1. Joss Whedon
I’ve never actually been a fan of Whedon’s, viewing his contributions to 90’s TV as little more than sexploitative fantasies slathered in melodrama and making a musical episode mandatory. However, his dead-too-soon Firefly was nothing but fantastic and well-crafted while his take on The Avengers has moved him from the cult basement and earned him real blockbuster bona-fides. His screenwriting is slick and only slightly pretentious, something Star Wars never quite got over (“Why, you stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder!”). Plus, a solid and relatable romantic storyline could do some good for the post-Amygdala era, perhaps giving Star Wars something it’s never had before: a strong, Bechdel-approved female character.
While his ventures into big epics have been lacking to say the least (looking at you, Beowulf), the director of Back To The Future has enough sci-fi credibility to carry both an in-depth fictional universe and a shelf full of Oscars he’s earned by spreading out generous usage of tragedy, comedy, and Tom Hanks. He has a mastery with stories portraying isolated individual characters within much larger contexts (Cast Away or his upcoming Flight), leading to the possibility of a Star Wars without senatorial hearings, royalty, or massive teams of caricatured mascots. Sample storyline: following one member of the Empire after it’s fall as he adjusts to a shifting world around him.
3. Quentin Tarantino
Obviously a larger stretch than either Whedon or Zemeckis, but it’s easy to imagine Tarantino starving for a chance to rebuild the storied franchise perhaps in a retro-futuristic image, maybe even nodding to the 50’s B-movie era that made a film like A New Hope possible. One of the aspects of Star Wars that Tarantino will definitely be accustomed to is the shifting cast focus, giving a full version of a story that only, like a heist film, comes together near the end. Plus, an R-rated Star Wars film? While Disney might not think so, Tarantino could be one of the sharpest choices to give the franchise a truly new vision.
4. Duncan Jones
If you haven’t seen Jones’ 2009 psychological sci-fi thriller Moon: what, are you too good for a Saturn Award winner? Get off your ass and see it immediately. While it’s Jones’ only directing credit, Moon relies on an extremely basic premise (one astronaut isolated on a lunar research base) and unleashes a torrent of legend, backstory, and character development that rounds up on one of the greatest twists in the genre. Star Wars desperately needs some lessons of the art-house instead of relying entirely on popcorn visuals and snappy comebacks. While I fear Duncan Jones would be in over his head with the typically large casts of Star Wars, give him a blank script and he’ll no doubt produce something impressively cerebral and shocking.
5. Sam Raimi
Spider-Man 2 was easily the best of that series, utilizing the stage set by the first film to unleash an incredibly dramatic and even believable story of loss and love. Plus, the scene when the surgeons try to remove Doc Oc’s robotic arms only to be ripped to shreds took a pastiche concept and made it genuinely frightening. Sadly, Raimi also directed Spider-Man 3, a pox of schmaltz, cheese, and Tobey Maguire’s newly-formed gut squeezing into spandex Adam West-style (the greatest part of that movie was watching the sculpted and wiry CGI Peter Parker swing though the city only to have Maguire land with a jiggle). However, the Evil Dead director’s appreciation for shock and awe could be quite useful in reimagining lightsaber duels and even new villains as long as he keeps that count down to two or less. He obviously knows how to please a mass audience and use explosions sparingly yet effectively, one of the strong points from George Lucas’ legacy.
6. Christopher Nolan
This will not happen. Nolan is evidently a machine that takes DC comics and makes them “gritty” and “dark”, and Lucasfilm’s new home at Disney means they bunk with DC rival Marvel. However, over here in dreamland, Nolan would be responsible for every film ever made from this point forward. Whereas the original Star Wars films drew from Shakespearean legend and history, Nolan has a fantastically impactful way of making his films about today, whether they take place in fictional cities or the late 19th century (Inception and his Batman films have really buried his understated yet powerful The Prestige). He is a master of plot and structure and could tone down the bright colors and broad strokes of Star Wars.
And People Who Should Stay The Hell Away From Star Wars But Probably Won’t