Obviously there has been a lot of buzz about the recent acquisition of Star Wars by Disney, but recently the speculation has turned to who will be the creative captain of the new Star Wars film. Currently, the list includes names such as Matthew Vaughn, Neill Blomkamp, Alfonso Cuaron, Darren Aronofsky, Joss Whedon, and even Spielberg himself. Granted, the film won't be ready for viewing audiences until the year 2015, so anything could happen until then, as directors come in and out of major productions all the time. So who would be the best of this shortlist to helm the wheel of what might end up being the most successful film in history? Let's look.
First up is nerd-kingdom series generator Matthew Vaughn. This is the man who brought Daniel Craig into the limelight with Layer Cake, which eventually caught the eye of the Bond casters to give him his now celebrated role as 007. This was followed by Stardust; a mediocre fantasy tale that didn't garner as much attention as was hoped for during the furor of the book-to-film-fantasy bubble from the Harry Potter films. However, Vaughn scored a critical hit with Kick-Ass. His understanding of superhero youth earned him X-Men: First Class, which was a much needed revamp to the X-Men series after Ratner killed it. He has shown the ability to understand his audience, as well as create memorable lead roles while respecting the feel of the source material.
Blomkamp was a relatively unknown visual effects animator/artist who became moderately well known for his amazing live-action short series, Landfall, for the Halo 3 launch. With a gritty and intense style he was able to craft what many in Hollywood had been unsuccessfully trying to do for years, and that is to create an entertaining and respectful transition from the console/PC to a live-action medium. From here he was offered a chance to direct the Halo film, with Peter Jackson producing. However, Universal wasn't confident in this "green" director spearheading such an important project, and eventually scrapped the project all together. Jackson -- wishing to allow Blomkamp the chance to show people how talented he really was -- raised 30 million in production costs for Blomkamp to make District 9. Some might not agree, but I am of the opinion that District 9 (along with others like Moon and Children of Men) was one of the best science fiction films of the past few decades.
Speaking of, Children of Men's director, Alfonso Cuaron is someone familiar with revitalizing a stale series into a new and darker tone. He was brought on to direct Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which would set the feel for the remainder of the Potter franchise. His understanding of the child-like vulnerability of the main characters, as well as the seriousness of what they are fighting for, was key in taking the main characters through their pubescent naivete into becoming "adults."
Aronofsky is a much darker director. He is known for his debut film, Pi, Requiem for a Dream, the Fountain, the Wrestler, Black Swan, and recently just left The Wolverine project for "creative differences." His macabre style and focus on a main character's self destructive tendencies are almost trademark.
Joss Whedon sits on a god-like status with nerd culture for his work on Buffy, Firefly, and The Avengers. With the cookie-cutter framework that marvel was putting into their heroes and their films, Disney (who owns Marvel too, don't forget) was gambling the entire pot on whether or not Whedon could produce a strong and collaborative hero epic. And for the most part, he did.
Spielberg is Spielberg.
The big question is, "Who would be the best choice?"
Vaughn has a proven success record with both character pieces and heavy special effects work. His ability to combine older, more established characters with younger upstarts is proven in First Class. With the return of Hamill as Luke it appears as if there will definitely be a mixing of generations for the new Star Wars film.
Blomkamp's transformation of Wikus in District 9 is an important factor to consider. He took, what started as a very naive and kind character, and turned him into someone who must do unthinkable things in order to survive and protect himself. I feel his style might work better on a piece that is more focused on the soldiers on the ground (like a Battlefront), but his talent is unquestionable.
Cuaron sits alongside Vaughn, in my opinion, as someone who is good at mixing generations of established and wiser characters in a dramatic and moving fantasy/fiction piece. The Potter series borrows heavily from the Star Wars set up (which really just borrows from Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey), so it wouldn't be that much of a transition. Jedi are really just wizards in space, after all.
Aronofsky would be incredible if the piece was merely focusing on the transition of a Jedi from light side to Dark. His abilities to hold a viewer onto a character as they dive through their own personal hell is proven and fantastic. I'm not sure how he would work in such a grand scale universe, but needless to say it would be a different path than anything Lucas would have ever done.
Whedon might stand as the best choice, as far as experience goes, for this project. He is familiar with the space genre, as well as taking a variety of characters and creating an interesting and unique interaction/ensemble. Not to mention I'm fairly certain Captain Mal was based heavily off of Ford's Han Solo. The love is there.
Spielberg is, well, let's just say I really hope he doesn't get it. The previous Indiana Jones was an absolute train wreck, and I don't know if I could handle Han Solo surviving an exploding planet by hopping inside of an old Imperial Fridge.
All of this is obviously pure speculation, as directors can change at any point in time of shooting. Regardless, it will be an interesting and exciting film to read about as it's being crafted.