Let us face a stark truth: Star Wars has always been better in concept than in execution. Of the six Star Wars movies (seven if you count that theatrical version of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV series pilot), two made-for-TV Ewok movies, one animated TV series, stacks and stacks of disposable Star Wars Extended Universe paperbacks, and the legendary-for-all-the-wrong-reasons Star Wars Holiday Special, we got one great movie (Empire), one that’s really good if you ignore large chunks of ”dialogue” (Star Wars), one that’s OK (Revenge of The Sith), and three that kind of sucked (Episodes I, II, and VI). That it’s hovering at #5 on my kid’s TV Priority List speaks volumes of the Clone Wars TV show; when an 8-year-old boy would rather watch a repeat episode of Austin and Allie, the folks at Disney/Lucasfilm need to do some serious soul-searching.
So we all know what happened next: Disney bought Lucasfilm, announced that more Star Wars was on the way, and plunged Geekdom into a raging civil war. Star Wars would be ruined by Disney’s insistence on Disney-fying the movies. Star Wars would be saved by Disney’s generally high level of filmmaking standards. About the only thing that Star Wars geeks could agree on (other than Han shot first): the next Star Wars movie would stand or fall depending on its director. Rumors flew, names were bandied about, and finally, this past Friday, Disney confirmed a rumor that had gone through the Internet faster than the Millenium Falcon on the Kessel Run. J.J. Abrams will be directing Star Wars: Episode VII.
And the jokes began.
(Get it? Lens flares! Props to the guys at Ain’t It Cool News for finding this.)
Of course, this caused a bit of an uproar. Star Wars fanatics cried foul over the hiring of the Star Trek movie guy: “Abrams might actually bring character development, genuine emotion and some semblance of scientific realism to Star Wars! That’s unacceptable!” Star Trek fans also cried foul: “You can’t take J.J.! He made Star Trek cool and fun again! Our girlfriends were actually looking forward to more Star Trek movies! What? Of course we have girlfriends! They live in…uh…Canada!” And the people who like both Star Wars and Star Trek were confused.
Is this a good thing? Is it a bad thing? How will J.J. Abrams incorporate a Giant Red Orb into a Star Wars movie?
I’ve been thinking about this over the weekend, and have come to the undeniable conclusion that this is a good thing. For starters, J.J. is not writing the screenplay, so your fears of the plot hinging around the destructive power of a Giant Red Orb are unfounded. Second, Abrams is a big fan of strong female characters, something that the Star Wars prequels sorely lacked. Sydney Bristow kicked ass on Alias, Felicity was smart and capable in Felicity, the women of Lost weren’t exactly damsels in distress, and his Uhura did a whole hell of a lot more than look pretty while announcing that the hailing frequencies were open in Star Trek. And third, lens flare jokes aside, Abrams can direct action pieces – the opening battle scene in Star Trek managed to be both hair-raising and poignant, and in Mission: Impossible III he managed to convince audiences that Philip Seymour Hoffman could go mano-y-mano with Tom Cruise.
Most of all, Abrams is a guy who knows how to revive a dying franchise. Star Trek was going through the same death throes as Star Wars: most of the movies sucked, as did most TV iterations. Mission: Impossible II was Godawful. And even Super 8 was a reminder to Spielberg that before Jurassic Park 2 and Indy 4 and the mediocrity of Minority Report and War of The Worlds, nobody knew his way around a genre film like The Beard.
Fans of Star Wars, relax. The movies are in good hands. And I can’t wait to see Episode VII.