The exciting thing about Chris Miller and Phil Lord being announced as the directors for the Han Solo stand-alone movie wasn’t that they were making a Star Wars film, but a Miller and Lord movie.
Except Lucasfilm doesn’t want unique takes on a beloved franchise. Lucasfilm wants a Star Wars movie.
On June 20, Lucasfilm announced that Lord and Miller wouldn’t be continuing with the project. Sources told The Hollywood Reporter that the issue came down to the directors butting heads with legendary Star Wars screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan. More specifically, the “style and vision” the directors had seemed to contradict what Kasdan had in mind. Not wanting to part ways with the man who has helped define the voice of Star Wars, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and the Lucasfilm team decided to pursue a director who would abide by Kasdan and the studio’s vision.
Enter Ron Howard. Howard, who worked with Star Wars creator George Lucas on the Academy Award-nominated film American Graffiti in 1973, is the perfect candidate. He’s not going to butt heads with Kasdan and Kennedy about the tone or style of the movie. He’s not going to make any drastic changes to the Star Wars universe like, based on reports, it seemed Miller and Lord were going to do. While the Han Solo film was a stand-alone Star Wars movie, it may have more in common with the main series than Rogue One: A Star Wars Story did — a facet that seems to have ruffled feathers at Lucasfilm, based on this decision.
Remember, it wasn’t always like this. Before Rogue One came out, Kennedy told Variety how excited the studio was to work with younger, emerging talent — like Rogue One director Gareth Edwards and Phil and Miller. Lucasfilm wanted to bring female directors on board early in their careers and work with young visionaries. Prior to the film’s release, Kennedy explicitly spoke about how Rogue One and the other stand-alone movies would look and feel different than the main series. For example, the Han Solo movie was described as “a heist or Western type feel” according to Kennedy, with inspirations from “[Frederic] Remington and those primary colors that are used in his paintings.”
By all accounts, Miller and Lord should have been perfect. Not only did they carry with them a sense of personality and uniqueness that Kennedy wanted, but they also brought a dedicated fanbase. Case in point, well, me. I’ve been a fan of Lord and Miller since Clone High in 2003, an animated series about a modern high school attended by past historical figures the duo helped create. Their brand of off-beat, snarky comedy it provocative, but it’s not edgy. From Clone High to 21 Jump Street to The Lego Movie, everything they do is memorable. Their movies are entertaining and families can enjoy it together.
Aren’t those qualities what technically makes a Star Wars movie? Star Wars is continuously entertaining. Star Wars feels timeless, it feels familiar. So do many of Lord and Miller projects, as any fan of their work will tell you. Clone High is more than a decade old, but whenever I return to it, which is more often than necessary, the comedy holds up. The drama is still relevant. It could have been released today and found the same audience of devoted viewers.
So yes, when Disney and Lucasfilm confirmed nearly two years ago that Lord and Miller would take on a Han Solo movie, I was excited. As the cast grew to include actors like Donald Glover and Woody Harrelson, I was over-the-moon with what that could mean for the picture. Here are two directors known for their ability to combine comedy and action superbly with some of the funniest and best actors working right now. How could it go wrong?
But then it did. Lucasfilm and Disney found out what fans of Lord and Miller knew all along: This was never going to be a Star Wars movie. At least, not the Star Wars movie they imagined it would be. Lord and Miller, both self-proclaimed massive fans of Star Wars, never tried to hide the fact that they were trying to make a comedy work within the constraints of the Star Wars universe.
“Sometimes comedy feels like the kid brother of drama, trying to get attention by being the class jokester,” Miller told the Telegraph last year. “But it’s actually really hard to tell a story while also making people laugh. It’s like trying to do two jobs at once.”
Miller and Lord remarked that even Kasdan said Star Wars needed to have a comedic tone, adding that the writing process was entirely collaborative between the three of them and Kasdan’s son, Jon, who was also helped with the script.
“We’ve been trying to get the script to a stage where it reflects the tone and vision that the four of us have for the movie, and it’s really been the four of us figuring out what that voice is together,” Miller said.
In a recent article from Entertainment Weekly, it seems that Kasdan and Kennedy were on the same page as the first.
Lucasfilm and producer Kennedy believed Lord and Miller were hired to add a comedic touch; Lord and Miller believed they were hired to make a comedy.
Without more information, we don’t know what the original Han Solo movie was supposed to look like, but with Howard on board, we’ll probably get the movie Kennedy and Lucasfilm envisioned. What that means, however, is that we don’t get the Miller and Lord movie that they promised us, and that’s a downright shame.
Lord and Miller make fantastic, fun, funny and entertaining movies. If that’s not the definition of what made Star Wars so beloved in the first place, I don’t know what is anymore.