If The Book of Henry is the best Collin Trevorrow can do, Star Wars: Episode 9 is in serious trouble.
There are no understatements when it comes to the hype and anticipation surrounding the upcoming Star Wars films. With the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi just months away, fans are already looking forward to Episode 9, to be directed by Colin Trevorrow.
However, audiences won’t have to wait until 2019 to see a new film directed by Trevorrow. Last week, The Book of Henry was released and it’s a worrying product from the person set to direct the finale of the newest Star Wars trilogy. With the movie now in theaters, its glaring faults and failures are on full display and fans have good reasons to be concerned about Trevorrow’s ability to handle a Star Wars movie.
There are some very specific failures in The Book of Henry that are relevant to Trevorrow’s upcoming Star Wars installment. These failures can be categorized into two camps. First, The Book of Henry simply takes on too much and Trevorrow is unable to create a foundation upon which to tell the story.
Second, the film fails to provide its characters with the genuine motivations that would help explain their decisions and feelings.
The biggest issue with The Book of Henry is that it contains far too much plot for a film of its size and scale. The following plots are contained in its one hour and 40 minute runtime: A boy genius providing financially for his family, a single mother raising her two sons, a sexual abuse scandal, an assassination plot, and death by fatal brain tumor.
Not to mention the various subplots that include a school talent show, a struggling alcoholic friend, and a doctor turned love interest.
Most of these concepts could sustain an entire film on their own, but instead they are all haphazardly strung together into a single story. As a result, the movie ends up feeling like a combination of incomplete ideas full of abrupt tonal shifts; it’s jarring and, at times, comical to watch unfold.
It’s tempting to try to shift the blame onto the script, but Trevorrow’s direction offers no attempt to create a foundation for these plots. From the very beginning of the movie, essential questions and information about the world where this story takes place are ignored.
Trevorrow does nothing to help facilitate the leaps that the story makes and allows the audience to be left behind. There’s a version of The Book of Henry that might work if Trevorrow had given a proper introduction to the world and created a foundation that would help contextualize the sheer insanity of the story.
This failure is particularly troubling given the scale of a Star Wars movie; these are stories with a lot of complicated, moving parts and fantasy elements that need a strong director who can manage them successfully.
Clarity is essential when telling such large, complex stories. This will be especially important in Star Wars: Episode 9 because it will conclude the series’ newest trilogy. If Trevorrow struggles to handle a movie with a story that is self-contained, how will he handle a movie that is a part of a larger whole?
Additionally, Trevorrow fails to provide the characters in this movie with any identifiable motivations for the decisions they make. The characters in The Book of Henry change from scene to scene with wild unevenness. Henry’s mother Susan, played by Naomi Watts, goes from grieving her son’s death to sarcastically planning to kill her neighbor in the next scene.
This is just one of several significant changes in attitude and behavior that characters make in this movie. It’s clear that Trevorrow has no interest in these characters beyond their use to push the increasingly nonsensical plot forward.
Trevorrow will need to change his approach to depicting characters when directing Star Wars: Episode 9. Audiences are very attached to the characters, especially those original cast members making appearances. This attachment means fans have all sorts of preconceived notions regarding how characters should behave.
The lack of motivations and the senseless characterizations on display in The Book of Henry will cause fans serious frustration if applied to Star Wars: Episode 9.
The most successful films, especially Star Wars movies, are those that have a clear and precise vision that is executed with competence. Looking at the original trilogy, both A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back have relatively simple narratives that the audience could understand, thereby allowing George Lucas to take certain risks in the fantasy elements of the story.
Despite operating on a much smaller scale than a Star Wars movie, The Book of Henry cannot grasp this concept. If Trevorrow wants to be successful, he will need to learn from his mistakes.
However, Trevorrow’s vision for the film may not matter as much as we think. News broke this week that Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy fired directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller from the Han Solo spinoff movie.
In an article from Variety, a source states that Kennedy and her team “have been doing it their way for a very long time. They know how the cheese is made and that’s how they want it made.”
Given this new information, Trevorrow’s directorial role may mean very little. Despite how the failures in The Book of Henry are relevant to how he will handle Star Wars, it’s possible that Trevorrow will only need to facilitate the studio’s preconceived vision in order to be successful.
However, the critical failure of The Book of Henry is hardly a ringing endorsement for Trevorrow’s skill as a director and will loom over the production and release of Star Wars: Episode 9.