Earlier this week, director Colin Trevorrow exited “Star Wars: Episode IX.” Or Disney “fired” him. Or “they parted ways.” His hiring, seemingly based on the successful-but-forgettable “Jurassic World,” never excited fans the way Rian Johnson’s hiring did for “The Last Jedi.” Few are lamenting Trevorrow’s departure, especially in the wake of his critically-panned “Book of Henry.” The internet acts more concerned with Lucasfilm’s production issues overall than with Trevorrow’s firing. The latest shake-up adds fire to the notion that Disney simply hires shepherds instead of directors.
Regardless, Trevorrow joins Phil Lord and Chris Miller as recent “Star Wars” cast-offs. It’s yet another chapter in what has been a dramatic 12 months for the “Star Wars” brand. “Rogue One” had its troubles, with extensive rewrites and reshoots. Disney dropped Lord and Miller from the new Han Solo movie and brought on a steady hand in Ron Howard. Despite this, the Han Solo film can’t shake a sense of perpetual dread, be it from casting and production or the fact that few seem excited about it. Rian Johnson’s “The Last Jedi” has thankfully avoided problems so far (or they’ve stayed in-house).
Now the search is on for a new director. The internet had a field day throwing out suggestions, including JJ Abrams, Rian Johnson, Alfonso Cuarón, Brad Bird, Taika Waititi, Lawrence Kasdan, and George Lucas(!). Several of these make sense, with Rian Johnson looking the safest bet. But Disney has ready-made, proven replacements in their stable: The Russo Brothers.
If you haven’t heard of the Russo Brothers, you’ve probably seen some of their work: They directed episodes of “Community” and “Arrested Development.” They directed the best (and arguably the only great) Marvel Cinematic Universe film, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” as well as “Captain American: Civil War.” They’re also directing the upcoming “Avengers” films. Barring “Dawn of Justice”-like blowback with the “Avengers” films, the Russos have shown that they can handle a huge property that earns plaudits from moviegoers and critics in addition to making hundreds of millions of dollars.
Perhaps more importantly, in today’s safe, sequel-friendly environment, they’ve demonstrated an ability to play nice with the suits. The Russos clearly work well with the oft-strict Disney template, considering that Disney and Marvel have kept them on for four features. That they’ve done this while still producing memorable work speaks to their talent.
The only concern I have is that they can’t make the leap. The last film in a “Star Wars” trilogy brings with it nearly unbearable expectations and a tone that doesn’t match any of their previous work. Notoriously risk-averse Disney may not want to gamble on that. But the Russos flourished after jumping from sitcoms to “Winter Soldier.” I believe they can take the next step and make a great “Star Wars” movie.
According to IMDB, the Russos aren’t signed on to direct anything after the Avengers movies. It would be a shame to move “Episode IX” from its May 24, 2019 release date, but it would be worth pushing the release back however long is necessary to accommodate their schedules. They’ve said they’d love to do a Star Wars film (though, does anyone say “no, I’d hate that opportunity”?). They’ve proven themselves. They’ve earned the trust of the studio and the fans. They deserve a shot.