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Prior to the recent news that Colin Trevorrow and Lucasfilm had 'mutually chosen to party ways' with regards to Star Wars: Episode IX, I had been planning to write up a long-ish post titled "Why Star Wars Is Doomed" - with Colin Trevorrow's continued employment as the helmer of the new trilogy's ending as Exhibit A. But in light of Trevorrow's elimination, I'm feeling a little more optimistic about the fate of everyone's favorite merchandise creation machine (and the movies that go along with it). Here's why:



1. He literally just directed one of the worst films of all-time

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Things were looking EXTREMELY UP for Colin Trevorrow - he had directed a small, critically well-received film (Safety Not Guaranteed), made the leap to mega-blockbusters (Jurassic World), and had leveraged the success of that film into the sweetest plum gig in modern blockbuster filmmaking - the finale to the recently resurrected Star Wars franchise, Episode IX. His resume was short but entirely unblemished (and even though I have precisely 1,000 gripes about Jurassic World, it made a boatload of cash).

Then came The Book of Henry.

Between his big blockbuster films, Trevorrow decided to make a smaller, more personal film - the tale of a genius kid, his troubled-but-well-meaning mother, and their complex relationship. But that description doesn't really do the film justice - see, this film was SPECIAL. Before going any further, I'll let film critic Emily Yoshida perfectly sum up exactly how nightmarishly bad The Book of Henry was:

Note that "The Room" and "Birdemic" are NOT the films you want your personal pet project compared to, particularly not when that film is your warm-up for THE BIGGEST FILM IN THE WORLD. But The Book of Henry was as bad as they say - scoring a deathly 22% on RottenTomatoes. Most of the criticism of the film hinged on a twist midway through the film that awkwardly shifts the tone of the movie from soap opera dramatics to a tense thriller...and while the script is certainly mostly to blame, Trevorrow was the director - it was his project to steer ably. He did not.

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Here's one last quote - from Owen Gleiberman of Variety - to really drive home HOW BAD the film was:

"There's the kind of bad movie that just sits there, unfolding with grimly predictable monotony. Then there's the kind where the badness expands and metastasizes, taking on a jaw-dropping life of its own, pushing through to ever-higher levels of garishness. The Book of Henry ... is of the latter, you've-got-to-see-it-to-disbelieve-it variety."



2. He and his writing partner were responsible for the script

Why Colin Trevorrow Leaving Star Wars Is The Best News Possible

The signs that The Book of Henry and the stink surrounding the film were chipping away at Disney's resolve to keep on Trevorrow began to show a few weeks ago, when it was announced that they would be scrapping the script written by Trevorrow and his writing partner, Derek Connolly. The scary thing is that it was scrapped in August....but the script was completed in April. That's months and months of Disney sitting around, agreeing that Trevorrow's script was fine before being shaken out of their stupor.

If you want to call bullshit here, that's totally fair - I haven't read Trevorrow's script for Episode IX (and likely never will!), but I can be fairly confident it would have underwhelmed. Why? Trevorrow's screenwriting history is not confidence-building - some small films no one has ever heard of and saw no significant critical praise and Jurassic World are about it. As for Connolly, he co-wrote Jurassic World and a few other films (including the pretty okay Kong: Skull Island!), but he only has two solo writing credits to his name - Safety Not Guaranteed and...Monster Trucks.

If you had to pick the 2nd worst movie of 2017 (behind The Book of Henry), Monster Trucks would be AN INCREDIBLY STRONG CONTENDER. It was a movie so unbelievably dire that its studio Paramount took a $115 million write-down several months BEFORE it was released - an unprecedented move to do prior to a film actually having the chance to bomb at the box office, but they were that certain the film was unsalvageable.

And we're not saying all the blame should be placed at Connolly's feet - but as the sole credited screenwriter of the painfully-literal movie (the premise is that a monster actually lives in a truck) he deserves a good heap of the blame. And these would have been the individuals responsible for closing out the newest chapter in the Star Wars franchise. Lord help us.



3. He's not Rian Johnson

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A running joke with the new trilogy of Star Wars films is that it's mimicking the arc in quality of the original trilogy ("It's like poetry - it rhymes"): the first film was a pretty solid (albeit by the books) opening entry, the 2nd film would be darker and thematically richer, and the third film would be kinda a dud thanks to too much studio meddling and an uninspired choice of director. Granted, this is EXTREMELY pre-emptive - The Last Jedi won't be out for months, so why are we already praising it as better and more complex than The Force Awakens? - but it seems to fit.

  • JJ Abrams is much like George Lucas circa 1977 - someone who appreciates entertainment a lot more than they can meaningfully replicate it, and is capable of creating fun, dynamic characters, but can't go a whole lot deeper without some help.
  • Rian Johnson is like Irvin Kershner (director of Empire Strikes Back) - someone with a long history of offbeat, interesting films and a solid record of mainstream success, who can take the foundation set up by the previous film and find interesting new avenues to take it down.
  • Colin Trevorrow is a lot like Richard Marquand (director of Return of the Jedi) - someone who had really barely done anything prior to getting their shot at Star Wars, and what they HAD done wasn't entirely impressive.

This was not a desirable outcome - going from Rian Johnson (whose work includes Brick, The Brothers Bloom, Looper, and - most importantly - the most pivotal and excellent episode of Breaking Bad ever, "Ozymandias") to...the guy who made Jurassic World. Rian Johnson was an incredibly interesting choice for Star Wars, and whatever Colin Trevorrow would have followed that up with seems likely to disappoint.

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But now? There's hope. Maybe another interesting director...or maybe they just let Rian Johnson tackle Episode IX too? Fingers crossed.