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Abrams takes on ‘Star Wars’

William Neal | Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Nerds, rejoice. The question of who will take the coveted director seat of the “Star Wars” franchise has finally been answered: Mr. Bad Robot himself, J. J. Abrams. Those familiar with Abrams’ long history of sci-fi work may not be surprised with the decision, but keep in mind that he rebooted the “Star Trek” franchise (long-time arch nemesis to the “Star Wars” fan base) and is set to release the next installment of that series this summer, “Star Trek: Into Darkness.” The thought of such a crossover brings to mind George Costanza’s speech on when “worlds collide.”

What’s even stranger than the man who resurrected Kirk and Spock turning to a competing franchise is the fact that Abrams originally denied claims of his involvement with the film. He explained his loyalty to the “Star Trek” fan base and explained his “very genuine concerns” about taking over the seventh “Star Wars” installment. Clearly Kathleen Kennedy and the rest of the executives at the House of Mouse and Lucasfilm offices have learned the manipulative art of the Dark Side of the Force, or just offered him a lot of money. Either way works. 

I’m sure the fact that writer Michael Arndt, who scripted “Toy Story 3,” is on board to write Episode VII’s script with the assistance of Lawrence Kasdan (writer of “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back”) further encouraged Abrams to jump on the bandwagon – I mean the Landspeeder. Regardless of what was possibly promised/offered/blackmailed to get Abrams to direct, this is major news. For the first time since 1977, a new director is taking the helm from the beloved, yet infamous, George Lucas. 

Taking on a $4.05 billion franchise is no easy task, but then again, Abrams has had a successful track record and is experienced in having to appeal to a massive fan base. Plus, it’s not like he can do much worse than the CGI-bombarded, political-allegory-filled and terribly-written “Star Wars” prequels. Still, it’s a daunting task to take over a franchise that has become so much more through the years than merely a film series (look up “Jediism” or “‘Star Wars weddings” sometime).  

The fact that the last three films were deemed failures by “Star Wars” fans and critics alike means there is much more pressure for Abrams in the director’s seat. In many ways, however, this is a chance for the franchise to start fresh and many believe that the current team of developers will deliver a solid trilogy for “Star Wars” Episodes VII, VIII and IX. 

Aside from a talented director and team of writers, the stars of the original trilogy, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, have all expressed an interest in returning. So, with Abrams handling both the Final Frontier and the Galaxy Far, Far Away, will both projects conflict with one another? It’s hard to say, but Abrams has already told the press that there is no guarantee that “Star Wars: Episode VII” will be released in 2015 like Disney originally planned. 

It’s been nearly eight years since the last “Star Wars” film, so as long as the movie is done right, I believe it’s well worth the wait.  I just pray that the story is well written, the acting is strong (i.e. no Hayden Christensen), Abrams goes easy on the lens flares and that we get an ending in which Jar Jar Binks is incinerated. Requests and concerns aside, we’re all rooting for you, Abrams. Don’t let us down, and may the Force be with you. 

 

 

Contact William Neal at wneal@nd.edu