Six Directors Who Should Helm Star Wars: Episode VII

By David Wharton | 9 years ago

With the internet still abuzz after the announcement earlier this week that George Lucas was selling LucasFilm, and the Star Wars franchise, to Disney, speculation is running rampant about who will be involved with the newly announced Episode VII, which is slated to release in 2015. With Disney’s current plan to release new Star Wars films every couple of years, Star Wars is more in the public eye than it has been since the release of the divisive prequels.

So, while we wait for more concrete information to arrive in the coming months, we here at GFR decided to do the same thing fanboys have spent the last few days doing all around the world. We’re breaking down our dream list of directors who could helm Episode VII. Before we dive into our list, we’re discounting three huge, and obvious, choices:

  • J.J. Abrams: Like him or not, there’s no question that Abrams is one of the go-to names for any big-name project like this. That said, he’s already wrapped up in the Star Trek franchise, and I can’t imagine he’d have the time for both. Plus, Star Wars doesn’t need lens flares.
  • Christopher Nolan: The Dark Knight director has proven that he has an amazing talent for crafting complex, entertaining movies out of pulp-y source material, and it doesn’t get much pulpier than Star Wars. However, with Nolan just having wrapped a multi-year odyssey with the Batman films, and we can’t imagine he’d be eager to jump into another franchise.
  • Joss Whedon: We have no question that a Joss-directed Star Wars movie would be amaaaaaaaazing, but from the sound of things he’s going to be firmly locked inside the Marvel universe for the foreseeable future.

Guillermo del Toro
This will never happen, but how great would it be to see Guillermo del Toro take the helm on a Star Wars movie? Given his background and obvious geek affinity — his next movie is about giant monsters fighting giant robots, after all — the subject matter is right up his alley.

Del Toro has one specific quality that would serve the franchise well. The Star Wars movies have always been aimed at younger audiences, but there are millions of us who grew up on them as well. He has the ability to make movie that dark enough to satisfy adult fans clamoring for more of that after the cartoonish nature of the prequels, but one that is not so grim that it winds up completely inappropriate and inaccessible to younger viewers. Hellboy is a perfect example of this. Dark and brooding, dealing with weighty themes, it is also full of cool creatures, action, and all the bells and whistles. That’s the kind of feel I would like to see in Episode VII.

Peter Jackson
If Peter Jackson is not on Disney’s short list for Episode VII, they probably need to rework their list. With the Lord of the Rings films, and the upcoming Hobbit trilogy, Jackson has tackled material once-dubbed “unfilmable,” and has done so with gusto. Not only did his LOTR trilogy bring in billions of dollars in box office, they were also critically praised, and even earned a slew of Academy Awards.

With the LOTR films and his King Kong remake, Jackson has demonstrated perhaps the best handle of any filmmaker of his generation when it comes to mixing practical effects with CGI work, but he never scrimps on the writing front either. With him in the director’s chair, we wouldn’t have to worry about the same problems that plagued the prequels: gorgeously rendered worlds filled with two-dimensional characters and hackneyed dialogue. Plus, Jackson has long been involved in the Halo film currently in limbo, so he clearly thinks he’s got a space opera in him. With the Hobbit films on his plate for the next few years, it’s probably not likely that he could have time to grind out a Star Wars film by 2015, but we can dream.

Duncan Jones
While Jones hasn’t helmed a giant-scale epic like a Star Wars film, he has managed to establish himself as one of the most promising directors around. With the one-two punch of Moon and Source Code, he’s shown he knows how to tell genre stories effectively, and how to use effects work to enhance, rather than distract from, the story being told. Both of his films have mixed strong character work with big ideas, and Source Code in particular shows he can handle the blockbuster mentality when given the chance and a budget.

Star Wars: Episode VII would be the chance for Jones to rocket straight onto the directing A-list. After the amazing practical effects work in Moon, we might actually see an Episode VII with some honest-to-gosh model work again, and that thought pokes me right square in the nostalgia gland. Plus, it increases the possibility of seeing Sam Rockwell in a Star Wars movie, and that idea makes me giggle.

Bong Joon-ho
File this under “not even a slight possibility.” Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s 2006 horror offering, The Host, is one of the best creature features in recent memory. The film is funny, touching, and seamlessly integrates monster effects (by the Weta Workshop) into the live action. This last part would come in handy working in the Star Wars universe, where he would have to blend massive computer generated pieces into the film.

The man John Hurt calls “Director Bong” is currently working on his English-language debut, the post-apocalyptic Snowpiercer, and his involvement could give the film some cred internationally (like Star Wars needs any extra hype). Most of his filmography is way too dark and bleak to mesh with overall feel of the franchise, though he could be a good thematic fit for a bummer middle chapter in the new trilogy (think gloom and doom like Empire). Keep him in mind for Episode VIII.

Andy & Lana Wachowski
Say what you will about the Wachowski siblings, but they were responsible for one of the best science fiction films of the last 25 years, even if the Matrix sequels squandered much of the goodwill the first film earned them. While Cloud Atlas has divided audiences, and their Speed Racer film was panned by many, both films clearly demonstrate one truth: the Wachowskis don’t dream small. And taking the Star Wars franchise out of George Lucas’ hands? It doesn’t get much more ambitious than that.

While the second two Matrix movies show that the siblings can have a tendency to spend a little too much time in self-indulgent philosophizing, there’s no question that the Matrix trilogy featured amazing action scenes in between all the “chosen one” muckety muck. And Cloud Atlas, while not a perfect film, is visually stunning and as close a love letter to the power of big-screen filmmaking as you’re like to find. And since their next film is the SF flick Jupiter Rising, why not segue into Star Wars and keep the pattern going? I honestly have no idea what a Wachowski-directed Star Wars movie would look like. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Edgar Wright
Edgar Wright would be a good fit for Episode VII for a variety of reasons. His films are sharp and witty, full of snarky, wise-ass characters, and above all else, he is nerdy as all get out (and geeks love the crap out of him). Hell, if there is any legitimate possibility of him being involved, he’ll probably burst some important internal plumbing.

More than many other directors, Wright may have the best chance of walking the line between pleasing older, lifetime fans, as well as taking younger audiences into consideration. A film like Hot Fuzz functions as a light-hearted spoof of overblown action movies, but at the same time it takes a number of dark twists and turns. While the Star Wars universe is, on the surface, all about swashbuckling fun and adventure, there is always an undercurrent of darkness, sometimes more pronounced than others. Wright has shown an ability to balance these two elements.

And finally, a few other possibilities:

  • Brad Bird: Brad Bird is Brad Bird. We’ve seen him transition from animation to live-action with no problem, and he’s done science fiction before with The Iron Giant.
  • Joseph Kosinski: He’s just coming off of Tron: Legacy, and that was a big hit for Disney a few years ago.
  • Lee Unkrich: Since other Pixar alumni took on live-action filmmaking, I can easily see Lee Unkrich take on the new Star Wars since he hit-it-out-of-the-park with Toy Story 3 in 2010.