A New Hope for Star Wars: J. J. Abrams in the Director’s Chair

English: Opening logo to the Star Wars films

When I was a child, it’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that the Star Wars universe was my universe. It’s the place I lived. I saw every film of the original trilogy in the theater on its first run. And I’ve seen each dozens of times subsequently. I had the action figures. I didn’t play with G. I. Joe. I didn’t play with cars. My mind was too preoccupied with a galaxy far, far away. I had the lunch box.

As an unqualified first-generation fan, I was devastated by George Lucas’s three prequels. I tried my best to be upbeat after Episode One, but optimism proved futile. Though the special effects were well done, the movies themselves were just awful. Lame plots and lamer dialogue. Of course I saw them in the theater, but I went because I had to, not because I enjoyed them. I began to feel like my childhood was some sort of confidence trick. George Lucas had convinced me that he was a creative genius, and I invested my imagination in his universe. The prequels proved that his creativity was bankrupt, and I lost my entire childhood during those six hours of prequels.

Enter Disney, the people who industrialized creativity. Disney bought the Star Wars brand from Lucas over the summer, and I tried not to be too interested. After all, I had been so badly burned before. Though I tried to remain indifferent, I couldn’t help but experience a spark of hope. Maybe with Lucas out of the picture, the franchise could experience a revival. Disney has had it’s share of misses, but they didn’t build a media empire on luck. They built it on entertainment.

The latest news regarding the Star Wars franchise has fanned my spark of hope into a very small flame. J. J. Abrams will be directing Episode 7, which should hit theaters by 2015. My small flame would be burning a little brighter if they had chosen Joss Whedon (yes, I’m a Firefly fan), but I think Abrams is a solid choice.

Though his body of work varies in quality, Abrams has not directed a total dud yet. I’m basing most of my optimism on Abrams’s Super 8, which was an excellent movie. Abrams understands that a movie needs story more than it needs special effects. Super 8 has the special effects, but the effects are restrained. Abrams knows that you don’t have to show everything. The movie magic is more powerful when some things remain hidden. The cheapness of the special effects actually made Empire Strikes Back the best installment of the first trilogy. Super 8 plays at special effects in the same way.

The script for Super 8, written by Abrams, is almost a manifesto for movie making. The kids in the film are making a movie, and they discuss the importance of story and special effects. George Lucas could have learned a lot from the teenage directer who’s making a zombie film in Super 8. Or rather, Lucas could have relearned what he forgot. Story makes the movie, and effects merely help—not the other way around. I’m expecting that the force will be strong with J. J. Abrams.

Let me know what do you think of the choice of Abrams as the director for Episode 7 in the comments.

4 thoughts on “A New Hope for Star Wars: J. J. Abrams in the Director’s Chair

  1. Abrams is by far my film-making hero. Super 8 is my favorite movie simply because it got it right. That’s exactly how young aspiring film-makers think and feel, and would respond in that kind of situation. Also because it focuses on the human story first, and that makes the extraordinary elements more grounded in real emotion. Fringe is my favorite series (previously on television) for the exact same reasons. So, you’re absolutely right. What Abrams brings to the table is a care for believable characters first and an amazing talent for spectacle focused around these characters second. And most relevant to this particular topic, Star Wars was his inspiration as a kid, so, like you, he grew up in that galaxy far, far away and wants to see it return to a place that produces those feelings in a new generation. Just be on the lookout for Slusho! and things named Kelvin.

  2. I hope Abrams does a good job with it. I’m a little leery since “Lost”. Also, he may have too many irons in the fire. He’s set to do Star Wars VII, Star Trek 3, and M:I 5. I hope Ethan Hunt doesn’t jump out and shoot a Klingon. 🙂 Plus, what will it be about? If they try to follow the novels, the age of the actors would put it right at the Second Galactic Civil War. What do you think?

    1. Indeed, what will they be about. I have a sneaky suspicion that Disney will be less inclined to recognize the canonicity of the novels. There are just too many of them now, which would constrain the franchise. Probably they’ll use some ideas from the novels, but abandon much of it. Disney is into selling movies, not books. I doubt that they’ll end the franchise with episodes 7, 8, and 9.

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