BY BRIAN GODAR
You have probably heard the news that J.J. Abrams is set to direct the next Star Wars film, but if you’re like me then you still don’t know how to feel about that. The man has been the driving force behind so many different projects that it is hard to pinpoint his exact style and even more difficult to tell if that style is a good fit for a Star Wars film. It’s possible you also don’t know how you feel about any addition to the Star Wars franchise in general, referring to the old adage, “You fool me once…”
Fans of the franchise can take solace in how expertly Abrams handled his reboot of rival franchise, Star Trek, in 2009. However, that movie was a reboot and as such, Abrams had more leeway to do as he saw fit without enraging millions of fanboys. He was essentially allowed to make his version of a Star Trek film, and he took advantage by literally changing the history of the Star Trek universe. Star Wars VII is not a reboot, but rather a sequel. While that may not sound so daunting, believe me it is. This is no ordinary sequel; it is the last chance to bring originality and imagination to a creatively dead franchise. Star Wars lives on now as nothing more than a children’s cartoon geared toward 5-year-olds. It is almost universally agreed that the prequel trilogies are far inferior to the original movies, and that can be traced back to George Lucas’ money grab on his way out the door. How many people will look back fondly on the original trilogy if it is bookended by TWO awful trilogies?
So there is some pressure on Abrams right from the start. He needs to get this first film right. However, there is more than a little hope that this movie will be everything we as fans have been waiting for. The most exciting development is the hiring of Empire Strikes Back writer, Lawrence Kasdan. Empire Strikes Back is widely regarded as the best movie of the original trilogy, which puts it well out of reach of even Revenge of the Sith, the least appalling of the prequel films. With a script crafted by the same man who wrote the lines, “Luke, I am your father,” Abrams has a solid foundation to work with.
There are also some issues that hold my excitement at bay, however. Chief among them is that Abrams has a far too conventional resume with little more than the requisite blockbusters that Hollywood looks for when choosing a director. He was an inevitable choice, but one that most fans would agree is too safe. Yes, he will make the movie to the best of his abilities, and yes, it will likely be entertaining. The question is, will it feel like a Star Wars movie? All of the directors in the original trilogy came from independent films or were relative newcomers, and they each let the story speak for itself. J.J. Abrams has an established history of doing unique projects that are highly identifiable as his own works, which makes me wonder if he can stop himself from putting too many J.J. Abrams trademarks in the film and ruining it in the context of the other films in the series.
Another thing fans have to wonder about Abrams is if he has proper geek credentials, as strange as that sounds. It normally wouldn’t matter, but he has already directed Star Trek. Many people who aren’t adamant fans of the science fiction genre already have a difficult time telling the two franchises apart, and attaching Abrams name to both will make it even more difficult. That brings up the issue if Abrams himself is capable of separating the two franchises in his mind. It would be an ironic death for the Star Wars franchise if the seventh film ended up feeling like a Star Trek film.
All in all, I am excited to see what Abrams can do with one of my favorite franchises of all time, though it is a cautious excitement. As a lifelong Star Wars fan, he will have a difficult time winning me over after I have watched my beloved franchise go from three of the best films of all time to six films that, when taken as a whole, are only above average. With a solid first film, this third trilogy could correct that imbalance and show young fans what a real Star Wars film is supposed to be like.