Wednesday, June 21, 2017
What does Phil Lord and Chris Miller's exit from the Han Solo movie say about Hollywood?
It was reported yesterday that Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the original directors of the upcoming "Solo: A Star Wars Story" suddenly left the project. Lord and Miller have given us such things as "The Last Man on Earth" on Fox, "The Lego Movie," "22 Jump Street" and wrote and produced "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs." They are clearly highly talented men and they were already filming the Han Solo movie for four months. Kathleen Kennedy, producer of the "Star Wars" movies said it was over "creative differences."
Ah, the good, old-fashioned, creative differences. I have seen this excuse to axe somebody from a project many times before. When we think of the terms together, we think the director had one vision and the studio had a vision. The two parties couldn't come to a compromise on their visions, so one party exits. The exiting party is almost always the director in question. This usually leaves people wondering, didn't the studio hire the director in question in the first place because of their vision?
You'd think the answer would be a definitive yes, but that question gets harder to answer when you get into the modern age of filmmaking and when your in the middle of a huge franchise like "Star Wars." Marvel has had the same problem over the course of its cinematic universe. Yes, it is a problem. Despite what I have said about the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I have liked quite a bit of its output. But even I can admit that when a director is hired to make one of Disney's Marvel films, they are not going to make their own take on the characters, they are making Kevin Feige's take on the characters. Feige has very specific plans for where characters are going to land by the end of their movies, and you are either on board for that or you are not. Again, I have liked nearly all the Marvel movies, but I also know that they've turned away great talent like Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish and Ava Duvernay. I often wonder what the MCU would look like if directors were given complete reign of the characters they are hired to produce and if there is a different way to string them all together.
Believe it or not, there ARE pitfalls to being a director completely closed off from studio interference. M Night Shymalan for example. He hit it big with "The Sixth Sense," so much so that he was pretty much treated with kid gloves by Disney, hoping he would make the next big hit. While "Unbreakable" and "Signs" turned out well, we got "The Lady In The Water," "The Village," "The Happening" and a host of other crappy films, simply because Shymalan isolated himself from the process. Sure, "Split" was a return to form, but did we have to sit through over a decade of crap to get there? I know everybody has one bad film or two bad films, but four or five right in a row? That doesn't look good on your resume, no matter how hard you try to sugar-coat it.
I am thinking that Disney is treating their "Star Wars" franchise like their "Marvel" franchise and they maybe taking their micro-managing a little overboard, which is rubbing several creative artists wrong. I am sure Phil Lord and Chris Miller were creating a zany, offbeat, strange Han Solo film and it didn't fit the thematic anesthetic Kathleen Kennedy wanted for Han Solo. But the question becomes, if you didn't like their style, why did you hire them? Why do studios go to people because they liked their resume only to tell them how to make the very movies they were hired to make on their own? The answer to the question isn't necessarily leave the talent alone, because ego gets in the way. It sure as hell does. We've seen it countless times in Hollywood. A balance between studio and director needs to be reached. The studio can't micro-manage every aspect of their franchises and the directors need to be able to play ball with the needs of the studio, while also implementing their own vision. There needs to be balance to everything in life, making movies is no difference.
It looks like Ron Howard will step in for Lord and Miller. While I am a Ron Howard fan, he seems like a step down from Lord and Miller. I would have killed to see what Lord and Miller had in store for a Han Solo movie. What is really going to suck is if Disney sacrificed a slightly original take by Lord and Miller for a generic karaoke machine movie. If the Han Solo movie only adds up to the audience discovering how Han met Lando, how he met Chewie, why Geedo and Jabba The Hut hate him so much and the Kessel Run and that's it, then I can't say I'm interested. The studios are in a strange era these days as they feel the need to take a popular story and over explain everything about it. I don't need all the mysteries behind Han Solo answered. That's not a movie that would interest me. Sometimes some mystique around characters is nice, sometimes less is more. I would love a Han Solo movie that didn't take the safe, easy route. I would love a Han Solo movie that just had him on a early smuggling adventure, before he met any other big names in the franchise. That could have been great fun.
I wish Ron Howard luck moving forward. I wish Disney luck moving forward. But this era of extreme micro-management is beginning to cause problems as well. Hollywood needs to bring balance to the studio-director relationship like Anakin needed to bring balance to The Force.