It was bound to happen some day. Star Wars: Episode VII is becoming a reality now that Disney has purchased LucasFilm, and set a release date for 2015. George Lucas has gracefully bowed out of the director’s chair, and given the reigns over to producer Kathleen Kennedy, although it remains to be seen how much influence he’ll have over future Star Wars films.
But since the director’s chair is open and we all love pretending we’re Hollywood executive, let’s play Suggest! That! Director! This is the fun part since we have no idea what the story will be and who would be appropriate for that story. However, we do have a vibe of what a Star Wars movie is, or at least what a Star Wars movie should be (i.e., the originals, not the prequels). So who’s the right director to make a worthy successor to the original movies? Hit the jump for my suggestions.
Every major filmmaker knows Star Wars, and a large percentage carry its impact to this day. They haven’t just seen the movies. They’ve taken them into their DNA. It’s part of their existence. And yet, these filmmakers have come to their own styles. I love the films of Guillermo Del Toro, Edgar Wright, and others, but I want to see them handle their own material. I’m more excited for Pacific Rim than I am for The Haunted Mansion, even though I’m sure Del Toro will do a great job with both. I’m keen to see Ant-Man, but I’m more eager to see The World’s End. Here’s the question you have to ask: would I rather see a director I admire do an original project, or take time to do Star Wars?
As for other obvious fan-favorites: I’m sure Joss Whedon would deliver a memorable movie, I’m not sure how I’d feel about droids spouting Whedonesque dialogue (I think his take on The Avengers works because the Marvel movies have been so flexible in their styles). Also, Steven Spielberg has said he’s done with action movies, and I think after Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, he’s content to keep his hands off George Lucas’ stuff.
The best people I see for the job are the ones who can adapt to any genre, but they’re more than journeymen. They know how to move across genres and have the talent to deliver something memorable if paired with a solid script. Furthermore, each of these directors has delivered successful blockbusters in the past, so the studio would likely be comfortable with them handling the technical demands Episode VII will likely require (otherwise Rian Johnson, Cary Fukunaga, and a few other directors would have easily made this list). While Disney has stated that they’re planning a new trilogy, at this point I’m focusing solely on the next movie because let’s be honest: studios want a trilogy out of everything and most of the time they’re willing to part with the director.
It’s not just that Brad Bird is one of the best directors working today. It’s that he has the uncanny ability to come into an existing project or franchise (like Ratatouille and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) and hit it out of the park. He doesn’t leave an overbearing stamp on his material other than an emphasis on the importance of story above all else, and giving his audience a fun, uplifting experience without ever being cloying or condescending. If anyone can bring the old magic back to Star Wars, it’s Bird.
There were four directors before him, but for me, David Yates is the true director of the Harry Potter franchise. He directed it through some of the most challenging stories, found the essence of the character as it best related to the demands of a movie, and always let the story come ahead of the set pieces. His passion for the material never came off as slavish or doting, but respectful and thoughtful. If there’s any franchise that could match the pressures of directing Star Wars, it’s Harry Potter. Yates made it look easy.
Like all of the other directors on this list, he took an established franchise and made it feel fresh without leaving behind what made the world special. If anyone other than Bryan Singer had come on to replace Vaughn for X-Men: First Class 2, I think there would have been great mourning at seeing him leave the series. Also worth noting is how Vaughn has skillfully moved through wildly different tones such as the delightful fantasy of Stardust to the bombastic to Kick-Ass without missing a beat.
After seeing Skyfall, I was once again reminded that Sam Mendes is a master of genre. Give him a strong script, and he’ll blow you away. Give him a bad script, and you get Revolutionary Road. But in terms of control, he has moved seamlessly through genres as diverse as period melodrama to indie dramedy to gangster film to spy thriller, and while he doesn’t drastically elevate the material, he directs a script to its full potential. And as you’ll see with Skyfall, he has no trouble getting into an established franchise and finding its heart.
Yes, it will be the most secretive production in history. While I haven’t been over the moon about the stories of Abrams’ movies, I believe he is a talented director, and more importantly, he can make a strong picture when working with a less than stellar script. If Abrams gets a strong screenplay and can pair it with the earnestness he showed with Super 8, it should be a nice fit with Star Wars.
Of course, the most important challenge is getting the story right, and we have no idea what that story will be. This is the problem with speculation. We have favorite directors, and we want them to do big things, but we don’t know if they’ll be a good fit. And it’s impossible to know who would be best suited to the material (although I can think of some names that I would prefer to stay away from Star Wars), so we’ll just have to wait and see.
Please sound off in the comments about who you’d like to see direct Star Wars: Episode VII.
For more of our coverage on Disney buying LucasFilm:
- Disney CEO Bob Iger and George Lucas Talk LucasFilm Acquisition and STAR WARS
- George Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy Talk the Future of STAR WARS; Reveal They’ve Already Met with Writers for EPISODE VII
- Disney Buys Lucasfilm for $4 Billion; STAR WARS: EPISODE 7 Will Kick Off New Trilogy in 2015