Colin Trevorrow made a mediocre indie movie (sorry, Safety Not Guaranteed fans).
Then he got handed the keys to the Jurassic Park kingdom.
Colin Trevorrow made an entertaining, but ultimately mediocre Jurassic Park movie that made more money than God.
Then he got handed the keys to the final installment of the new Star Wars trilogy.
Colin Trevorrow made a so-bad-it-has-to-be-seen-to-be-believed indie movie that bombed.
Now he’s more or less been fired from his Star Wars gig.
What does it all mean? Why does Kathleen Kennedy keep firing (or at least sidelining) Star Wars directors? Was it a mistake to hire Trevorrow in the first place? Do blockbuster film directors even matter anymore? What director worth their salt even wants to make those kinds of films these days, especially with the superior artistic freedom awaiting them on any of the gazillion amazing TV shows to choose from?
With Trevorrow out, the conversation now turns toward who will replace him, especially since Episode IX needs to start production sometime relatively early next year to meet its May 24, 2019 release date. The internet is doing the social justice warrior thing, insisting the director be a woman (Patty Jenkins) or a black person (Jordan Peele) or, better yet, a black woman (Ava DuVernay). Others are looking to TV and plucking potential candidates from [insert name of amazing TV show you swear you’ll get to once you get through the dozens of other shows everyone on the internet raves about].
But given LucasFilm’s track record to this point – Trevorrow and Josh Trank pre-emptively fired, Chris Miller and Phil Lord ousted astonishingly late into filming, Gareth Edwards sidelined during Rogue One reshoots and editing – the better question is whether or not this is even a job worth having. Whoever they hire will not be hired to direct a movie; they’ll be hired to be a glorified brand manager executing a corporate vision.
It’s a system that works over at corporate sibling Marvel Studios, where those who can play ball (James Gunn, The Russo Brothers) thrive and those that can’t get nudged aside during post-production. It’s also a system that has thus far produced two wildly successful Star Wars movies that were predictably divisive online but generally beloved by the average moviegoer. By all accounts, LucasFilm’s heavy hand actually made Rogue One light years better, particularly in adding the epic Darth Vader cameo ending during reshoots. Now Rian Johnson is putting the finishing touches on The Last Jedi at the end of what has been relatively uneventful shoot (apart from Carrie Fisher’s death away from the film), following in J.J. Abrams footsteps in proving that some directors are more suited to this style of working than others.
These films are too big to allow a director to screw it up and/or embarrass themselves. The IP and global box office gods are angry and must forever be appeased. Product must be delivered on brand and in four-quadrant satisfying ways. That’s simply the cost of doing business in the franchise era. The path to success is to prove your mettle by making something for nothing that ends up getting seen by the right people, leverage that into a big franchise payday and then proceed forward on a schedule of alternating between small films/TV shows for the soul and big films for the bank account.
Or, you know, you could simply just take a meeting at Netflix and end up with a series commitment on an amazing TV show that will offer you near-complete autonomy. Leave the stress of franchise living to those still wedded to the antiquated, but enticing idea of mass entertainment seen on the biggest screen possible.
What to do. What to do.