As the Skywalker saga ends with Episode IX, Star Wars is moving forward to TV and beyond — but before they do that they have to close out with a bang. That’s something that some fans worry about after the tepid reception for Solo, Han’s origin film, and The Last Jedi, which had a small but vocal contingent of haters so abusive that they were admonished by multiple franchise stars. Now, with the new film almost upon us, the chairman of Walt Disney Studios addresses the recent past and near future of the series.
Alan Horn spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about Disney’s upcoming film slate and Star Wars was a hot topic of discussion. Director J.J. Abrams just wrapped production on the still-untitled Episode IX, but that doesn’t mean anyone (even someone as in-the-loop as Horn) has seen a cut.
While Horn "visited the set and watched a couple of scenes being shot,” he has “not seen a cut of it yet” — and that shows where the team is at in the early stages of the editing process since the bigwig watched dailies and sent Abrams and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy a note every weekend. The film wrapped principal photography less than a week ago, but it’s an update on the highly-secretive movie’s progress nevertheless.
The film is also one that Horn sees as a “big deal,” since Solo wasn’t received the way his company hoped. “It's always a challenge because — and I say this with love and respect for media — the thing about these big movies is they get a lot of attention, whether positive or negative,” Horn said. “So when they don't work, like Solo, the media says it's a failure. I think it was a pretty good movie. It didn't resonate as much as we'd hoped it would, but the press writes it up in a more negative way than I would.”
Even though Horn takes a softer approach towards the spin-off film that was a critical and box office disappointment, he then follows up with an example that may cause Disney fans some unease. “If Aladdin, which I happen to think is a terrific film, doesn't work somehow, that's big news and much bigger news than if a movie somewhere else, like The Kid Who Would Be King, doesn't work.” With Will Smith’s take on the genie already becoming a lambasted meme, this particular name-drop doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the Aladdin remake.
That said, Horn does have kind words for one upcoming remake of a classic: The Lion King. Horn’s seen four cuts of the film already and calls it an “emotional” film where “you cannot tell these animals aren't real,” but he also acknowledges that “there must be some percentage of the audience who will say, ‘Well, I saw the first picture.’” That realistic take on the realistic remake may temper expectations for the animated fare, but when it comes to Star Wars, the chairman is maintaining complete positivity for the future, whatever it may bring.