Abrams Brings New Hope to STAR WARS

I don't have an issue with J.J. Abrams taking the helm of the latest Star Wars film, that should be the first thing noted I imagine. I am a fan of Abrams despite the fact I've never seen an episode of Alias. I just recently went through the life-altering event that is Lost and he made me a fan of Star Trek which is something, prior to his 2009 film, I had no interest in. This brings us to the most obvious of conflicts with appointing Abrams the helmer of both Star Wars and Star Trek. So the guy is now the master of the universe but how will he differentiate between the two? Abrams has a very distinct style of directing and he has left that mark on the Star Trek universe; how will he change it up and appease countless fans when venturing into a galaxy far, far away? When the news first broke that Disney purchased the Star Wars property and planned on making more films in the series rumors immediately began flying around with multiple thoughts surrounding who would be hired to bring the Star Wars universe back to life. There were serious thoughts that Matthew Vaughn (Stardust, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class) dropped out of directing the First Class sequel for the very valid reason of having been recruited for the surreal job of making a Star Wars film. There were mentions of Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol), Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, John Carter) and even David Fincher (Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) each of whom would have been extremely interesting choices in their own right, but there was also mention of Abrams from the beginning though it had seemingly been quickly dismissed because of his connections to Star Trek. Here we are though, months later with the final word on the subject being that no matter what is already on his resume, Abrams will be directing Episode VII.

This brings up a mountain of questions that will not be answered for a long time as Abrams and his crew are just getting started. Disney has enlisted producer Kathleen Kennedy as the supervisor of the transition from LucasFilm to Disney and will be producing what is expected to be a brand new trilogy with Episode VII kicking that off. Kennedy is a long time collaborator of Steven Spielberg's and previously worked with Lucas on the Indiana Jones films. With Kennedy in the pilots seat she enlisted Michael Arndt to draft a script and come up with a story for the film. It is reported Arndt, who has a wonderful line of credits that include Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3, and contributing to the upcoming Tom Cruise film Oblivion as well as the Hunger Games sequel, Catching Fire, has written a treatment for the entire trilogy already. Though things are still very early in the pre-production phase of Episode VII the hiring of Abrams as director really brings the thought of a new Star Wars film to something more of a reality and with that the questions begin to get a little more precise.

We don't know what Abrams will do in terms of style or tone. We know what he has done in the past and I assume the guy is smart enough to do something that will make both the Star Wars universe fresh and new while paying homage to the films that started all of this in the first place. Many people would like to forget the prequel trilogy even exists (though the only one I really dislike is Attack of the Clones) yet these will serve as a good reference for Abrams as he will be able to see what a more contemporary Star Wars world looked like in the mind of creator George Lucas while at the same time creating a new, extended world with his own tools. It's also noteworthy that this new trilogy will be taking place after the original trilogy and will take on a very different tone from the prequel films; the ones the younger generations have grown accustomed to seeing on the big screen. There are many other aspects to the film such as what characters will be incorporated, who will be cast, will John Williams create another score or will that duty go to Abrams frequent collaborator Michael Giacchino who has more than enough experience to take over the role? It will be interesting to see how these things play out but what is more interesting is why Disney chose this man in the first place. This job could create a film that is either the biggest hit they've ever had or one of the most anti-climactic moments in the history of cinema. I doubt that even if the film isn't very good it will be a financial disaster, but it could spell bad news for the remainder of the trilogy and whatever else Disney desires to do with their newly acquired brand. I don't even think the film will be a disappointment as Abrams literally hasn't made a bad feature, though he's only made four (one of which is yet to be released). And it is all these reasons that made Disney choose him: because he is the safe choice, the appealing choice, and the most obvious choice.

It is easy to criticize Disney for not wanting to take a chance on an up and coming director with such a high profile project and if Abrams succeeds with this first film there will certainly be the opportunity to give lesser known directors their chance with the two sequels, but what is going to matter most and what viewers will be looking for with this initial film is whether or not the filmmaker can create two different worlds instead of allowing his (now) two tentpole franchises to overlap and become a wash of the same thing. Trek has always been more technical, more straight sci-fi than anything else and Wars is of a completely different world where fantasy presides over the gadgetry and militaristic world of its sworn enemy. This alone serves a strong enough change to force Abrams to change his approach if he didn't know it before, which of course-he does, he's a smart guy...obviously.

Ultimately, Abrams was both the smartest choice Disney could have made in terms of getting what they want out of their pricey purchase while also giving them the best shot at what could be an unsaturated film. Disney is known for making "safe" movies and while Abrams can certainly appreciate the trust that has been placed in him he seems to also be a big enough fan of the source material, growing up as a member of the original Star Wars generation, to know what gave the original films that magic in the beginning. And if there is anything Abrams is consistently good at when it comes to exploring things out of this world it is bringing that sense of magic and wonder into it with perfect balance. Look at his first Star Trek film. Heck, even if you saw the prologue of the second film on the IMAX screen or Super 8 two summers ago you see his sensibilities displayed in full. Sensibilities that will undoubtedly match with what Lucas, Kershner, and Marquand were able to accomplish in that original trilogy. Star Wars is a universe that has been defined and expanded for over thirty years now which will give Abrams plenty to work with and I am more than excited to welcome him to a world I need to see revived and put on display for what it really was and can be for future generations. Abrams may be the perfect man for the job, but I don't think he knows that and this will only lead to what should inevitably be as fun a time as any at the movies as any ever had. This will hopefully prove true come 2015...    

Star Wars creator George Lucas and Episode VII director J.J. Abrams.  

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