It’s an unfortunate reality of filmmaking that when a franchise has the sort of lengthy history that something like Star Wars has, loyalties sometimes run too high. Some people simply don’t want the stories they’ve grown up with to face competition and when that competition does inevitably arrive, there’s nothing that can sway their opinions.
In the case of Star Wars, these feelings of reluctance or downright disdain for anything new could arguably be linked to George Lucas’ changes to the original trilogy – a constant rereleasing of altered versions of the first three films has made unaltered copies basically impossible to come by. Then of course, there’s the entire issue of the prequels to deal with.
But when J.J. Abrams took the helm of Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, even the most hardened purist had to be mildly curious over what the end result would be. Predictably, not everyone cheered upon seeing the film and many went as far as to brush it off as nothing more than a rip off of Episode IV – A New Hope. Now for the first time, Abrams has responded to these criticisms:
"I knew that, whatever we did, there would be a group of people — and I was just hoping and praying that it would be smaller than not — that would take issue with any number of things. But I knew we weren't making the movie for any other reason than we believed that it could be something meaningful and special and entertaining and worthy of people's time."
In an interview with THR, Abrams admits he was aware of the possibility that some might view The Force Awakens as a rip-off, but maintains what he was trying to do was "embrace" the old while introducing something new.
"I can understand that someone might say, 'Oh, it's a complete rip-off! What was important for me was introducing brand new characters using relationships that were embracing the history that we know to tell a story that is new — to go backwards to go forwards."
Abrams also explained why despite his love for Rian Johnson's Episode VIII script, he couldn’t come back onboard as director of that film:
"I realized when I was working on [The Force Awakens], the amount of energy that was required to tell the story, and do it justice, knowing when Episode VIII would start shooting, there was no way — if I wanted to still have my children talk to me in my old age — that doing that would make any sense. If The Force Awakens worked, it was be the perfect place to say, 'I got to make a Star Wars movie,' and not be a greedy bastard. If it didn't work, no-one would want me doing it anyway."
So there you have it – Abrams worked hard to bring fans a film that he felt reflected the heart of the original Star Wars trilogy. In that sense, he appears to have succeeded. There will always be those who disagree, but the fact of the matter is that balancing the magnitude of something as legendary as the original Star Wars trilogy with an entirely new twist is no easy feat. For this reason alone, Abrams' efforts are more than admirable.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is now in theaters, 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.