Following on last night's announcement that Phil Lord and Chris Miller, two of the most sought-after young filmmakers in Hollywood, had been forced off the Han Solo stand-alone film and will be replaced by TV and film veteran Ron Howard, fans on social media have decided that Howard is just about the worst thing that could happen to the forthcoming Star Wars spinoff.
Really, folks, that's not even close to true.
Howard is from a school of filmmaking that embraces the largest possible audience, churning out crowd-pleasing films that cinemaphiles, nerds, and other "alpha fans" will often write off as too safe, too standard, too boring.
That's a critique that isn't entirely unfair -- but it's also largely misguided as it pertains to the Han Solo situation.
Howard's age and the perception that he isn't particularly "cool" have been used against him over the last day or so, as it became apparent that he would be replacing Hollywood's current kings of cool at the helm of a franchise tentpole expected to gross in the neighborhood of $1 billion worldwide.
The idea is that, under Howard, the film might not be as creative, as fun, and as interesting as it would be under Lord and Miller -- and this all comes amid reports that the directors were fired after clashing with Lucasfilm honcho Kathleen Kennedy over the film's tone.
It isn't a good look for Disney/Lucasfilm, and the problems are compounded by the fact that the film is deep into production, with less than a month to complete its principal photography. The directorial change, along with the rumored disgreements between management and the talent, seem likely to result in significant reshoots, but Disney is committed to keeping the film on schedule for next year.
That is where Ron Howard comes in.
One could argue that Howard is objectively a good filmmaker who, on balance, improves almost every project he's involved with. During his thirty-ish-year career, he has been responsible for blockbusters like Apollo 13 and The Da Vinci Code, award-winning films like A Beautiful Mind and Frost/Nixon, and comedy classics like Splash and Parenthood. He also directed Willow, an early, non-Star Wars success story from George Lucas and Joe Johnston.
The quality of the Howard oeuvre, though, is arguably less important than what his resume, on the whole, demonstrates. Even the worst of his movies -- things like Inferno and Angels & Demons -- are competently constructed pieces of filmmaking.
Howard, being a veteran of Hollywood since he was a small child (he is not in his sixties) and a producer and studio head himself, also has a reputation for being easy to work with.
Those two elements -- an understanding of filmmaking fundamentals and the ability to put together a competent film, and the fact that he will presumably be flexible and amenable to Lucasfilm's demands -- are likely what makes Howard an attractive prospect.
This is not a movie that is being created from scratch, and it is likely not a movie whose visual identity or tone will be primarily defined by Howard. Han Solo is about three weeks away from being finished, and what the studio probably believes they need is a steady hand who can keep the current crisis from spiraling out of control, play well with others, and hit a deadline.
Historically speaking, Howard has proven himself time and time again to be all of those things -- and while it's distinctly possible that in five or ten years people will be referring to Lord and Miller as two of the most important "visionary" directors of their generation, it's worth considering that bringing in someone comparably cool and stylized to complete a nearly-finished movie could lead to clashing styles that would only increase the need for reshoots, costing the studio more money and making the film's release date even harder to hit.
That same "boring," reliable, one-size-fits-all visual and filmmaking style that has fans and critics questioning Howard as the right choice for this film is likely what makes him perfect that the job: it is likely that nothing he does will invalidate what Lord and Miller have already created, and that is the surest way to complete a film that will still feel recognizably like the one the cast and crew have been making for the better part of a year.
Howard -- an old, white, male part of the Hollywood Establishment -- is an easy target for fans who are enraged about the treatment Lord and Miller received, worried about the future of the film, or frustrated by a studio that seems increasingly hands-on (remember that stories of studio interference, reshoots, and the like were a big part of the Rogue One media narrative, too). It's an understandable instinct, but an accomplished, amiable filmmaker is hardly the worst choice -- or even a surprising choice -- to tackle what will arguably be the year's most anticipated mainstream popcorn movie.0comments
The untitled Han Solo movie will be in theaters May 25, 2018.