According to reports by Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, Han Solo directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were fired by Kathleen Kennedy and Lucasfilm with just a few weeks of principal photography left in the film.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the main issue was that Lord and Miller prioritized comedy and wanted to make Han Solo more comedic than he was in the Original Trilogy:
“Lord and Miller have a comedic sensibility and improvisational style while Kasdan favors a strict adherence to the written word — what is on the page is what must be shot.”
“The creative clash, according to one insider, also came down to differences in understanding the character of Han Solo. ‘People need to understand that Han Solo is not a comedic personality. He’s sarcastic and selfish,’ said that source.”
I agree with the source cited above that Han is and should be portrayed in this spin-off movie as sarcastic and selfish rather than comedic. Consequently, if Lord and Miller were not being true to Han Solo’s character and refused to adjust their vision, I support Lucasfilm’s decision to fire them. Nonetheless, this firing raises significant questions about Lucasfilm’s competency in managing the Star Wars franchise.
Given that Lord and Miller have done heavily comedic movies in the past like The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street, it is not a surprise that they would want to move the Han Solo movie in that direction. So, why didn’t Kathleen Kennedy, Lawrence Kasdan (who is writing the film), and Lord and Miller thoroughly discuss their visions for the movie before beginning filming and realize they had significant creative differences before shooting most of the film?! Unless one side lied or mislead the other, there was clearly a drastic failure of communication that occurred.
Unfortunately, this failure by Lucasfilm seemingly leaves the Han Solo movie in a precarious situation. Since principal photography has almost been completed, the new director will likely only have a limited ability to fix whatever underlying problems the film has. The result may be a clash of tones and themes, as the new director will undoubtedly have a different vision than Lord and Miller. The firing of Lord and Miller certainly does not guarantee that the movie will be bad (it could very well turn out quite good), but it certainly doesn’t inspire confidence.
In terms of who will step into the director’s chair, Ron Howard’s name has been mentioned prominently. While Howard is an excellent director and would likely do a good job, I personally would suggest Lawrence Kasdan take over. Since we are so late in production, it makes sense to have the person that takes over be someone that is very well versed in the story and design of the film. Since Kasdan wrote the screenplay for this Star Wars film, as well as many others (Empire Strikes Back and The Force Awakens), he could step in immediately with a well thought out creative vision.
Should We Worry about Lucasfilm?
Some may point to the firing of Josh Trank, who was supposed to direct a Boba Fett movie, as well as the extensive reshoots of Rogue One and the sidelining of that movie’s director, Gareth Edwards, as evidence of Lucasfilm’s incompetence. However, I would argue that it was wise to drop Trank after his Fantastic Four disaster and that the Rogue One reshoots appear to have improved the movie (e.g., by tightening the ending). While it would be great to get things right the first time, it is better to admit mistakes and engage in course corrections. The ability of Lucasfilm to acknowledge their errors and move past them is a testament to their competency.
Nevertheless, there was one other recent story that raised some significant concerns about Lucasfilm’s creative process: Rian Johnson said that there was no mapped out story beyond The Force Awakens when he joined the fold to write and direct Episode 8. Although this is not a huge surprise since JJ Abrams and Kasdan only had a few months to work on the script for The Force Awakens after the previous writer, Michael Arndt, was fired, it is still quite concerning. Even though the original Star Wars movies were not fully planned out, George Lucas was at least there to provide a unifying vision for all three films. For the sequel trilogy, we have three different writers and three different directors, each of which likely has their own vision. Though this does not mean that Episode 8 and 9 will be bad movies by any stretch, it does increase the probability that the tone and theme of the sequel trilogy will be uneven. Imagine if JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book, and then it was left to six different writers to write the remaining six books. While having different writers and directors could make each film pleasantly unique and fresh, there are dangers that come with this strategy, and it could be reasonably interpreted as poor planning.
With the firing of Lord and Miller near the end of principal photography on Han Solo and the revelation that Episodes 8 and 9 were not mapped out when The Force Awakens was created, there are legitimate questions about Lucasfilm’s ability to develop a coherent creative vision for their films.