We found out only two weeks ago that Episode 9 was no longer in the hands of Colin Trevorrow, he had been fired by Lucasfilm as “We have all come to the conclusion that our visions for the project differ.” This came as a bit of a shock, as Miller and Lord had been let go from directing the Han Solo movie, and some said that “This move ensures that Star Wars will always be bigger than a single director,” a sentiment echoing Lucasfilm head, Kathleen Kennedy’s creed of diversity of vision. In a 2015 interview with Nerdist’s Chris Hardwick, Kennedy illustrated a vision of Lucasfilm that was co-operative, community based, where every person in the room got a voice. Such a legacy could not bear the weight of a single ego, the mistakes of Lucas’ later work hanging over Lucasfilm like a ghost. And then, just this week, JJ Abrams was tapped to take over directing Episode 9.
I implore Kathleen Kennedy and Lucasfilm to reconsider.
I’m not here to throw mud over Abram’s name, my stance isn’t really grounded in who Abrams is. Nor can I deny that Lucasfilm owes much to Abram’s The Force Awakens, which brought fan confidence back to Star Wars films and was an unarguable success. I do not think Abrams should not have this position because of any one decision he made for The Force Awakens, though many find reasonable critique for some of these decisions. For the sake of laying bare my own prejudices, I was very turned off by Abram’s loose depictions of Hyperspace, which is also embroiled in the mess of canon on whatever it is the Starkiller Base actually does.
Simply, Abrams should not direct Episode 9 because he directed episode 7. I believe Star Wars IS bigger than any one director, and this choice would weaken that truth. Kennedy’s diversity of voices is a virtue for Star Wars, and with Abrams, a chance to bring in often unheard perspectives is missed. Through no fault of his own, Abrams is a white man and this is important when considering that to this very moment Star Wars has only been directed by white men. But more on that in a bit, as I want to bring in my misgivings as an example. Abrams’ depiction of Hyperspace, while confounding to fans like me, are an idiosyncrasy. They must make sense in that they are products of Abrams expression of artistic intent, and I’m sure there are understandable reasons why he made such a decision, within the context that he is working. But these choices stop becoming individual quirks of a single director’s take on a narrative when that director is responsible for more than one movie. This decision allows Abrams’ interpretation of Star Wars, good or ill, light like my Hyperspace annoyances or heavy as decisions on depictions of race or gender, to become much more concrete aspects of the narrative. Not bound to a single movie, Abrams’ mark on Star Wars threatens to become more of a paint job.
Back to matters more serious; Star Wars fans are diverse and the creative team should reflect that. Star Wars fans are also women, are non-white, and there are many directors who are women and/or non-white who could do an incredible job with episode 9. I’m not going to pretend I know more about the Industry than those to whom I presume to give advice, but Ava Marie DuVernay, Jordan Peele, Taika Waitit, and Loveleen Tandan are supersaturated with talent and you know that Science Fiction Directorial positions do not come often for such names. There is ability there, legitimate voices, untapped and unasked. It is not that Abrams does not measure up, it’s that he has had a chance to give his abilities to Star Wars and they have had none.
The advantages of choosing Abrams to take over Episode 9 are not just obvious, they are safe. Lucasfilm already knows they can work with Abrams, Abrams has given them success before and likely will again. But safe isn’t Star Wars, Lucas did his best work while taking risks, and by trusting creators and inventors who were outside the Industry’s establishment. Lucasfilm is famous for breathing new life into film and fantasy, I encourage the company to be empowered by that legacy and reconsider Abrams…. not because of who Abrams is as much as who Lucasfilm aspires to be.