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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Say What? J. J. Abrams and the Star Wars Shuffle

It's official.  J. J. Abrams is going to direct the new Star Wars movie.  The good news?  He's not writing it.  Nope.  That would be Michael Arndt, who is best known for Little Miss Sunshine and Toy Story 3.  That's good news indeed.

When I set out to write this post, I imagined it would begin and end with a long diatribe about how many times I have been burned by J. J. Abrams since the travesty that was Cloverfield.  As a writer, Abrams is, in my opinion, no better than whoever Michael Bay pays to write his bloated scripts of plot-ological stupidity (Transformers 2, anyone?).  But he's not a terrible director, given a good script, and he's worked with amazing folks like Steven Spielberg.

This post, then, will take a far different approach to whether Abrams is a good pick for the Star Wars universe (i.e., a randomly numbered string of equally random thoughts -- sort of):

1) Considering what the Star Wars franchise has become, and the unlikelihood that Disney will make significant changes to the model, I can't say that Abrams is necessarily a bad choice, given his work on Star Trek.  Star Trek, after all, wasn't necessarily a bad movie in terms of its presentation.  It had a lot of the things that the franchise had been missing all lined up in near-perfect order; all of those elements are crucial to Star Wars movies anyway, minus glaring plot holes.  On this front, I agree with John Scalzi.

2) Whatever will happen to the Star Wars universe under Abrams, I can't imagine it can end up any worse than Attack of the Clones.  The new movie won't be another prequel, and is likely to take us away from the stock characters (not that I don't like Skywalker and Solo or anything).  Even if the second half of that sentence isn't true, at least we'll have new stories to think about, with different writers and directors behind the helm.  At worst, Abrams can only offer a different look at a commercial franchise.  At best, he might actually make something that we'll fondly remember.

3) I care more about the continuation and improvement of the Star Wars franchise in film form than I do about my well-documented dislike of J. J. Abrams.  In other words, I will see the new movie whether Abrams is a part of it or not.  That Arndt is writing the screenplay leads me to believe I'm not irrational to expect a decent movie.

None of this means that I'm not apprehensive about the selection of Abrams.  I'd rather have a different director behind the helm, if I'm honest.  But the more I think about the selection, the less inclined I am to think, as I stupidly said on Twitter the other day, that Abrams will have a negative impact on the franchise.  Lucas kicked it when it was down well enough on his own...

What do you all think?

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  1. I got to be honest here, I was hoping for Zack Snyder after initial rumors started popping up. The guy can't write to save his life, but he sure can make a good-lookin' movie. With someone taking care of that end of the deal, we might even have ended up with something half-decent.

    I'm not all that fond of J.J. Abrams and tend to come away from his movies with a less than positive opinion. I did like Star Trek (never watched the original, so obviously coming at this from an outsider's perspective), but that's about it. But we'll see how things go...

    And I'll be stocking up on booze for the lens flare drinking game. With all the lightsabers and lasers, there will be plenty of opportunity for Abrams to indulge his horrible, horrible habit.

  2. I'm not a big fan of Snyder. His work is highly stylized, but not necessarily a good fit for Star Wars. Abrams is also highly stylized, but considering what Star Wars has been over the last decade, I think he is an OK fit.

    My personal choice would have been someone like Christopher Nolan, though he would probably not fit well into the franchise. I just think it would be great to go back to the darkness that existed in the original series (Empire in particular), with just a dash of the cutesy that we've come to love. The new ones are just too much CG overload for me, without the depth of character that Nolan might drag out from the source material and the extended universe.

    But even someone like Spielberg, who probably wouldn't take on the job because he's got his own work to think about, would do a great job. I'm surprised Spielberg didn't take the job (or was he not offered it?), though. He would work so well in that universe, bringing just enough nostalgia, beauty, and depth to make the films great works of entertainment (Attack of the Clones fails miserably on that front).

  3. Oh, don't get me wrong... I hate Snyder. The only thing I've liked from him was Watchmen and you can't really go wrong with a movie that is almost scene for scene taken from the comics. (Well, you can go wrong, I guess... since people don't seem to like the movie.)

    I would love for the films to take a step back from the heavy FX of the prequels, but I have doubts that they will. Yeah, they have the nostalgia of those of us who have seen and loved the originals, but they'll be contending for the attention of a younger audience that grew up with the flash of the prequels. I have heard word that they weren't using anything from the EU, but I can't source that and could very well be wrong. Personally, I have always hoped for an Old Republic movie (as in KotOR, not Old Republic in general).

    I try to like Nolan, but I have slept through most of his movies. I feel bad about it, too, because he gets these great casts together and creates some fascinating stories, but his execution bores me.

  4. I thought Watchmen was OK. There were some issues I had with it, though the portray of Manhattan was pretty fascinating.

    I think it would be a grave mistake to refuse to use anything from the extended universe. There are too many great narratives to tell there.

    And while I agree that an Old Republic film might be interesting, I would like to see more stuff about the fall of the Empire proper. I think the gap needs filling, and there are a lot of great narratives to tell in the years following the Endor battle.