Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should know by now that there is a seventh Star Wars film heading to theaters this December. Despite the fact that a great deal of the Star Wars fandom hated Episodes I, II, and III, the general consensus for The Force Awakens is that it looks kind of awesome. I mean, just look at this trailer.
More than having an incredibly promising trailer, I think the movie’s fearless leader, JJ Abrams, is going to have more luck bringing in new Star Wars fans than George Lucas ever could have hoped for when he started working on The Phantom Menace–and it has nothing to do with how good or bad you think the prequel trilogy was.
First of all, Abrams doesn’t have the uphill climb to face that Lucas did when he began filming Episode I. When A New Hope hit theaters, moviegoers had never seen anything quite like it. The movie was new, it was exciting, and it showed other worlds in a way the big screen really hadn’t prior. The films were groundbreaking in that way, and there wasn’t as much of a “sci-fi nerd” stigma to going to see those movies since they were so fresh and uncharted.
So when George Lucas waited literally decades before releasing The Phantom Menace, all he did was give his legions of fans time to revel in the awesomeness of the original trilogy and dream about the craziness they could find in a modern Star Wars film aided with updated technology. However, I don’t think Lucas’ focus was on blowing his original three films out of the water. I think he was simply focused on telling the other part of the story. Episodes I-III certainly have updated tech in them: the characters are slick CGI, the light saber fights are well-choreographed and thrilling to watch, and characters traditionally brought to the screen as a puppet—like Yoda—were now a more realistic-looking CGI. But the trilogy left a lot of fans with that sinking feeling of, well, “it’s just not the same.”
We could talk for hours about what we did and did not like about the first three, but suffice it to say that Lucas faced a set of challenges and expectations that simply are not being placed on JJ Abrams—which is great for The Force Awakens. Though he is telling a continuation of the Star Wars saga, he isn’t seen as the series patriarch. Abrams is new bloo, and fans everywhere expect him to bring a fresh, new perspective to the franchise. Lucas has been tinkering with the Star Wars universe for years, creating things like the prequel trilogy and even tinkering with the original three films by adding weird, sometimes unnecessary, and occasionally awkward CGI characters to a movie born well before it existed. You could say Lucas got a bit of tunnel vision when it came to the franchise, and I think fans everywhere are excited to see how an outsider will bring Star Wars to the screen again. There are several Star Wars fans out there who, while they love the original three (and maybe even the newer trilogy), are a bit wary of Lucas’ ability to create another good Star Wars film. Bringing a fresh face into the mix, free from any Star Wars fan hate will really free Abrams up to focus on creating a great picture.
Additionally, Abrams is also pretty famous for revamping another classic science fiction franchise, Star Trek. Abrams did a great job depicting the familiar world from the Star Trek universe while adding his own personal touch (LENSE FLARE!) to update look and feel of a sci-fi classic. While a lot of die-hard Trekkies weren’t thrilled with Into Darkness, there’s no denying that Abrams managed to take the helm of the Star Trek franchise and create a movie that excited longtime fans while also bringing new ones in. Both Star Trek movies are good films, and — love or hate Into Darkness — the alternate universe aspect of the movies makes both films an interesting addition to that particular canon.
In addition to revamping existing properties, Abrams also helped write and create the series Lost, as well as write and direct the film Super 8. Time and again, Abrams has proven with his resume that he is an imaginative and big dreamer, making him a strong candidate when you’re reviving a classic, well-loved series. The man knows how to pull in an audience, as he’s proven with the countless other project he’s worked on, and yet he doesn’t sacrifice the integrity of the genre to pull in those new viewers.
Where Lucas struggled under the weight of the superhuman expectations placed on him for Episodes I, II, and III, Abrams has some freedom. There is a huge portion of the fandom that is certain there is nowhere for the Star Wars movie franchise to go but up. Even those who enjoyed the prequel trilogy can see just from the teasers how Abrams is bringing us the story we love, the characters we dearly missed, and that excitement and wonder we all felt when we watched A New Hope for the first time. More than that, Abrams isn’t making a film just for Star Wars fans. He’s also making a movie that feels welcoming to those who have never before traveled to that galaxy far, far away. By making sure to keep that science fiction action and adventure fans love with the characters we all recognize, Abrams has hopefully crafted a story that has the same broad and magical appeal the original trilogy did all those years ago. Do we think he can be trusted with directing The Force Awakens in a way that will introduce this awesome world to a new group and generation of fans with a reverence and love of the original story imbued with his own creativity and imagination? Absolutely.
Do you think JJ Abrams has been and will be good for the Star Wars franchise? How do you feel about all of the updates and changes within the Star Wars universe? Let’s talk about it in the comments!
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