The Dueling Directors of Star Wars: Episode VII
Following last week’s announcement that the Walt Disney Company has purchased Lucasfilm for over 4 billion dollars and scheduled Star Wars Episode VII for release in 2015, the Internet has been in a flurry of speculation over the future of the saga. Far be it from us not to jump on the bandwagon.
Even more than questioning where the story is supposed to go in the future, everybody seems to be talking about who will direct the next episode of the franchise, given that George Lucas himself is reportedly leaving Star Wars behind (to serve merely as a consultant on Episode VII). Rather than offer any actual suggestions here, let’s take a look at some possible contenders in true Flickchart fashion: two at a time.
The Pixar Pros: Andrew Stanton vs. Brad Bird
They are Pixar Animation’s biggest hitmakers, both with critics and audiences. And both Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL·E) and Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) have recently made the jump to big-budget live action. They already have ties to the House of Mouse; could they be worthy options to take the reins of Star Wars?
Why not Stanton? Let’s face it; Andrew Stanton just lost Disney a bunch of money with a movie that looked an awful lot like Star Wars. I happened to really enjoy John Carter (you could see my Flickchart review here), but there’s no way Disney will entrust Stanton with the Holy Grail when they could just ship him back to Pixar and let him resume making animation hits.
Why not Bird? Also a career animator, Bird made a much more successful jump to live action with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, making arguably the best film in that franchise. So he’s proven that he can make a big franchise action movie, and he has his ties to Disney. Bird just might be the right guy for the job.
The Spectacle Starters: J.J. Abrams vs. Gore Verbinski
They’ve proven they can make franchise movies. Abrams took a floundering Star Trek franchise and revived it with gusto. Verbinski took a franchise based on a freaking Disney theme park ride, of all things, and spun gold for the House of Mouse. Familiar with big budgets and ensemble casts, these guys could do justice to Star Wars.
Why not Abrams? It might be nice to let fanboy Abrams actually make Star Wars, rather than living out his Star Wars dreams vicariously through Star Trek. After next year’s sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness, J.J. might not be returning to direct a third film in that franchise anyway, as he is always a guy with new projects on the go, in both film and television. Come to think of it, that’s a potential problem: Is Abrams a man with a focus too divided to do proper justice to Star Wars?
Why not Verbinski? He struck solid gold for Disney with Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, though that probably had more to do with Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow than anything Verbinski did. The two Pirates sequels filmed under Verbinski’s lens – Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End – made big money, but were not received as well. Still, his star’s back on the rise after the critical success of the animated Rango. If the interesting-looking The Lone Ranger does well for Disney, it might not be much of a stretch for them to hand Verbinski Star Wars. But The Lone Ranger looks like a big-budget gamble if ever there was one…
The Up-and-Comers: Neill Blomkamp vs. Rupert Wyatt
Richard Marquand didn’t have as much success as either of these relative newcomers before he made Return of the Jedi. Blomkamp (District 9) and Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) both have a big hit and high expectations. And they could both be hungry enough to really great justice to Star Wars.
Why not Blomkamp? The expectations for Blomkamp’s sophomore effort – next year’s Baja Dunes (formerly titled Elysium [or maybe the other way around – Ed.]) – are huge. This is the movie that will solidify Blomkamp as a force to be reckoned with, or establish him as merely lucky when he captured lightning in a bottle with District 9. Based on D-9, Blomkamp’s great with characters and big action, both essential for the future of a galaxy far, far away.
Why not Wyatt? Rise was an unqualified success, and a bit of a surprise, at that. In the wake of Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, expectations were not high for another Apes film. That could be part of why Rise was so well-received, but the fact is that it’s still an excellent film, full of big action, that doesn’t forget to make us care for its main protagonist…even if that character is a CGI chimpanzee. (Jar Jar Binks, he ain’t.) And, having pulled out of a planned sequel to Rise, Wyatt just might be available for Star Wars.
The Marvel Masters: Jon Favreau vs. Joss Whedon
There’s no doubt that Marvel’s The Avengers is one of the biggest franchises out there right now. It all started with Favreau’s surprise hit Iron Man and culminated this year with Whedon’s almost surprisingly fantastic The Avengers. Given the fact that Disney has also pulled Marvel Studios into its grasp (assuring that the House of Mouse no longer has to make any good movies of their own, because they have a trifecta of hitmakers in their grasp), it might make sense to turn to one of these big-budget success makers to helm a new Star Wars.
Why not Favreau? Though Iron Man 2 was saddled with too much Avengers setup to allow itself to breathe as its own movie, there’s no doubt that Jon Favreau set up one of the biggest franchises in movie history. But then the equally comic-book-based Cowboys & Aliens underperformed. Was Iron Man’s success really attributable to Favreau, or did it just ride on the charisma of star Robert Downey Jr.?
Why not Whedon? Geek culture would have a collective heart attack if their golden boy was at the helm of the both the biggest comic book franchise and the biggest sci-fi/fantasy franchise. But let’s face it: Whedon’s firmly entrenched with Marvel right now: he’s locked for The Avengers 2 and working on a Marvel-themed television series. It would be pretty silly of Disney to split his focus when the money machine is churning as well as it is.
The Money Makers: Steven Spielberg vs. James Cameron
Steven Spielberg created the modern blockbuster alongside his buddy George Lucas. Then James Cameron came along with his own brand of spectacle. Both Spielberg and Cameron are at the forefront of movie technologies right with Lucas, and have created some of the highest-grossing and most-beloved films of all time.
Why not Spielberg? Let’s face it; if Steven Spielberg had wanted to direct a Star Wars movie, he probably would have by now. But he and his pal Lucas already have Indiana Jones together, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull should be enough to make anyone nervous about Spielberg resurrecting a Lucas franchise. The man has already given us his best blockbusters; let him go ahead with more personal films, like this year’s impending Lincoln.
Why not Cameron? He’s directed the two highest-grossing movies of all time, smashing the record previously set by Star Wars. A no-brainer, right? Well, Cameron is busy making back-to-back sequels to Avatar, in his own universe that is even more detailed than anything in Lucas’s Star Wars. The man behind The Terminator, Aliens and True Lies will probably be lost on Pandora for the rest of his life.
The options, of course, are limitless. Will Disney take one of these much-bandied-about suggestions? Will they find somebody who seems completely out of left field? Or will they find an entirely new talent altogether? Whichever way things go for Star Wars, one thing is certain: the road to 2015 is sure to be filled with bombshell revelations.
And what do you think of Disney’s plans? Is the next chapter of Star Wars something you anticipate with unbridled excitement, or something that Disney should just leave well enough alone? And do you have any other brilliant suggestions for a director for them?