Star Wars fans, cover your ears. The Book of Henry, an upcoming film by Star Wars: Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow, is getting ruthlessly hammered by critics, leaving some worried about the future of the Star Wars franchise.
Written by crime novelist Gregg Hurwitz, The Book of Henry follows a precious 11-year-old boy and his single mother, who hatch a plan to rescue a neighbor from her sexually abusive stepfather. The film is something of a passion project for Trevorrow, who’s coming off the box office hit but critically mixed Jurassic World. When he signed on to direct The Book of Henry, Trevorrow called its script a “remarkable piece of screenwriting that has stuck with me for years.”
Critics are finding it remarkable, too, but for very different reasons.
Many reviewers denounced the bizarre morality (or lack thereof) of the film’s titular child, who instructs his mother to murder their abusive neighbor with a high-powered sniper rifle. Likewise, critics painted the young victim of abuse as little more than a “girl next door” with little say over the ludicrous plan for revenge dreamed up on her behalf.
The Boston Globe compared the deterioration of the film’s plot to a frog being slowly boiled to death. Collider said its confusing mishmash of genres was like “blending Capri Sun with absinthe.” The Guardian eschewed the elaborate metaphors and simply called it an “insidiously terrible film.”
Here are some other very harsh things being written about The Book of Henry:
- “Book of Henry will unfurl as if [Steven] Spielberg were a sociopath, unconnected to empathy and unclear on what wonder really is.”—Pajiba
- “A good rule of thumb for all aspiring filmmakers: Probably don’t do dramedy about child rape…Book of Henry feels like if Wes Anderson died and came back as a Hallmark Channel special.”—Uproxx
- “It does not suffice to call The Book of Henry bad; it’s nonfunctional, so poorly conceived from the ground up as to slip out of the grasp of the usual standards one applies to narrative film.”—Vulture
Reviews weren’t all this savage, it must be said. Indiewire admired the movie’s attempt to think outside the box and make something unconventional. Empire praised the performances and Trevorrow’s “assured visual style.”
But what millions of moviegoers likely want to know, more than whether or not The Book of Henry succeeds, is what the film means for Star Wars: Episode IX‘s prospects.
Several reviewers have already suggested that The Book of Henry might make Star Wars obsessives nervous. Trevorrow was tapped to direct Episode IX about two months after Jurassic World hit theaters and grossed a massive $1.6 billion worldwide. His ascent has been rapid: He was plucked from relative obscurity by Steven Spielberg to direct the blockbuster Jurassic World on the strength of his whimsical, microbudget 2012 film, Safety Not Guaranteed, which was a hit with critics. Disney brass cited his ability to both handle a blockbuster franchise and also direct smaller, more intimate films as the reason he was chosen for Star Wars.
Ultimately, one poorly reviewed film does not doom Trevorrow’s Star Wars installment to fail. Plenty of directors have rebounded from critically panned films to make better ones. But Star Wars is no ordinary film, and Trevorrow’s duty as director is no ordinary role. Disney still has a year to calm the waters (Episode IX will debut in May 2019; in the meantime, Rian Johnson’s Episode VIII: The Last Jedi comes out this December) but the studio now has some work to do to assure fans that their precious sci-fi franchise is still in good hands.