In case you’ve been in a media blackout the last few days you likely heard about Lucasfilm parting ways with Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who were in the process of shooting the young Han Solo film. Naturally, this has left many fans concerned, especially considering that the film has been in active production for nearly half a year. Now, amidst the news that Ron Howard has been brought on to finish off the picture and Lord and Miller might be heading over to Warner Bros. to helm The Flash movie, I want to take a look at why all of this is potentially for the best.
According to Lucasfilm, this was truly an instance where there were irreconcilable creative differences between the pair of directors and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy in addition to executive producer and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan. Frankly, the latter is the more important of the two in this instance. Sure it’s never good to be on the outs with the president of a major studio, but when it comes to Han Solo no one knows the character better than Kasdan. In case you weren’t already aware, Kasdan has been writing Han Solo for a very long time, as he helped write both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi before returning to help pen The Force Awakens. That means he’s helped write some of Han’s most memorable moments in the franchise.
With that in mind, reports on their departure have talked about how Lord and Miller’s improvisational style rubbed both Kennedy and Kasdan the wrong way and in the wake of those reports, plenty of people are of the mindset that Lucasfilm should have allowed Lord and Miller the creative leeway they wanted. Plenty of fans have even pointed to the fact that one of Han’s most iconic lines – his response of “I know” to Leia’s “I love you” – was in fact improvised by Harrison Ford as a means of supporting Lord and Miller. That said, it’s actually a weak argument as perhaps the only person more in tune with Han as a character than Kasdan is Ford himself, and you can’t expect that same sort of magic from a newcomer like Alden Ehrenreich.
Though Lord and Miller are great when it comes to putting creative, comedic action on the silver screen – which did sound promising for a young Han Solo heist style film – there’s also an inherent need to stay true to the characters as we know them. From the sounds of it, Lord and Miller may not have been tapped into Han’s character the same way that Kasdan is. As the anonymous source said to The Hollywood Reporter, “people need to understand that Han Solo is not a comedic personality. He’s sarcastic and selfish.”
Another aspect that needs to be considered is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Much has been made of the massive re-shoots which drastically changed portions of the third act of the film, evidenced by sequences seen in earlier trailers for the film that didn’t actually make the final cut. Though Rogue One is by no means perfect, Lucasfilm and Disney still managed to turn out a really good Star Wars film in spite of the production issues they faced on that project. It stands to reason than that Kathleen Kennedy and Lucasfilm know what they want from the finished product and clearly what they were seeing from Lord and Miller wasn’t it. Lucasfilm has a really solid track record of late and has done a great job with the new Star Wars films and because of that, they deserve the benefit of the doubt.
Of course changing directors at this stage in the production is undeniably not ideal but there is still plenty of time to get things sorted out. Even though production is currently on hiatus in the wake of Lord and Miller being let go, they still have a couple weeks of shooting left with an additional 5 weeks of re-shoots planned later this summer. Though reports to this point have been quick to say that the film is still slated to release next May, should they need extra time they can always push the film back.
Overall, in spite of the odd timing, Lucasfilm currently has the clout to where we as fans should trust that they’re doing what’s right for the film. Not only have they already turned out solid flicks in The Force Awakens and Rogue One, the latter also faced massive production challenges. What’s really important here is that if Lord and Miller had a different view of Han Solo as a character than Kasdan’s vision, they’re wrong. There are no two ways around it, Kasdan knows the character, and if Lord and Miller gave us something different from what we know, Lucasfilm then runs the risk of tarnishing the image of arguably the most popular character in the entire franchise. With Lord and Miller off of the film, Kennedy, Kasdan, and Lucasfilm on a whole can ensure a proper version of Han Solo is presented in the final cut.
Images: Lucasfilm, Disney