As soon as the magical house of Disney purchased the entirety of LucasFilm back in November of 2012, they immediately announced that they were making a Star Wars: Episode VII, VIII and IX.
As the press made the rounds following this news, rumors on the internet exploded for months on the subject of the new trilogy, but the question most important to the media and fans alike was “Who will direct Star Wars now?”
George Lucas is out of the picture, and Irvin Kershner, the director of Empire Strikes Back, sadly passed away a couple of years ago. Everyone from Steven Spielberg to Joss Whedon to Zack Snyder were inquired about considering the position, and each turned it down, all implying that the name “Star Wars” is a title of such worldwide recognition, and has such a dedicated fan base in the science fiction genre, that none of them could ever consider being able to direct Episode VII and do the legacy justice.
And then, on January 25th, news suddenly broke out that J.J Abrams, the man whose name launched into to the stratosphere with Alias and Lost, and into other galaxies with the smash hit reboot of Star Trek in 2009, would direct the film. And despite many statements debunking the suggestion that Abrams could helm the next adventure in the Star Wars saga, he eventually gave in, expressing great humility for the opportunity. Jabba the Hutt must have made him an offer he couldn’t refuse…
Episode VII is having a script drafted from Michael Arndt, the writer of Little Miss Sunshine and Toy Story 3, who will now be accompanied by LucasFilm veteran Lawrence Kasdan, and Sherlock Holmes’ Simon Kinberg. Dennis Muren, the visual effects master of the original Star Wars trilogy, is returning for Episode VII, and has in fact worked with Abrams before on Super 8. Ben Burt, is also returning for the new trilogy. Burt, the genius behind some of the most iconic sound effects in film history (Darth Vader’s mask and R2-D2 voice as examples) had also worked sound editing with Abrams on Super 8 as well as on Star Trek.
The Great Bearded One, George Lucas himself, commented on Abrams entry into the project with nothing but praise, “I’ve consistently been impressed with J.J. as a filmmaker and storyteller. He’s an ideal choice to direct the new Star Wars film and the legacy couldn’t be in better hands.”
And good news for those of us that find Episodes I, II and III so atrocious that we don’t acknowledge their existence: as a result of the recent news, LucasFilm will now be postponing (and maybe even canceling altogether?) their plans for re-releasing the remaining 5 Star Wars films that have yet to be released in 3-D. In an official press release, LucasFilm stated, “Given the recent development that we are moving forward with a new Star Wars trilogy, we will now focus 100 per cent of our efforts on Star Wars: Episode VII in order to ensure the best possible experience for our fans, We will post further information about our 3D release plans at a later date.” Of course, we must always take the good news with the bad, because Disney and LucasFilm may need to prolong that July 2015 release date set a while back. To some, however, this may be a good sign. As it indicates that the project isn’t being rushed into filming, and can allow time for the pre-production process to run smoothly.
And now all the new speculations begin to emerge given these new circumstances. While this is great news for everyone who loves Star Wars, we have to remember that Abrams had intended to commit himself to Star Trek, with the sequel to his 2009 reboot, Star Trek Into Darkness, to be released this May. It can be most likely assumed that he would have been committing to making his Star Trek run as a trilogy, but any dream of that, depending on how long of a delay Disney makes for Star Wars, is now as gone as Alderaan after the Death Star destroyed it.
For devoted Star Trek fans, it’s a great disturbance. Almost as if millions of fans suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.
While Abrams is still locked into contract to produce the Star Trek film following “Into Darkness”, his attention will most likely be focused on Star Wars during that production period, causing the creative minds and hands on Star Trek to be thrust upon someone else; most likely the new director, whomever he/she may be.
We’ve seen a strange shift in directors in films many times before. The most recent that comes to mind that involves major franchises was when Bryan Singer left the X-Men franchise to attempt to direct a reboot for the nearly dead Superman series, and the two films practically went head to head at the box office in the summer of 2006. Almost ten years ago, X-Men and X-2 were considered to be some of the best superhero films ever made, just below Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man franchise. By the end of their theatrical releases, neither X-Men The Last Stand, or Superman Returns got positive reception from audiences, or their projected mark in ticket sales. Superman’s case was a given, because we live in a day and age where people don’t care about the world’s original comic book superhero anymore, and putting out a less-than-amazing movie would not have changed that.
But what went wrong with X-Men? The first two got great reviews, sold well, and still even have a strong fanbase. The answer feels most likely to be change in hands of the role of director, which was filled by Brett Ratner, whose best known work beforehand was probably the Rush Hour series. You can take that fact however you wish to.
So what does this mean for Star Trek? Unless J.J. Abrams can somehow juggle involvement with Trek and Wars simultaneously, the creative hands will have to change under Paramount’s tent for the third film in the Star Trek reboot series, and the result could be just as good, better, or disastrous depending on who gets the job and what say Abrams has in the decision.
On the Star Wars side of the coin, it’s possible that Abrams’ Episode VII could be the strongest in the series. It’s also possible that it won’t be any good in the eyes of the fans. As the prequel trilogy, and Lucas’ CGI edits since 1997, has shown us, it’s that every person from the creators to the fans have a different vision of what Star Wars is supposed to be, and that perspective of the fandom was so strong, that not even George Lucas’ “true vision” of the saga, supposedly as he always intended it, wouldn’t have even made it off Tatooine let alone to the hearts and minds of multiple generations.
It’s also possible, however, that Abrams’ passion for Star Wars could force him to make it as perfect of a film as he possibly can to serve his fandom justice. It’s not quite so farfetched, as Joss Whedon was in the same boat last year while making The Avengers. Guess what movie made 1.5 Billion dollars in 2012?
It can be a controversial topic, as Star Wars and Star Trek fans have always been at odds over which is better for decades. And now, because of the divided passions of one man, these two are suddenly thrust back into opposition. Can the two live long and prosperously let the Force be with them? Or will the Lightsabers be sharpened and the Phasers set from stun to kill?
Only time will tell, but now it all rests on the shoulders of Mr. Abrams and LucasFilm to get it right.
So, in the meantime, here’s the trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness, which opens in theaters on May 17th