It’s been a bumpy few weeks to be a Star Wars director. A bit lost in the news of Chris Miller and Phil Lord’s departure from the Han Solo stand-alone film were the confused reviews for The Book of Henry, which was helmed by future Star Wars: Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow. Now, two weeks after the drama’s premiere, The Jurassic World veteran is opening up about the “heartbreaking” reaction.
“It’s a little heartbreaking, without getting too personal,” he said on The Empire Film Podcast. “And I think it’s just because it came to us as a bit of a shock, because we had screened this movie to so many people, and we’d had reactions from so many people that we felt we knew what we had and we knew how it was affecting the audience. And that actually hasn’t changed. It affects audiences in the same way that we thought it would. We did not anticipate that level of vitriolic dislike for the film. And in the end, do I want to be somebody who can please both audiences and critics? Absolutely. So is that hugely disappointing? It is. I do stand by the movie.”
Fully describing the plot of the film isn’t the easiest thing to do (Bustle‘s Anna Klassen said, “[It] became 13 Reasons Why, then gracefully transitioned into American Sniper“); the movie centers on an 11-year-old genius named Henry (Jaeden Lieberher), who lives with his younger brother (Jacob Tremblay) and mom (Naomi Watts). They set out to rescue and avenge the girl next door (Maddie Ziegler) when they learn she is being abused by her stepfather. EW’s D review describes the Book of Henry, which sports a 23 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, as “crass, baffling, and ludicrous.”
Trevorrow refused to subscribe to any theory suggesting the negative reaction to Book of Henry is tied to his other high-profile projects, but he did admit that he wasn’t prepared for the attention Star Wars and Jurassic World would bring to this film.
“What I’m not going to do is to claim there was some pile-on motivated by anything but their like or dislike for the film,” he continued. “What I may have overestimated is how my visibility as somebody who is responsible for really two things that we all care about very deeply and are massive parts of our public consciousness and our shared mythology, how that level of visibility would shine a spotlight on this in a way I hadn’t considered when I set out to do it. I went to make a film that is narratively experimental, that allows me to face my fears as a filmmaker, and is extremely ambitious and complex in what it attempts to do, and also a film that very clearly works potently for many, and then does not work potently for many others. That’s just the reality of it. Like you talk about a love-or-hate movie. I feel like it did get a little bit disproportionate as far as the balance of love and hate; that’s what surprised me. But there was no one in the middle.”
Listen to the full interview above.