This is without doubt pointless and moot, since I imagine the powers that be have already decided who’s going to direct Episode VII, if not the entire Sequel Trilogy. And even if they haven’t, there’s no way they’d listen to someone like me. So this is more a thought exercise than anything—but hasn’t Star Wars always been all about wish fulfillment?
Here are the rules: I tried to pick plausible choices. Obviously I’d love to see Woody Allen’s take on Star Wars, or Wes Anderson’s, but that’s seriously never going to happen (although they should let Wes Anderson direct a new Star Wars Holiday Special) (Update: with Miranda July!). The director had to seem capable of making something recognizable as Star Wars. I also picked directors I think would do a good job—i.e, filmmakers whom I like, or at least respect. After an hour or so of thought, I ended up with one dozen choices, listed after the jump in order of least to most exciting (to me, of course).
Before we start, here are some of the names not on the list—i.e., they failed one or both of my two rules: Luc Besson, Kathryn Bigelow, Tim Burton, James Cameron, John Carpenter, the Coen Brothers, David Cronenberg, Brian De Palma, Jon Favreau, Peter Jackson, Terry Gilliam, Jim Jarmusch, David Lynch, Michael Mann, George Miller, Sam Raimi, Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott, Steven Soderbergh, Zack Snyder, Quentin Tarrantino, the Wachowskis (even though I personally would love that), Marc Webb, and Christopher Nolan.
So who is?
12. J.J. Abrams. I despise his take on Star Trek—remaking a slow, character-based sci-fi drama of ideas as cartoonish CGI action spectacle with nonstop explosions—but I have to admit that what he did to Star Trek would be perfect for Star Wars. Also, while I found Super 8 ultimately disappointing (the first hour works, the second hour doesn’t), it does make me think that he could do a good job visually imitating the Star Wars universe.
11. Joss Whedon. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed The Avengers. As my pal Jeremy put it, it’s basically Ghostbusters, being a lighthearted SFX comedy that huge audiences genuinely liked. As such, Whedon could probably pull off a populist space opera like Star Wars. Plus he knows how to write snappy character dialogue, and Lucasfilm/Disney should hire, like, a few dozen extra writers after the word-garbage that is the Prequel Trilogy. Mind you, Whedon’s the director on this list that I’d be the least excited about (even less so than Abrams, who despite his faults is bolder and less predictable), but I still think he’d be OK.
10. Brad Bird. I didn’t see his Mission: Impossible film, but people seemed to like it well enough. Plus he made The Incredibles and The Iron Giant, and any new Star Wars film is (sigh) going to be all CGI, anyway. Hell, Bird should have done the prequels. (He should remake them!)
… OK, those where the obligatory-but-plausible choices. (Abrams has even already had to publicly deny being involved.) Now we get to more exciting choices.
9. Alejandro Amenábar: Who, you ask? He’s the Chilean/Spanish director who made the super-successful horror film The Others, back in 2001. He also made Open Your Eyes (Abre los ojos), a terrific sci-fi thriller that Cameron Crowe remade as Vanilla Sky. What’s more, in addition to being a director, he’s also a writer, producer, editor, and a composer. The problem, though, is that, following the success of his powerful melodrama The Sea Inside (Mar adentro) (it won a bazillion awards, including the Best Foreign Picture Oscar), he seems to have retired.
8. Josh Trank. He’s the guy who did Chronicle. And, yes, that’s just a small movie, and Star Wars is a big movie—but Chronicle was essentially a live-action Akira, and Trank’s minimalist approach never lost sight of the characters at the heart of the story, despite the escalating action. And I don’t know about you, but after the Prequel Trilogy, I wouldn’t mind seeing a smaller, more contained Star Wars. (Keep it set on a single ship! … No, that’s probably too much.) Incidentally, Trank recently got tapped to reboot the Fantastic Four franchise (which strikes me as an excellent fit for him), so someone out there thinks he can manage bigger films. And as Mike Stoklasa and Jay Bauman noted in their Half in the Bag review, Chronicle did a better job in its 84 minutes
chronicling depicting a young man’s seduction by power than the entire 556 minutes (ugh) of the Prequel Trilogy. Finally, Trank pulled his film off on a nothing budget. Finally finally, Trank would probably bring with him his pal Max Landis, who wrote Chronicle and also made the wonderful short film The Death and Return of Superman:
7. Duncan Jones. He’s already made an excellent sci-fi film, the melancholy Moon, as well as a very fine action film, whatever that train one was called… (Oh, right, Source Code!) Like Trank, Jones has never done anything the size of Star Wars, but, let’s face it: we all know that some Disney committee is really going to direct this film. So the actual question in regards to any director is less, “Can they helm a project that size?”, and more, “Can they make the film not feel like it was made by some Disney committee?” Admittedly, this is where Jones and Trank would probably have the most trouble, but I like what they’ve done so far in their smaller films. Plus, if Jones directed, there’s a chance his father might show up in the part of an alien:
6. Paul Thomas Anderson. I haven’t seen The Master yet, and P.T. Anderson seems to be drifting away from mainstream filmmaking, but he’s a powerful visual stylist who understands how to direct ensemble pictures with epic, sprawling plots. And the man does seem to worship Stanley Kubrick, so he might be up for making a sci-fi flick. That said, he also seems to lack a sense of humor, which is a heavy strike against him. But so, too, does George Lucas—touché!
