Christopher McQuarrie

Opinion: Why Christopher McQuarrie swearing off Star Wars might actually be a good thing

Contributed by
Jul 3, 2018

It, at first, seems to be a non-story.

A director who has never been named as a candidate to direct a Star Wars movie formally taking himself out of the running? It may seem strange, but in a sign of the times, that's exactly what Chris McQuarrie did last night after his Twitter feed intersected with the never-ending firehose of bile aimed at the current incarnation of the series.

The sequence of events was swift and silly: McQuarrie tweeted a tribute to Rod Serling, citing his ability to fold in social and contemporary messages to genre stories. This came up as part of a conversation with Rian Johnson, during which Johnson cited McQuarrie as a writer to listen to given his undoubted abilities. Anyway, someone replied citing Serling as an example of what happens when you don't let "SJW nonsense" impact on fiction.

That was completely inaccurate, but that's beside the point. What matters here is that McQuarrie's decision last night actually is worthy of discussion, because it may ultimately mean something.

Chris McQuarrie is an always-good, often-great scriptwriter. His single misfire is the 2017 reboot of The Mummy, but that was an aberration. What's important here is McQuarrie's consistency as a scriptwriter and his remarkable consistency as a director. The Way of the Gun, Jack Reacher and Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation mark a constant increase in scope that McQuarrie lands easily and repeatedly. Better still, with Rogue Nation, he did an excellent job of hacking the audience's expectations. The film's big set pieces all hit in the middle. The ending is a ragged, desperate two-person chase through London that works all the better because the physical stakes are so low and the emotional ones so high. Chris McQuarrie usually writes and always directs good to very good blockbusters.

And Star Wars will not be on his list any time soon or perhaps ever. Because of elements of its fandom.

So from a creative point of view, this is bad news. But from a psychological point of view, perhaps, it will ultimately be good news. Here's why.

Here is Christopher McQuarrie.

Christopher McQuarrie

Credit: Getty Images

You could put him, Rian Johnson and J.J. Abrams side by side and they'd look like the best Shadowy Men From A Shadowy Planet tribute band ever. You could put Ron Howard behind them and he'd look like their dad who drives them to all their gigs. You could put George Lucas on the other side of him and he'd look like the proud grandfather who's maybe a little estranged but is just really happy for his boys.

My point is that if you picture a Star Wars director, of any stripe or time period within the lifetime of the franchise, you picture a guy who looks a lot like Chris McQuarrie. And Chris McQuarrie, who looks a lot like every Star Wars director, has just explicitly said he wants no part of the franchise.

This is the EXACT sort of guy who studios and most fans have been conditioned to expect to show up in big ticket franchises. And those self-same fans have just driven him away. The increasing toxicity of fandom in general has been undeniable for years. If Star Wars fandom is now actively scaring away busy, working directors who'd fit it like a glove, and it is, then it's clearly in a worse state than anyone thought.

Now, the good news. Because there is some. Sort of.

There's a chance of a cold glass of water to the face moment here, of the realization that elements of fan culture are helping destroy what they profess to love. The chances of it happening aren't high but hey, I'm a professional optimist. It would be great to think that frightening off a white dude would cause people to examine their behavior. They haven't with anything or anyone else, but like the song goes, everyone's got to learn sometime.

But the real take home here is the recognition of that hostile fannish environment and, from what I can tell, it being named for the first time. Bear in mind every single director and writer who has ever stepped aboard an established intellectual property has faced this. The struggle between giving established fans what they want and new fans what they need is the great equation of western pop culture in the 21st century and no one is close to solving it. But for the first time here, it seems, at least one element that's normally ignored has been named. And in being named, it's been quantified and we can see the damage it's done and continues to do.

Because if Chris McQuarrie, a default safe pair of hands, doesn't want to go anywhere near Star Wars, imagine what female directors must feel like. Or directors of color. Or directors on the LGTBQ spectrum. A white guy, and a white guy perfectly equipped to deliver a kickass Star Wars movie, wants no part of the franchise, so why should they when every obstacle they face will be higher, every fight more venomous and more targeted? Where's their New Hope? Where's their rebellion? Where's their Death Star moment?

It's not here yet. But, perhaps, this is the first indication it's on the way.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.