As the wait for Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens becomes shorter, Lucasfilm is sharing more and more from their highly-anticipated film. New television commercials are debuting every other day, magazine covers feature the heroes and villains in action, and an interactive partnership with Google has been launched. After three long years, the return of the galaxy far, far away is about to become a reality.
Nobody is more relieved at that prospect than co-writer/director J.J. Abrams, who is ready to share his film with Star Wars fans around the world. The trailers have provided many encouraging signs that Abrams was able to recapture the old school space adventure vibe of the classic trilogy, but those were not the only films he looked towards for inspiration.
In Empire's coverage of The Force Awakens (hat tip Star Wars News Net), Abrams revealed that his research went beyond Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. He was influenced by some unlikely sources during pre-production to get a better idea of how he wanted Episode VII to look:
Before he started The Force Awakens, Abrams watched some movies. No, not those ones, Other ones. He looked at “the confidence” of John Ford Westerns. He took in the “unbelievable scene choreography and composition” of Kurosawa’s High and Low. And he studied “the powerful stillness” of Terrence Malick. “It’s not something I would normally have thought of coming to Star Wars,” he says. The spare visual style of Ford, Kurosawa and Malick points to a key mandate for Abrams’ approach to Episode VII: the distinctive less-is-more quality of the originals.
Since film is a visual medium, "show, don't tell" is a useful tool filmmakers have at their disposal to inform the audience. Elements like shot composition and lighting can convey so much about the characters and situations, the imagery of a movie has the potential to be much more efficient and effective than expositional dialogue. It's a positive development that Abrams strived to emulate this style, and based on what's been shown so far, the look of the film has already left a strong impression with moviegoers.
Abrams also discussed his approach to filming the Force Awakens lightsaber battles. Those who felt the duels of the prequels were a little too choreographed and elaborate will be pleased to hear that Abrams looked back at the "primitive" nature of the original trilogy duels when plotting out the Finn vs. Kylo Ren fight:
“When you look at Star Wars and Empire, they are very different lightsaber battles, but for me they felt more powerful because they were not quite as slick. I was hoping to go for something much more primitive, aggressive and rougher, a throwback to the kind of heart-stopping lightsaber fights I remembered being so enthralled by as a kid.”
In addition to how the physical fights were portrayed, the duels of the classic trilogy were so compelling because of what was happening internally with the participants. Frequently, they were used to develop the characters and give audiences a deeper look into their psychology. One would hope that Abrams incorporated this aspect into The Force Awakens as well, so the lightsaber battles are not just flashy sequences, but have a meaningful impact on the story he's telling. That would be an ideal way to give a new generation of youngsters "heart-stopping" moments of their own.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18th, 2015, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.
Source: Empire [via Star Wars News Net]