For me, Disney buying LucasFilm was the best thing that could've happened to Star Wars at that point. There isn't a creative company on earth that works as hard at story, and protecting its properties, as Disney does.
You see it in their animated movies, in their Pixar films, in Marvel... even their theme parks; every ride, every land, in every Disney park, has a story. It might be subtle, but it's there. They really, really, really think about this stuff, and I love that there is at least one massive, corporate, entity on earth which - while still being run by fallible, vain, human beings like everything else - has that philosophy of storytelling and imagination at its core.
Yes, we can all scoff cynically at how much money is at stake, but there's an integrity there that you don't always see in big budget creative environments, where often everyone is really out for themselves.
Now you're seeing that Disney philosophy in Star Wars. to the point where, reportedly, director Gareth Edwards was removed late in the process of making Rogue One so that the higher-ups at Disney and Lucasfilm could micromanage the project into what they - collaboratively - felt it should be.
Speaking as a writer who has been micromanaged by producers more than once, there's little that's more frustrating or creatively unfulfilling. Nonetheless, I begrudgingly admit that sometimes it makes for a better end project. Or, at least, one which might be more palatable and commercial, albeit at the expense of individual vision.
I don't think any of us really wanted to see another George Lucas Star Wars film, and yet, as time goes on, I've come to admire the Star Wars prequels more.
Don't get me wrong: they're extremely bizarre, bad, movies, especially in light of what came before them. Nevertheless, part of me respects their purity - the way that they're exactly the films that George Lucas wanted to make. As artistic statements, they're very sincere. They're just not really summer blockbuster material. If he'd had someone else guiding the ship, they might've been better received.
Now, with the upcoming Han Solo movie, it seems that artistic vision has once again butted up against the Disney corporate brand-protecting, storytelling, machine.
Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who directed The Lego Move and 21 Jump Street, have parted ways with Disney, citing "creative differences" over the upcoming Han Solo movie. With production nearer to the end than the beginning, reports state that their more comedic tone was jarring with the vision of the movie's writer Lawrence Kasdan - who also, lest we forget, wrote The Empire Strikes Back and co-wrote The Force Awakens.
Consequence: Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy is set to bring a new director on board to review Lord and Miller's work, and reboot the project more in line with Kasdan's script.
I was cautiously optimistic about Lord and Miller directing a Star Wars movie. Marvel has had a lot of success bringing seemingly left-field directors aboard its films (the Russo brothers who directed the last couple of Captain America movies, and are now helming Avengers: Infinity War, had worked on Community).
But... while everyone is seemingly claiming that the sky is falling over the news that Lord and Miller have been removed from Han Solo (so to speak), I'm siding with LucasFilm here. There has belatedly been a bit of backlash over The Force Awakens for being too derivative of the original Star Wars, but I watched it again recently, and I still think they got it bang on.
Likewise, Rogue One. I was disappointed in it after my first viewing - and I still think the two leads, Jyn and Cassian, are devoid of characterisation and likeable traits - but... man... that last act is just pure Star Wars.
If Lord and Miller are no longer on the project, because they were improvising too much around the script as written, then... y'know... sod 'em. Star Wars - as evidenced by the consensus on the Prequels - is a franchise that needs a steady hand on the tiller, and benefits more from being a collaborative project. It clearly isn't the place for experimentation.
Without knowing exactly what went down on the Han Solo movie.... here's the thing... I'm all for supporting the vision of any creative individual. However, there are times to flex creative muscles, and times that you have to rein them in.
As writers and directors, unless we're lucky to have had a massive hit or three, we're collaborators. We're hired to do a job to a brief, and if we don't do that job then we can expect to be let go. In no other line of work is there such preciousness. You don't employ a bloke to install your new washing machine, and then stand back to admire his integrity when he paints it neon green and sticks fronds all over the front, because he's "an artist".
We all have an inherent - frankly juvenile - suspicion of "The Suits", that their motivations are selfish and put making money over individuals. However, I'm just as suspicious and disparaging of creative types, who put their cherished integrity above all else. If you're hired on a massive movie like Han Solo, you're hired to do a job, and do it well by leaning on your skills and experience - not indulge your own whims.
I mean, I've worked with Disney. From the point of view of a writer, they're often an absolute nightmare, but... man... they know what they want, and they're brilliant at conveying that. I've massive respect for that process. It's never in an attempt to disrespect the audience, just a way to strive for the best possible story. They understand and identify what the audience want to see, and what the audience needs. It's phenomenal, really. Good stories, good projects = successful projects.
Yes, it's risk-averse, but - again - you don't want someone installing your washing machine who's going to take "creative risks" with it.
I'm confident that whatever Lucasfilm/Disney saw in the Lord/Miller version of Han Solo wasn't what we would've wanted from a Han Solo film. It might've satisfied Lord and Miller, but - I suspect - would've let the rest of us down. Certainly, I know I don't want to see a version of Han Solo that's a comedy (which, suggest the rumours, is the direction the project was going in). That isn't who the character is for me.
Also, speaking from experience, it's virtually unheard of that producers would back a writer's vision for a movie over the directors. That just never happens. From that alone, I'm backing Disney on this one.
I say this to any creative person: if you've got a creative itch which needs scratching, and you want to work on something that is entirely yours... do something that is entirely yours. Either get over yourself or don't hawk yourself out as a director or writer-for-hire.
Now, more than ever, there are ways of having creative control, without messing around in somebody else's sandbox. You might not have millions of dollars to play with, but - take it from a man whose house is full of cheap and cheerful props and scenery and costumes - that forces you to get more creative - not less.
The director Neill Blomkamp had his Alien 5 feature axed in favour of the studio choosing to keep Ridley Scott sweet, by letting him make his bizarre Alien prequels. Consequently, he's set up Oats, his own mini studio, to make low-budget, experimental movies. Best of all, he's planning to make all of the assets from these projects available to everyone, to use in their own films or video games.
You can watch Rakka, his first short film from this endeavour, here.
To be honest, much as I'd like to see at least one more Alien film from somebody who understands what Alien and Aliens fans want from an Alien movie, I'd prefer someone like Blomkamp coming up with his own stuff, without the oversight of some sort of corporate committee telling him what is and isn't commercial.
Star Wars needs caretakers who understand and respect it, and ensure it's around for a long time to come. Firing directors during production is a bold and risky move - Disney and Lucasfilm must know that there'll now be a black cloud hanging over Han Solo until the day it's released.
It will be costing them a small fortune to let Lord and Miller go, bring on a new director, and mount reshoots, but that shows that - huge as Disney is - they care about Star Wars as much as its fans do.