When it was announced that Disney had purchased Lucasfilm from George Lucas, and was planning a new series of Star Wars movies starting in 2015, people immediately began to ask who was going to be in the director’s chair. And as someone who is very fond of the trilogy (the only trilogy that matters, that is), any trepidation about Disney ruining the franchise were immediately offset by the nerdy speculation.
Who would have the right mix of visionary film-making mythological storytelling, and endearing character development? Several intriguing names were tossed about, including Brad Bird, Darren Aronofsky, Alfonso Cuarón, and Guillermo del Toro. I think many people (myself included) were hoping that Joss Whedon would take over the new Star Wars franchise. After all, he basically created the perfect Star Wars sequel in Firefly and Serenity. His “sci-fi western” had it all: great action, an intriguing mythos, clever storytelling, and most importantly, a truly motley crew led by the Han Solo-esque Malcolm Reynolds that you couldn’t help but cheer for. Unfortunately, Whedon was too busy prepping the sequel to the insanely popular Avengers movie.
So, after several months of speculation, rumors, and whatnot, it has been announced that J.J. Abrams will be directing Star Wars: Episode VII (which is currently being written by Michael Arndt). Of course, if you thought that this announcement would bring an end to the nerdy speculation, you obviously know nothing of nerddom. So let’s think about this a little bit. (And, if you want a good chuckle, be sure to read this list of Twitter reactions to Abrams’ new gig.)
There’s no doubt that Abrams is a technically solid filmmaker. His adaptation of Star Trek, for all of its faults, had plenty of dazzling visuals (copious lens flares notwithstanding). He’s certainly shown a fondness for mythologizing and epic story-lines as evidenced by Lost and Alias. And Super 8 showed he could create some endearing and compelling character moments.
However, I’ve often found that Abrams’ movies, as enjoyable as they are, always stumbled in the end. They always ring a little false and are more consumed with the idea of being something spectacular, epic, and moving than actually being those things. For example, Super 8 was an absolute thrill ride that became underwhelming once the alien actually appeared on screen, and the movie, which had skillfully avoided sentimentality for much of its running length, couldn’t end without a final scene of sappy closure. And the less said about the way Lost muddled its way to an ending, the better.
So you could say that I have mixed feelings about this announcement. I have no doubt that Abrams realizes the significance of what he’s been picked to do. Indeed, I imagine that this might very well be his dream job, even moreso, perhaps, than rebooting Star Trek. After all, Super 8 showed that he has a strong sense of nostalgia for the era of fantastical Hollywood filmmaking that Star Wars originally helped to usher in. So, all criticisms aside, let’s hope that the Force is strong with this one, and that he is able to rise to the occasion.
And if all else fails to ease your nerd worries, just remember, it could be worse. We could be waiting for a new Star Wars film directed by Matthew Vaughn. (Sorry, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forgive Vaughn for Stardust.)
Photo by Gage Skidmore.