From his early days as a visual effects artist to his acclaimed directorial work, Gareth Edwards has always been a man of vision. Yet, amid Hollywood’s blockbuster-driven landscape, Edwards has often been overlooked. With his latest film, “The Creator,” making waves at CinemaCon, I want to explore whether Hollywood has truly undervalued this innovative British filmmaker.
Edwards began his career in the film industry wearing multiple hats, working as a writer, director, cinematographer, and visual effects artist on his independent film, “Monsters.” The film was a testament to Edwards’ talent and versatility, earning him recognition and opening the door to major Hollywood productions. His next project was “Godzilla” (2014), a reboot of Toho’s iconic Godzilla franchise and the inaugural film in Legendary’s MonsterVerse. Edwards tackled the ambitious task of reimagining this classic monster for a new generation, and his fresh take was generally well-received. Then came “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (2016), the first installment of the Star Wars anthology series and an immediate prequel to “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” (1977). Predictably, the film raked in impressive numbers at the box office. Edwards’ directorial approach was lauded for skillfully blending the timeless “Star Wars” aesthetic with a darker, battle-scarred ambiance.
However, despite these successes, Edwards seemingly vanished from the Hollywood scene for several years, leading some to question whether he had been consigned to what is colloquially referred to as “director’s jail.” Thankfully after a seven-year hiatus, Edwards is back with “The Creator,” a sci-fi thriller starring John David Washington and Gemma Chan. The film’s premise – a war between humans and artificial intelligence with the fate of humanity hanging in the balance – looks to be timely and fascinating. The buzz generated by “The Creator” at CinemaCon suggests that Edwards is once again poised to impact the film industry significantly. A world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival also feels possible, which would raise its overall profile and welcome the filmmaker back in a major way.
Yet, this raises an important question: did Gareth Edwards deserve to be sidelined from major filmmaking for the best part of a decade? His directorial prowess and unique vision were evident in “Monsters,” “Godzilla,” and “Rogue One.” Each film showcased his ability to craft compelling narratives and create visually stunning scenes, often on a grand scale. The industry’s propensity for typecasting directors, particularly those who have succeeded in specific genres, played a role in Edwards’ absence from the big screen. Or perhaps it resulted from the immense pressure and scrutiny of helming a major franchise like “Star Wars.”
It’s also worth noting that Edwards’ work on “Rogue One” was not without its fair share of turbulence. The talented filmmaker’s vision for the film clashed with that of Lucasfilm, leading to notable filmmaker Tony Gilroy stepping in to rewrite and oversee extensive reshoots at the behest of franchise leader Kathleen Kennedy. Despite the difficulties, Edwards retained his position as the sole credited director of “Rogue One.” However, early trailers hinted at a significantly different take on the material, with entire scenes being removed or completely reworked. Unfortunately, this pattern of production issues has become a common feature of the “Star Wars” franchise, as demonstrated by Ron Howard taking over from Phil Lord and Chris Miller to essentially remake “Solo: A Star Wars Story” in their absence. Gilroy recently spoke about the tumultuous production of “Rogue One” during an appearance on Brian Koppelman’s (Billions) podcast, “The Moment.” The candid discussion was part of his promotional activities for the upcoming Jon Hamm-starring thriller “Beirut,” for which he served as the screenwriter.
According to Gilroy, “Rogue One” was a “troubled mess” in its early stages. However, he saw the solution to its problems as relatively straightforward, explaining his approach to remedying the film’s issues. “If you look at Rogue [One], all the difficulty with Rogue and all the confusion of it, all the smart people [working on it], all the mess, and in the end, when you get in there, it’s straightforward to solve, because you go, ‘oh, this is a movie where… everyone’s going to die.’ So, it’s a movie about sacrifice.”
This challenging production experience on “Rogue One” may have contributed to Edwards’ hiatus from blockbuster studio filmmaking. His creative vision, though a critical aspect of his filmmaking prowess, may have been deemed too risky by Hollywood executives, leading to his underutilization in the industry. Regardless, it’s clear Gareth Edwards has much to offer the world of cinema. As “The Creator” prepares for its release, one can only hope this talented filmmaker won’t be taken for granted again.
You can follow Henry and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @BParker2021