There’s been a disturbance in the Force. A few, actually. First, Colin Trevorrow, the director chosen for Star Wars Episode IX, caught some awful reviews for his newest film, The Book of Henry. Then—in a twist of events unheard of in the current day, big blockbuster landscape—Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired as directors of the Han Solo spinoff movie, even though principal photography was nearing an end. These two events, one after the other, have gotten people worried. Some think this signals the preliminary stages of disarray for the newly minted Star Wars extended universe. So let’s take a moment to assess the state of the galaxy, and ask ourselves: is the Star Wars Universe in trouble?
As a wise Jedi once said, in his signature syntax, “Hard to see, the future is.” Harder still is telling what exactly counts as “successful” when considering an expanding universe. Taking into account existing films, Star Wars doesn’t have much of a cinematic universe thus far. There’s just the primary Skywalker saga and a spinoff, Rogue One. We don’t yet know what a sprawling Star Wars cinematic universe looks like. And as far as other franchises go, the only truly successful cinematic universe is Marvel’s. There aren’t many other examples to compare Star Wars, either. Other universes are in their infancy and faltering (the Dark Universe), pushing through growing pains (the DCEU), or long-established series dipping their toes into the shared-universe waters (X-Men).
Star Wars is most like the last example, and if two movies of the new generation of Star Wars were an adequate measure of an ongoing universe’s success, Lucasfilm could probably count their endeavor as a win. The Force Awakens and Rogue One were both generally loved by fans and critics alike, and each had difficulties during their productions. TFA had to work around Harrison Ford’s injuries and several re-writes, while Rogue One famously went through extensive reshoots. Despite the odds, both movies stuck the landing with audiences. Most would agree that Lucasfilm is two for two. But what happens when a franchise wades further into uncharted territory? What are the warning signs of a cinematic universe in crisis? What are they for Star Wars, specifically?
For now, there certainly are warning signs. Only time will tell if they signal a momentary bump in the road or a total derailment for Star Wars. The untitlted Han Solo spinoff film appears to be going through what Rogue One experienced but to a greater degree. Phil Lord and Chris Miller departed the film only a few weeks before principal photography was set to close. They cited “creative differences” as their reason for leaving, namely those between them and Kathleen Kennedy as well as screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan. The fact that these differences reached a boiling point as late as they did, as opposed to creative differences between Edgar Wright and Marvel over Ant-Man, which all took place before cameras started rolling, is troubling, to say the least. Add to this the fact that an acting coach was hired for Hail, Ceasar! standout Alden Ehrenrich (a rarity for a film so late into production), and you have bad vibes stemming from Lucasfilm’s camp.