5. Nicolas Winding Refn. He’s arguably the weirdest name on this list, but do let me have him—I loved Drive that much (as well as Bronson). He’s also the most exciting choice here, in that his Star Wars would be the most unpredictable. He obviously understands style and action, and has expressed an interest in science-fiction—he’s currently attached to the Logan’s Run remake.
… So, any of the above would be A-OK with me. But now we arrive at who I really think should direct Episode VII.
4. David Fincher: Not only has he made science-fiction (Alien³), not only has he helmed numerous big-budget films filled with effects (Benjamin Button, Fight Club), not only has he worked in movie franchises (Alien³, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), he’s also the only person on this list who’s already worked on Star Wars: he was an assistant ILM cameraman on Return of the Jedi. (He also did matte photography for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The NeverEnding Story.) I’d be plenty surprised if his name hasn’t been discussed by people with real power to make a decision. (As a bonus, he’s both popular and good.)
3. Alfonso Cuarón. He saved the Harry Potter films with the wonderful Prisoner of Azkaban, completely jettisoning everything about Chris Columbus’s horrible first two films (save the cast) and reinventing the franchise as something that, from that point on, remained pretty decent. So he understands how to commandeer huge film enterprises. And he also just made a science-fiction film—the long-awaited Gravity (2013).
2. Edgar Wright. Obviously the (w)right choice. The man totally gets Star Wars and all things geek—see everything he’s done from Spaced onward. And he’s directed movies with plenty of SFX (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim). Me, I adore his films, and think him one of the best directors out there, and pretty much the perfect choice. Alas, he’s currently making The World’s End (2013), after which he starts Ant-Man, which is scheduled to come out in 2015. But perhaps he could make Episode VIII, or Episode IX? I have to imagine he’s approached Lucasfilm/Disney about this. (How could he not? OK, at least let me imagine that he has.)
… But Wright is not my top choice to direct Star Wars: Episode VII. Instead, that director is:
1. Steven Spielberg. I’m sorry, I know he said he’s not interested, but he really is the most perfect choice. He’s lived with Star Wars in a way none of the above directors have. He’s made huge movies. He’s worked with Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy many times before. And, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull aside, he’s very good at making fun, character-based action romps. Plus, you know that he and Lucas have actually discussed this.
Mind you, I’d much prefer Wright or Cuarón or Fincher over Spielberg—I think they’d make more exciting movies. But when I’m honest with myself, I’m most interested in seeing Spielberg’s take on the material—that is to say, he strikes me as the most correct. What’s more, after the Prequel Trilogy, Disney would be wise to go for some amazingly huge announcement, and—seriously—what could be bigger, and more exciting, than Steven Spielberg making a Star Wars movie? Not to mention, it’s the most poetic choice out of any of these options. “It rhymes.”
Some additional thoughts:
I also think James Cameron would do a hell of a job (I rather like the man’s films—Terminator 2 in particular is a true masterpiece), but I doubt he’s in the running, since Lucas seems to harbor a grudge against the man for out-grossing him twice.
I also think Luc Besson would do a great job … in 1994. (The same goes for David Cronenberg, John Carpenter, and Sam Raimi. In the case of Ridley Scott—1984.)
Actually, the more I think about this, the more I realize that Joe Dante and Joe Johnston should co-direct it. Done!
… But, regardless of whoever ends up directing the thing, it should absolutely be edited by Mike J. Nichols, a.k.a. the Phantom Editor. He managed to make Attack of the Clones into a somewhat decent film (seriously, watch his version, and then watch it with his commentary). The man has the touch. (At least make him part of the editing team.)
Finally, the powers than be should hire Mike Stoklasa to help write it. I am so totally not joking about this.