Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Photo: Jonathan Olley/ILM/© 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd

The statement from Lucasfilm was short, succinct and stunning. Colin Trevorrow, who had been recruited to direct Star Wars Episode IX, is leaving the project.

Of course, it was a “mutual” decision, Trevorrow was a “wonderful collaborator” and the conclusion was that “our visions for the project differ”. And nothing was said about the fact that Trevorrow is the fourth director to be ousted from the Star Wars franchise in two years.

It’s worth noting that Trevorrow, who directed the massively successful Jurassic World (see our review), was recruited by Lucasfilm as part of a drive to give each Star Wars movie a signature style and flavour. So were Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who were fired from the Han Solo movie late into the production and replaced with Ron Howard.

And so was Josh Trank, who helmed the awful Fantastic Four reboot (see our review) and was fired before he could even start work on a Star Wars spinoff movie.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi
At least Rian Johnson hasn’t been fired. Photo: David James/ILM/© 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd.

Let’s not forget that Gareth Edwards was also sidelined during the extensive reshoots for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (see our review).

So why is this happening? The Hollywood Reporter‘s Graeme McMillan, Ryan Parker and Aaron Couch note that the poor box office performance of The Book of Henry, Trevorrow’s latest project, may have been a factor. But Parker also points out the obvious:

“Having one director after another shown the door is not a good way to build confidence. Still, I suppose one could argue in another fashion that it shows Lucasfilm is trying to protect the brand. But, if that is the case, why the hell did they hire these people to begin with? What is the vetting process?”

Couch also notes that of all the new generation Star Wars directors, only J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson, who’s helming Episode VIII, have seen their projects through from start to end:

“Abrams is one of the most powerful TV producers and filmmakers in the business, but on the big screen, he has worked almost exclusively within other people’s franchises. He knows how to play well with others while also doing what’s necessary to make a crowd-pleasing movie.

On the surface, Johnson is pretty different from Abrams — he’s a filmmaker who has, until now, exclusively worked on his own projects when it comes to the big screen. Yet, like Abrams, he knows how to play in other people’s sandboxes. Compare that to the directors who were sidelined or fired: Trevorrow and Edwards had acclaimed low-budget films followed by one blockbuster before getting the job.

If anything, I think Lucasfilm must know that low-budget plus one blockbuster does not equal a Star Wars movie, necessarily.”

The final word on this goes to McMillan:

“I wonder if the fates that have befallen the initial wave of new Star Wars directors…will signal a change in the way Lucasfilm picks filmmakers for future projects, even if it’s something as simple as ‘Maybe not announce them four years out from production after they’ve had one big hit movie.'”

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