One of the biggest shifts in Star Wars history happened when the fans got control. That’s not how history would phrase it, but after Disney purchased the franchise, it was the first time people who grew up loving the films were finally given a chance to make them. While George Lucas was in charge, people like J.J. Abrams, Rian Johnson, and Jon Favreau weren’t given a shot. However, from the sequel trilogy forward, filmmaker fans like them were now steering the galaxy far, far, away.
On the surface, this seems like an obvious win. Who better to make a great Star Wars movie than a Star Wars fan? But almost everything that’s come out since that time has been incredibly divisive and one of those filmmakers thinks he knows why.
“It’s really easy, [with] Star Wars, for really smart people to lose their way. And strangely, it seems they care too much,” Tony Gilroy, one of the architects of Rogue One and the creator of new series Andor, told Rolling Stone. “Some form of altitude sickness or vertigo happens, and they lose some natural abilities or perceptions in some way. And it was helpful, at least on Rogue, to be super-clinical and say, ‘Hey, why are we choosing to die?’ You really have to care about the people that are going to sacrifice themselves if that’s the raw material, the engine of the story.”
Gilroy famously said after Rogue One that he didn’t really come into the franchise loving it. But after that film found its way, he began to see its potential. Hence Andor and hence it being a Star Wars show unlike all of the other Star Wars shows around it. One not beholden to the Force, Jedi, Sith, lightsabers, or links to previous films or books.
But is Gilroy right here? Do filmmakers like Abrams, Johnson, or Favreau care too much? They certainly do care. That’s obvious. The real question then is does that passion cloud their judgments? That’s much harder to figure out. In the case of Abrams and The Force Awakens, the fact the film’s structure so closely mirrors A New Hope could be seen as a positive or a negative. Was he just doing what he knew worked? Or was he too scared to mess with the formula? For The Last Jedi, Johnson purposefully messed with the formula and, as we all know, it was not met with universal praise. Most people love what Favreau has done with The Mandalorian, bringing in Dave Filoni and telling original stories using legacy characters and mythology. Both others might say he’s being too beholden to those characters and shrinking the universe as a result.
The easiest way to figure this out is to put yourself in these filmmakers’ shoes. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy just told you to go ahead and make a Star Wars movie. Do you push the envelope and try something new? Or do something you think will be easy and work? Is pushing the envelope even what makes Star Wars work? Either way, if you succeed, you can expect eternal glory and adoration. If you fail, it’ll be the exact opposite. And, frankly, both are going to happen simultaneously because Star Wars fans are so wildly different. It’s a very unique situation that’s both enviable and utterly terrifying.
Gilroy, on the other hand, seems to disregard all of that. With Rogue One, and now Andor, he’s trying to come at the franchise with a pure character and story basis. But, as a result, does that mean his projects miss some of that intangible magic that makes Star Wars “Star Wars?” You won’t have to wait long to find out. Andor debuts this week and you can read more of his interview at Rolling Stone.
Andor drops its first three episodes September 21 on Disney+.
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