The idea of a Young Han Solo movie has always been, in my mind, a bit of a gamble. Sure, the character is one of the most beloved in all of film history, and certainly has name recognition even amongst non-Star Wars fans. But doing a prequel based on a character most famously known for the actor who portrays him is, frankly, not a smart decision. Hell, there was backlash against the new Mummy movie because it didn’t star Brendan Fraser, and that was for the freaking Mummy franchise! And freaking Brendan Fraser! Being something far more beloved, you engage the risk of seriously pissing off fans with a subpar, hated version of a character they once loved. Putting business aside, you have to tried likely with “young,” recast versions of famous characters. Almost always, it’s quite the dangerous game.
But as far as “dangerous games” went, the Young Han Solo film really seemed to be making the best decisions possible. A talented, charismatic young actor in the lead role. A bevy of great supporting actors (including Donald Glover and Woody Harrelson) surrounding him. And, most importantly of all, filmmakers who actually had a passion and concept beyond simply “Han Solo, but young!” By all accounts, Disney and Lucasfilm seemed to have found that with the pair of Phil Lord and Chris Miller. The fact that they were also two of the best filmmakers working today was just icing on the cake, really.
So, despite all the warning signs, the Young Han Solo movie became one of my more anticipated films coming out of the Mouse House. After all, the project had the filmmakers behind The Lego Movie, 21 Jump Street, 22 Jump Street, Clone High, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs leading it. What could possibly go wrong?
This. This could possibly go wrong.
Because, as I’m sure you’ve heard by now after all the internet freakouts (including my own), Phil Lord and Chris Miller have left the Young Han Solo movie. Now this would of course be a bad thing regardless of the current state of the movie…but coupled with that, it gets a billion times worse. Because, you see, the Young Han Solo movie is currently three weeks away from the conclusion of shooting. Dozens upon dozens of hours of footage are already in the can. By all accounts, principal photography is more than halfway complete. And now, this late in the game, Lord and Miller depart over the all too standard “creative differences,” first outlined in their statements to the press:
“Unfortunately, our vision and process weren’t aligned with our partners on this project. We normally aren’t fans of the phrase ‘creative differences’ but for once this cliché is true. We are really proud of the amazing and world-class work of our cast and crew.”
The statement from Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy was equally as diplomatic:
“Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are talented filmmakers who have assembled an incredible cast and crew, but it’s become clear that we had different creative visions on this film, and we’ve decided to part ways. A new director will be announced soon.”
But don’t be lead astray by the boilerplate press releases and other statements from those involved: this is NOT normal. Something went down with this project during production and, if I know the online film reporter community, it won’t be long until we find out exactly what led to the creative rift between Lucasfilm and the filmmaking duo. At this point, I won’t speculate, because I literally have no idea. Things seemed to be going so smoothly, which makes this sudden announcement all the more shocking.
And no matter how you slice it, this is a bit of a disaster for Disney and Lucasfilm. Directors leaving a project alone is never a good thing…but doing it halfway through production? It is an absolutely horrifying position to be in. Who will direct now? What will become of the already directed footage? How will credit arbitration actually go on the film, if the finished product still utilizes most of what Lord and Miller already shot? And, if it doesn’t, how can you possible retool the other part of the film so late in the game? You only have the cast for so long, and I’m sure none of them are enjoying the current situation going down on this set.
Disney wants to sell the illusion that this is a minor setback, and that the film is still on track for its release date of next May. But don’t believe it for a second: with Lord and Miller gone, this production is in shambles. I do not envy the producers and other crew members who will have to pick up the pieces.
But as big as a headache as this situation probably is for Disney, I imagine it’s more of a heartbreak for us Star Wars fans. So many of us were completely against the idea of a Han Solo spin-off, and have only recently come around on the idea JUST because everything seemed to be going so well in production. But now Lord and Miller are gone, and with it the fan base’s goodwill.
Because, look, the movie might still end up being good — troubled productions have pulled through before (just ask the last Star Wars Story.) But now when I ultimately watch this movie, I will just think of what the movie under Lord/Miller would have been, how much of the final product is still “theirs,” and ultimately, what shit must have been pulled to create such a terrible development in the first place. It’s the Edgar Wright Ant-Man situation, times a thousand.
The Young Han Solo movie isn’t dead, but it sure as hell is bleeding out. And I can’t say excited I’m excited to see what becomes of its zombified corpse.
Also published on Medium.