the project due to “creative differences”.

The directorial duo responsible for ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’ and ‘The Lego Movie’ officially left the movie on June 20 and stated on StarWars.com, “Unfortunately, our vision and process weren’t aligned with our partners on this project.

So let’s say upfront that a directorial change really isn’t anything new, it happens a lot. Particularly while a film is seeking finance or during pre-production itself.

It’s less common during filming and quite unusual after four months of shooting.

So what went wrong?

At the moment it’s very difficult to know exactly what happened. But the general consensus is that Lord and Miller had chosen to portray Han Solo in a style that left Lucasfilm feeling uncomfortable.

The rumour is that Han was being played too comically. I can see that a younger Han might have been funnier before becoming more sarcastic with age and the tribulations of a life constantly on the run.

Whilst most of us feel the appointment of directors like Gareth Edwards or Lord and Miller were without doubt exciting and bold choices, clearly line(s) had been crossed that forced Kathleen Kennedy to act for the greater good of the franchise.

Now that’s what this really does come down to isn’t it? Does Kennedy understand what is Star Wars so fundamentally that she is willing to spend tens of millions of dollars in extra filming to protect the essence of the brand?

Alternatively, does she represent a lack of vision, which is stifling the brand and robbing fans of the new movie they wanted?

To say that Kennedy is simply protecting the financial side of the brand and not its heart and soul is an easy accusation to make. However, I think Kennedy has called this correctly, and there are four main reasons why I think this.

One – track record

I’ve linked to Kennedy’s Wikipedia page above. It’s worth checking. To summerise, she co-founded Amblin Entertainment with Steven Spielberg, produced E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and the Jurassic Park franchise, has worked on over 60 films and secured 120 Academy Award nominations.

Kennedy is third only to Spielberg and Stan Lee in domestic box office receipts, with over $6 billion as of December 2015.

This isn’t Kennedy’s first rodeo.

Two – Rebels

Look, there’s no doubt that the premature ending of the Clone Wars upset many people. But that said, the launch of a brand new adventure series based just before the beginning of episode 4 is hardly a move of the faint hearted.

Equally, let’s be honest, Rebels wasn’t born with a brand new design style. Cleverly, it was born with the same aesthetics as Clone Wars. So before we knew it we started to bump into the same fan favorite characters we met in Clone Wars.

Both Clone Wars and Rebels have enriched the canonical Star Wars universe with an energy and life that dare I say threatens to eclipse the movies. Kennedy was at the helm when Rebels was conceived.

Three – Rogue One

It’s easy to forget what a strange concept a stand-alone Star Wars movie was just a few years ago. A Star Wars movie that existed separately of the traditional Luke/Anakin/Darth Vader storyline – how would that work?

Yet Rouge One was a film that many of my friends considered to be be one of their favourite Star Wars films.

I liked Rouge One, but personally I didn’t put it up in my top three films. But many others did. Rouge One happened with the blessing and directorial oversight of Kennedy.

Four – The prequel trilogy

I’m not going to reignite the prequel/Jar Jar debate again. But I was one of those original fans that thought episode one to three really should have been better.

If only someone at that time in Lucasfilm had been able to pull George Lucas aside and firmly say, “Look, this green screen BS has to stop – and start directing these poor people”.

Back then Lucas was just too powerful. Nobody could pull him aside, even Kennedy. But now is not then, and I’d hate to see history repeat itself.

My conclusion

Let’s give Kennedy and Lucasfilm the benefit of the doubt and wait for the final picture to emerge. Right now we have so little to go on we just can’t know for sure what the quoted “creative differences” were.

I’m betting on Kennedy to get this right. I’d rather see someone with a vision for Star Wars rather than someone who is happy to take what they can get.

Ironically, I’d happily pay £15 for the new Han Solo Blu-ray, but I’d leap at the chance to pay £40 to see the director’s cut.

If Lucasfilm play their cards right, they could have both. And we’d all be happy.

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