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Who Will Direct Star Wars: Episode VII?


Ok, ok. Look, I know this article is slightly out of my jurisdiction, but hear me out! Today is Halloween, which is the one day of the year when we get to assume an identity apart from our own.

Even though I don't directly cover the film industry on a daily basis, the world of 3D computer graphics is closely entwined with the daily happenings over in Tinseltown. On the Hollywood Richter scale, the announcement of a new Star Wars film is a major seismic even, so I think I'll go ahead and run with it.

Plus, the connection isn't that tenuous—after all, Star Wars: Episode VII is going to be a 3D film, and it's also going to employ a lot of talented 3D artists over at ILM. So there's that.

Alright, let's fire up the old typewriter and start speculating.

Who will direct Episode VII?

It's a question that will inevitably be asked thousands of times between now and whenever Disney makes their announcement, and there will probably be a hundred different versions of this article floating around by the end of the weekend.

Here's ours:

1. The Elephant in the Room: Joss Whedon

Let's get this one out of the way right off the bat.

Joss Whedon's meteoric success with The Avengers means he's the reigning king of the blockbuster, and until someone dethrones him he's bound to be the first name out of the rumor mill for every high-profile film property from here to Tatooine.

Is he a good fit for the Star Wars franchise? Yes. Absolutely, yes.

Do I think Joss Whedon is the director of the next Star Wars film?

No. Not unless there's a big shakeup.

Whedon currently is developing a S.H.I.E.L.D television spinoff and has the second Avengers installment slated for release in 2015. With as much as the guy works I'm not sure Joss Whedon is even human, but I don't think there's anyone in the world that could successfully develop an Avengers sequel and a Star Wars reboot at the same time.

I think Whedon will want to be involved, and since he's already working for Disney there's a good chance he will be, even if it's only in a tangential role. But the only way he's directing is if he steps away from The Avengers, which would be a shame.

On the other hand—a Joss Whedon Star Wars film—can you imagine?!

2. The Frontrunners:

  • Brad Bird - Brad Bird will be the director of Star Wars: Episode 7. How could it be anyone else?

    Consider the following: Bird had directed four feature films—all of them are universally acclaimed by critics and three of them will go down in history as undisputed classics.

    He's shown that he can be sensitive to family audiences with the Iron Giant and Ratatouille while still making a film that can be completely and utterly enjoyed by adults. He's shown a flair for action with The Incredibles and Mission Impossible. He knows how to use comedy in a film without undermining the drama or storytelling.

    Brad Bird is a very, very good director with one of the strongest track records in Hollywood. He's shown consistency and versatility, and on top of it all, he already has a strong relationship with Disney. The only way Brad Bird doesn't direct Star Wars is if he's not interested in directing Star Wars. In which case...

  • Gore Verbinski – Gore Verbinski has to be seen as a strong candidate to take the reigns, and even if they don't go with him you have to believe his name will at least enter into the conversation.

    Yes, the Pirates sequels were a bit of a let down, but Curse of the Black Pearl is a genuine classic, and every single one of them was a huge financial success for the Walt Disney Company.

    The icing on the cake though, is the fact that he's also got a strong working relationship with ILM, where he directed the studio's first ever feature animation, Rango (which went on to win the Academy Award for best animated feature).

    Those are some strong credentials, you guys. I like Gore Verbinski—I think he's an underrated director, and Rango deserved every bit of praise that it got.

3. The Dark Horse:

  • Neill Blomkamp: I'm pretty sure this is the Star Wars film that the fandom wants.

    Blomkamp has only directed a single feature film (District 9), but it's widely remembered as one of the previous decade's absolute best. He's working with a much bigger budget on the upcoming, Elysium, and if it's a hit, who knows, maybe Disney will take a chance and give him a call.

    I'd be shocked (and excited beyond words) if Neill Blomkamp was announced as the next Star Wars director, but taking into account what we've seen from him on District 9, I really doubt that Neill's hypothetical Star Wars film has a whole lot in common with Disney's vision for the franchise.

    But boy would it be worth seeing.

4. The Other Guys:

  • J.J. Abrams – Everyone knows that J.J. Abrams has a ton of klout in the action sci-fi genre, but I'm not sure it's even morally acceptable to be involved with both Star Trek and Star Wars at the same time. That has to go against some fundamental law of nature.

  • Duncan Jones - I loved Moon as much as the next guy, but that film is on the opposite side of the science fiction spectrum from Star Wars. Source Code is probably closer to what Disney is looking for, but I just don't think he has enough on his resume.

  • David Yates – I don't think you'll see Yates' name come up too much in this discussion, but I don't think he'd be a bad choice either. Yates helmed the final four Harry Potter films, and as far as I'm concerned three of them were among the best in the series.

  • Rian Johnson – He's got a lot of hype coming off of his recent success with Looper, but Rian is an outside shot. I just see him as a logical fit.

  • Alfonso Cuaron – A lot of people think he made the best entry in the Harry Potter series, and Children of Men was a marvelous film, but I don't think it's going to be Cuaron. He's a bit of a niche director, and Disney will probably want an experienced four-quadrant guy. That said, I'd be very interested to see his take.

5. It's Not Going to Be:

  • John Favreau – You'll probably see Favreau's name thrown around a lot in this discussion because he's the director that jump started the Marvel movie-verse back in 2008, and there's still a lot of left over good-will from the first Iron Man film.

    But John Favreau isn't the guy. Whether you enjoyed it or not, Iron Man 2 was a step down from its predecessor, and Cowboys and Aliens was a big disappointment. If Cowboys had been successful Favreau would probably be in the conversation, but it wasn't.

  • Edgar Wright – Edgar Wright would probably make an awesome Star Wars film, but I'd be very surprised if Disney give him the chance to do so. If you've seen Spaced, you know that Wright has lot of respect for the Trilogy, and if you've seen any of his films you know he's a brilliant, innovative director. But he's unproven outside of comedy, and I just find it hard to believe that Disney would go with this big a wild card.
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