In the past few months, my world has been rocked by two huge movie-related announcements. The first was October 30, 2012, when, while stuck in mediation, I learned that Disney acquired Lucasfilm for some $4 billion dollars, and that not only were they going to make Star Wars Episodes VII-IX, but that other new Star Wars movies would follow every 2-3 years thereafter. Even better, George Lucas said he was stepping away, would not write or direct, and was passing the creative baton to the next generation of filmmakers. I still have trouble processing this news. Say what you will about the quality of the prequels, but I think it's awesome that our kids are going to get to experience all new Stars Wars films in the theater for the foreseeable future.
Now, with that announcement came a ton of questions. What would Episode VII be about? Who would be in it? And most importantly, who would direct? Which of today's filmmakers would be the lucky man or woman to take over such an iconic franchise? The media certainly did their part, asking every filmmaker worth a damn whether they would be interested in directing the next Star Wars. Each one declined. Tarantino, Del Toro, Spielberg, J.J., Brad Bird, and many more: all said they'd rather watch the new film than be the one to actually make it.
If you had asked me back then who I wanted to direct, J.J. Abrams would have easily been my first choice. For one thing, J.J. is my first choice for everything. My love for the man is well-documented on this blog. Mission: Impossible III is my favorite movie of all time. I loved his reboot of Star Trek and his Spielberg homage, Super 8. Posters of each of his films decorate my office. Lost and Felicity are two of my favorite T.V. shows of all time. For another, J.J.'s filmmaking sensibilities fit Star Wars to a tee. He's an exciting director, with a great visual eye, and he understands pacing and entertainment better than almost anyone else in the business. The man knows how to create popular art, and deliver a product that is both commercially and critically appealing.
I just never thought he'd do it. With Star Trek Into Darkness on its way (May 17!), I thought he'd be too enmeshed in the Star Trek world, and Star Wars would be too similar an opportunity. After all, you can't be both a Trek and Wars fan, can you? Turns out you can. I'm proof of that, though I definitely lean more Wars, and I think if people were honest, they definitely have a preference, even if they do legitimately like both. But J.J. has big fish to fry, and a lot on his plate, and I just didn't see it happening.
That's when the second big announcement came. After an initial leak, Lucasfilm and Kathleen Kennedy (super producer behind most of Spielberg's work, including Lincoln) confirmed that J.J. was, indeed, going to direct Star Wars Episode VII. I had three friends text me the news the second it broke, knowing that I would just flip for it. They were right. This is the greatest news in the world, right? RIGHT?!! It's almost too perfect.
And yet, just like last time, after the initial wave of euphoria, the news that J.J. is directing the new Star Wars brings its own set of questions - chiefly, what does it all mean? What can we expect from a J.J.-directed Star Wars, and what does the fact that he signed on tell us about the project? It's still early (the movie doesn't even come out until 2015 at the earliest!), but here are 5 possibilities:
1. Don't Worry - The New Star Wars Will Not Resemble Star Trek. J.J. is a smart guy. There is no way he would have taken on Star Wars if he thought that he couldn't bring anything new to the table or honor the spirit of the prior films. He must have a visual sense of how the Trek and Wars worlds are different, and how he will portray them as such. Those fearful that the new Star Wars will just resemble another one of J.J.'s Star Trek films needn't worry. The shiny, Apple store-influenced Enterprise will not be found in Episode VII. Does this also mean no lens flares?
2. The 40-Page Treatment For Episode VII Must Be Good. Really Good. LucasFilm is committed to filming a 40-page treatment for Episode VII written by Little Miss Sunshine and Toy Story 3 scribe Michael Arndt. J.J. would have not signed on if the story was shit, or if there was any chance of Lucas dialogue creeping in ("I hate sand. It gets everywhere."). Arndt is a fine screenwriter, and Lawrence Kasdan (who co-wrote the best film in the original series, Empire Strikes Back) is also contributing input. J.J. is a screenwriter himself. He seems excited by what's been written. So should we.
3. Characters Come First. Even though almost all of his movies and television shows have high production values and big effects, J.J. never loses sight of the characters and their emotions. He's not Michael Bay. He will spend time on the smaller moments, even if they're not the most spectacular. This will give us more scenes like the ones between Han and Leia in Empire.
4. It Will Be Well Cast. Time and time again, J.J. has shown that he has a natural eye for talent, and he casts his projects impeccably. Look at the kids in Super 8. Or, even more impressively, look at the cast of Star Trek. Everyone was perfect for their roles. Even those casting choices that initially raised some eyebrows (Karl Urban as McCoy?) proved to be brilliant. He also introduced us to Keri Russell, Jennifer Garner, Bradley Cooper, and more. Note: any of J.J.'s stable of actors are welcome to appear in the new Star Wars. I can't wait to see who he gets for this. Bonus, unlike Lucas, J.J. actually knows how to direct actors.
5. Michael Giacchino's Chances Of Scoring The Movie Just Increased 99.9%. This alone is cause to celebrate. I'll miss John Williams, and I'd be perfectly happy if J.J. decided to keep him on to do the score, but Giacchino has already proven masterful at weaving iconic themes into his original scores (see Mission: Impossible III, Speed Racer).
That's all I have for now. Plenty of time to ruminate further. The movie isn't even scheduled to come out until 2015, and even then, it could be pushed back if J.J. needs more time. The important thing is to get it right.
What do you think? Do you like J.J. as director? What do you think his Star Wars will look like? Let us know!