One of the big reasons Star Wars fans are so excited for this December's The Force Awakens is that it ushers in a new era of the galaxy far, far away - one that will allow other filmmakers (not named George Lucas) to play in the sandbox Lucas created back in 1977. The franchise has had a tremendous impact on many people ever since the original film debuted, and it will be fascinating to see how the passion and enthusiasm folks like J.J. Abrams and Gareth Edwards have for the material will fuel their respective films.
However, those who have been following Episode VII from the beginning might recall that Lucas spent a year developing a storyline for a Return of the Jedi sequel before he sold Lucasfilm to Disney for the small sum of $4 billion. Since there's so little about Force Awakens' plot we know (we're still waiting on an official synopsis), some could be wondering just how much of Lucas' original vision is being carried over into Abrams' film. Fortunately (?), it sounds like whatever concepts Lucas came up with were scrapped in favor of something new.
In the ultra-informative Vanity Fair piece on The Force Awakens (which was the source for new still images and character names), it was revealed that after the Disney-Lucasfilm transaction took place, the Mouse House and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy opted to go in a different direction than what Lucas had came up with. As for why that was, Vanity Fair's Bruce Handy says it would have recalled painful prequel memories:
[Abrams] said Lucas’s treatment had centered on very young characters - teenagers, Lucasfilm told me - which might have struck Disney executives as veering too close for comfort to 'The Phantom Menace' and its 9-year-old Anakin Skywalker and 13-year-old Queen Amidala. “We’ve made some departures” from Lucas’s ideas, Kennedy conceded, but only in “exactly the way you would in any development process.”
Though The Force Awakens is expected to center on young heroes such as Finn (John Boyega), Rey (Daisy Ridley), and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), we can tell just from the trailers that the new guard most definitely are not teenagers. They seem to be around the same age Luke, Han, and Leia were at the time of the first film, which arguably is for the best. Having "older" protagonists in their early-to-mid 20s (or 30s, in Isaac's case) could make for stronger characters, since they have a greater sense of independence and more control over the situations they find themselves in. For all his pod-racing skills, young Anakin was still dependent on adults like Qui-Gon Jinn for direction in Phantom Menace, and Disney wants to avoid any comparisons to that maligned set of films.
As Abrams and company worked on crafting a new story, the process didn't always go so smoothly. Oscar-winner Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine) was initially hired to pen the screenplay, but later departed - paving the way for Abrams and Star Wars veteran Lawrence Kasdan to write the script. In the Vanity Fair article, Abrams explained that the two essentially started with a clean slate, as the final narrative still hadn't been completed as early as November 2013:
“We didn’t have anything. There were a thousand people waiting for answers on things, and you couldn’t tell them anything except, ‘Yeah, that guy’s in it.’ That was about it. That was really all we knew.”
Over the past handful of months, numerous rumors about the Force Awakens story have come out, with details ranging from everything to a potential opening sequence to the presence of flashbacks in the movie. One of the persisting reports is that the core plot involves villain Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) trying to open an ancient Sith tomb that Luke Skywalker is protecting, but Abrams himself has stated that not all the rumors are true. Until Lucasfilm puts out a synopsis (or a more "detailed" trailer), we'll just have to wait and see.
In the meantime, those who had lingering fears that Lucas was still going to find a way to put his fingerprints on the Star Wars revival (despite him saying he's happy to not be involved) can finally be at peace. The series creator has passed the torch to a new generation of directors, painting a hopeful picture for the future of the franchise. If the reaction to the two teasers is anything to go by, Disney and Lucasfilm made the right choice wiping the board clean and letting Abrams and Kasdan's imaginations run wild.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in theaters December 18, 2015.
Source: Vanity Fair