This summer has not been kind to the directors in the Star Wars universe. In June, Lucasfilm shocked people by firing Phil Lord and Chris Miller near the end of production on the Han Solo spin-off they were directing. On Tuesday, there was another disturbance in the Force, in the form of director Colin Trevorrow being let go from Episode IX, mere months before its predecessor, The Last Jedi, opens in theaters. Now, of course, there’s rampant speculation about who will take over the helm, why Trevorrow was fired, and what this means for the franchise. But there’s one important lesson to emphasize: Rushing to a pre-ordained finish line isn’t required.
When Lord and Miller were let go, it was unprecedented in ways that Trevorrow’s firing isn’t. The Last Jedi is 20 months away from release, but the Han Solo prequel was nearing the finish line when Lucasfilm pulled the trigger and replaced the duo with Ron Howard. This isn’t the first time Lucasfilm has parted ways with filmmakers (Josh Trank was removed from an unnamed Star Wars Story in the summer of 2015, while Gareth Edwards was sidelined during Rogue One: A Star Wars Story). However, it’s just as surprising that Lord and Miller were removed when they were, as it is that the Han Solo film is still on target for a May 2018 release. Nothing — not switching to Howard as the new director, not recasting characters, not even reshooting extensive chunks of the film — can stop it. What would be the worst result if, say, the Han Solo film were pushed back to December 2018 from its current May 25, 2018, date? The film wouldn’t become worse, and it would face competition no less stiff. It’s not automatically a bad thing to take a bit of a breather.
With luck, the Han Solo prequel will be an exciting look at how one of the best modern movie heroes got his start. But the pervasive sense that the film has to open next May, whether Lord and Miller direct it, or Howard, or someone else, is both baffling and unnecessary. While it’s true that Hollywood is awash in franchises, it’s hard to imagine that audiences will become disenchanted with or straight-up forget about the Star Wars world if we go more than a full 12 months without a new movie. Delaying the release date may seem like a sign of bad news for the project, but even The Last Jedi shifted its release date from May 2017 to this December, in part because The Force Awakens was such a monstrous box-office hit when it opened around Christmas 2015.
Right now, just two new Star Wars films have actually been released since the Walt Disney Company purchased Lucasfilm. There have been twice as many cases of upheaval with the men behind the camera. (Two brief notes: It’s worth acknowledging that both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi have avoided any major sense of production angst, and we are well past high time for a woman to take on directorial duties for a story in a galaxy far, far away.)
As for Trevorrow, it may be that his recent film The Book of Henry did him no favors, due to its toxic reviews and weak box office. Or maybe the script he co-wrote with Derek Connolly (currently being rewritten by Jack Thorne) wasn’t bringing the story of Rey, Finn and Poe to a satisfying conclusion. The director who inherits Episode IX should expect to work within the structures that Lucasfilm honcho Kathleen Kennedy lays out; that doesn’t mean they should be expected to do so in record time.
No one is best served by an expedited release date for Episode IX. The Han Solo prequel could be wonderful, and it may still be marred by the feeling that we’re watching a film with multiple directors at the helm, with disparate tonal sensibilities. Episode IX, at least, gives Lucasfilm and whatever director (or directors) they choose the chance to start as much from scratch as possible. It’s true that adding release delays to a game of directorial chairs may seem like a new headache for Lucasfilm and Disney to handle. But fans are likely willing to be more patient (or, they ought to be), so they can enjoy a film made well as opposed to a film made quickly. Whoever ends up directing Episode IX shouldn’t feel like they’re being forced into a sprint for no good reason. Give it time, for everyone’s sake.