J.J. Abrams is the man responsible for renovating Star Trek for the 21st century, so the announcement that he's directing Star Wars: Episode VII made serious waves around the sci-fi geek community. The filmmaker had refused the offer early on - citing his loyalty to Star Trek and desire to approach the new Star Wars films as a fan "rather than being involved in the minutiae of making them" - but changed his mind after several weeks of discussions with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy.
Abrams has laid low since his confirmation, thanks to the marketing campaign for Star Trek Into Darkness heating up and the ongoing guessing game about which Star Wars "original trilogy" stars are coming back for Disney and Lucasfilm's ambitious new era of cinematic installments. He's finally broken his public vow of silence on the subject; though, in typical Abrams fashion, he's keeping his hand of cards very close to the chest.
That's because he's still being dealt a hand (figuratively speaking), according to Abrams in a recent interview with Empire. Here is what he said, when questioned about how his well-established love for everything Star Wars-related will affect his approach to Episode VII (when compared to his comparatively impartial feelings about rebooting the Star Trek franchise):
“I don’t know because we’re just getting started. So it’s a great question that I hope I’ll have a good answer to when I know what the answer is. There are infinitely more questions than answers right now, but to me, they’re not that dissimilar. Though I came at these both from very different places, where they both meet is a place of ‘Ooh, that’s really exciting.’ And even though I was never a Star Trek fan, I felt like there was a version of it that would make me excited, that I would think ‘that’s cool, that feels right, I actually would want to see that."
We know Abrams doesn't mean Episode VII is "just getting started" in general, as the project has been developing since at least last summer (back when George Lucas met with Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher about them possibly reprising as the Skywalker twins). The director continued to insist he's just getting his feet wet in the Star Wars universe, but indicated he won't be using familiar re-invention blueprints:
“How we were going to get there, what the choices were going to be, who was going to be in it – all of those things I knew would have to be figured out, but it was all based on a foundation of this indescribable, guttural passion for something that could be. It’s a similar feeling that I have with Star Wars. I feel like I can identify a hunger for what I would want to see again and that is an incredibly exciting place to begin a project. The movies, the worlds could not be more different but that feeling that there’s something amazing here is the thing that they share.”
The Star Trek reboot benefitted from Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci writing the script (with producer Damon Lindelof joining them on Into Darkness) - since they are skilled at world building (ex. Fringe) and creating action-driven narratives with a deeper human meaning (Mission: Impossible III) - and having Abrams at the helm, since he subscribes to an identical school of thought, but also possesses the big-budget filmmaking knowledge and marketing savvy (see: the new Into Darkness poster reveal) to keep everybody feeling happy.
It's no wonder that Steven Spielberg pushed Kennedy to hire Abrams (something he re-affirmed during his Empire interview), even given the director's commitment to the Star Trek and Mission: Impossible franchises at Paramount:
“My knee-jerk reaction was that I’m in the middle of working on the Star Trek movie and I can’t even consider it. But then time went by and I got further along working on the movie and getting to a place where I had done most of the heavy lifting. So when I met with Kathy Kennedy we just started discussing it and I was able to actually engage in the conversation. I went down to tell Katie, my wife, and I said ‘I had just a very interesting conversation with Kathy.’ That was the beginning."
Star Wars: Episode VII is being written by Oscar-winner Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3), who should bring the same heart and passion as Lucas did on the original trilogy, but can also incorporate the shades of grey that make the drama more complex than an elemental battle between good and evil (see: our "6 Reasons Why Jedi Could Be Villains In a ‘Star Wars’ Movie"). That leaves Abrams in a familiar position, having the proper creative material to re-invigorate a somewhat faded sci-fi franchise and ensure the cash cow keeping reaping in big profits for years to come. Will lightning strike twice?
Star Wars: Episode VII remains tentatively scheduled to arrive by 2015.
'Star Wars' Image By En-Taiho