You know the story. At this point it’s basically the new shot heard ‘round the world: Disney has bought Lucasfilm for $4 billion, George Lucas is retiring from the Star Wars game, and three more Star Wars films are planned for production starting in 2015. Lucas and the new Lucasfilm president, Kathleen Kennedy, have stated that they have archives of story treatments for more books, TV shows, and films… but with Lucas stepping back from the property, who are they going to get to direct these next three episodes in the ongoing Star Wars adventure? Let’s take a look at some candidates, whether they be likely, unlikely, or long shots.
The Likely Candidates
When thinking about who could direct new Star Wars movies, you have to understand that Disney won’t just hand this property off to anybody. They’re going to have to pick somebody they can trust with a huge budget; somebody with experience turning hundreds of millions of dollars into close to a billion dollars. Jon Favreau is one of those somebodies. Disney’s Marvel Studios properties are the hottest things they have going right now, and the success of the recent Avengers movie all started with Marvel taking a gamble on Favreau and letting him direct Iron Man. Not only was that movie a success both financially and critically, but it spawned the biggest movie franchise currently going. And past his 2013 release of Jersey Boys, we’re all in the dark about what Favreau is going to do as a director next.
Another director who’s made Disney gobs and gobs of money in the past is Gore Verbinski. The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl seemed like a terrible idea when it was first announced, but not only did it turn out to be an awesome movie, it also served as the foundation for a money-making franchise that’s still going, hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars later. Sure, the Pirates sequels were kind of crappy, but they still made a ton of money, and everybody liked Verbinski’s latest work, Rango. The only thing that could work against him is the fact that he just got through fighting with Disney tooth and nail over the budget for The Lone Ranger. Are they really going to want to hand the reins of Star Wars over to a director who couldn’t work with the budget he was given on his last job? Maybe. Especially if they like the Lone Ranger footage that he’s delivering.
If anyone has been keeping Disney alive in the eyes of film critics over the past decade or so, it’s been the team doing work over at Pixar. And if there’s anyone at Pixar who could be argued as being the most beloved member of the team, it’s Brad Bird. The Pixar films that boast his name as director, The Incredibles and Ratatouille, were huge hits with critics as well as big moneymakers at the box office, and his first film as a director of live action, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, not only proved that Bird could be trusted to resuscitate a floundering franchise, it also proved that the guy could flat-out make an awesome, balls-to-the-wall action tentpole. With the mystery surrounding his next project, 1906, it’s not quite clear how his schedule would synch up with production on a new Star Wars movie, but at this point he might be the best and most likely man to get the job.
Not Likely to Happen
Along with directors who immediately look like the go-to picks for Disney’s new Star Wars films, there are also a few directors who look like possibilities at first glance, but who won’t likely end up being the guy who gets the job. At the top of this list is Andrew Stanton, another director who was hugely successful at Pixar and who recently directed his first live action movie. The difference here is that Stanton’s latest, John Carter, had a huge budget and ended up being a very high profile money loser for the House of Mouse. Sure, John Carter was actually a decent movie, and doesn’t deserve its poison reputation, but no way Disney hands Star Wars over to a guy who just lost them a bunch of money making a movie that looks a lot like Star Wars. Instead, he’s being shunted back to animation for Finding Nemo 2 and possibly Toy Story 4.
Given Joss Whedon’s godlike status among fans of genre films, as well as his godlike performance as director of The Avengers—the most fun, most money-making movie that there ever was—voices are likely to be calling out from all angles to get him on as the director of the new Star Wars movies. Unfortunately, this just doesn’t make much sense. Whedon is already very entrenched in Disney’s Marvel world, serving as a consultant on all their films, a creator of their new TV series, and the director of The Avengers 2. While it would be awesome to see him play around in the Star Wars universe, it just doesn’t make sense for Disney to potentially sabotage the biggest thing they currently have going by taking him off super heroes and having him concentrate on Jedi. They’ll get somebody else, so they can try to get two huge money-making franchises going.
Seeing as family adventure is one of Steven Spielberg’s fortes, Lucas’ and Spielberg’s names are always closely tied together, and Kathleen Kennedy—one of the people who co-founded Amblin with Spielberg—is the new president of Lucasfilm, this directing icon is a dream pick that film fans are likely to start throwing around for Episode VII. But Spielberg already has Robopocalypse set for 2014, which would overlap too much with the time needed to develop Episode VII. And, let’s be honest, if Steven Spielberg ever wanted to direct a Star Wars movie, chances are he would have done it by now. This pick is interesting, but not very likely.
Interesting Long Shots
At first glance the idea of a Tim Burton-directed Star Wars movie sounds like a mishmash of conflicting styles that would never, ever happen—but the more you think about it, the more it starts to make sense as a choice for Disney. Sure, Burton’s movies have their own looks and feels, which are far more goth than they are sci-fi/fantasy, but he’s also a director that’s made tons of money in the past whenever he’s paired up with a pre-existing property. Look at movies like Batman, Alice in Wonderland, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory… all examples of Burton stepping out of his wheelhouse, dabbling with other people’s creations, and making lots of money for his studio. He’s always been a director who’s as good as the script he’s working with, as well. Imagine Tim Burton getting a script for Star Wars Episode VII that’s as good as the script for Ed Wood and what that might look like—suddenly it’s not such a bad idea. On the other hand, the specter of Planet of the Apes always looms.
Of course, another thing that’s still looming over Hollywood is the success of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. After multiple sequels squeezed all of the life out of the Planet of the Apes franchise and Burton’s remake made the idea of another reboot look like a really bad decision, the expectations for Rise of the Planet of the Apes weren’t high. But, in Rupert Wyatt’s hands, a really bad idea got turned into a successful franchise launcher that was both an affecting human drama as well as a thrilling action blockbuster. Ever since Wyatt dropped out of doing the sequel there’s been a lot of talk about what he might do next, but nothing that’s really sounded all that official. Could it be possible that Disney liked what he did for Apes and has been dangling Star Wars in front of his face in hush-hush, back room deals? Sure, anything’s possible.
Maybe Disney is going to take a risk and give Star Wars to a young director who’s unproven making big budget, franchise films though. It could happen—Lucas and Spielberg were just starting out when they unwittingly created the whole summer blockbuster thing back in the late 70s. And if they were going to go this route, who would be a better choice to be the new Star Wars director than Attack the Block helmer Joe Cornish? In his debut film he proved that he can be resourceful with special effects, he can create a ragtag group of lovable characters, and he can make action/sci-fi that’s fun, funny, and feels like a throwback to the heyday of 80s-era blockbusters, all while still maintaining its own identity. Is it possible that there are any young directors out there better equipped to make an awesome Star Wars movie?
Of course it’s possible. We’ve already established that anything’s possible. If you can think of one, tell us about it in the comments. Let’s come up with an idea that’s so awesome Disney can’t help but steal it.