A few months ago, we were all hit with the news that Disney had acquired Lucasfilm for a staggering $4.05 billion, which, in an unbelievable act of altruism, George Lucas will be donating to charity. While jokes and memes hit the Internet within minutes of the announcement, as well as superficial complaints, it quickly became apparent that this acquisition was likely going to be a good thing. Yes, while Disney is responsible for a colossal amount of trite and repulsive shorts, films, and merchandise, it is also the owner of Pixar, Marvel Entertainment, and The Jim Henson Workshop. None of these staples of modern pop culture suffered from the change in ownership; in all cases, its creators kept total control of their visions and properties and made, arguably, the best feature films any company had ever produced after the change.
And then, the news yesterday: 2015 will bring us Star Wars VII directed by JJ Abrams, which is possibly the biggest and most exciting bit of Geek News to hit the Internet since the announcement that Joss Whedon was handling Marvel’s The Avengers. I, for one, welcome our new Jedi Master.
Now, an admission: JJ Abrams’s name alone does not make me feel all funny inside when I see it attached to a given franchise, whether it be a film or television series. I would argue that in many cases, the writing is inconsistent and has as many flaws as it does elements of brilliance. The notable exception to this for me, though, is Star Trek, which I felt was absolutely excellent. Lost, Fringe, Cloverfield, and Super 8 all have terrific moments and concepts, but I also recall a number of times where I wanted to stick my head through a wall due to inconsistent pacing, plot threads, and moments, for a man whose conceptual visions are typically intelligent, that made me feel as if he were speaking to a three-year-old with moral and philosophical compasses crafted by Big Bird and Snuffie.
Harsh? Perhaps, but I have difficulty overlooking the very ending of Super 8, the third and final seasons of Lost, great swathes of episodes of Fringe, and the totally unnecessary shaky cam in Cloverfield. That said, he is taking on Star Wars, which is arguably the most influential genre franchise of all time (possibly rivalled by Superman), but it’s hardly a work of Aristotelian philosophy with Shakespearean dialogue. The stories are simple, and they’re for children. Anyone who says otherwise is deluding themselves. Most fans are, of course, adults, but Star Wars defined a generation – mine, in particular (Star Wars and I are exactly the same age – it was released the day I was born, and my early childhood was defined by the series). It speaks to my inner child – the one whose suspension of disbelief is so strong we accept light-driven blades that end; ships that make noise and bank in the vacuum of space; planets with single, unwavering ecosystems; villains who never seem to hit anything with their high-powered blasters; and where a tribe of skin-wearing teddy bears can easily overcome trained and technologically superior troops who specialize in enslavement, genocide, and murder. The list goes on, but basically it’s good vs. evil and the good guys win (most of the time).
I have trouble believing that JJ Abrams will cock this up – he certainly couldn’t do any worse than the prequel trilogy.