All Right, Fine, Here’s What I Think About JJ Abrams Directing Star Wars Episode VII
It’ll be fine. Really.
One, JJ Abrams is a perfectly decent director, who does a decent job with human beings, which is more than you can say about the last dude who directed a Star Wars film.
Two, as Super 8 made explicitly clear, Abrams thinks of himself as being in the Spielberg school of filmmaking, i.e., make it entertaining or go home. He’s not artistically conflicted, as Lucas so clearly was, about being a producer of mass entertainment.
Three, as again Super 8 made clear, Abrams understands at least on a productive surface level the visual and schematic ethos of 70s-era filmmakers, of which Lucas was one, so he has a better than fair chance in capturing the specific flavor of the first trilogy — well, the first two films of the trilogy, anyway — that the (older) fans love so well.
Four, his track record as director and producer shows he doesn’t condescend to genre entertainments. He may let his screenwriters (including himself) screw up the science, but only nerds like me give a crap about that; everyone else is there to shovel popcorn into their maws, and Abrams is steeped in the cinematic traditions of science fiction adventure and appears to geek out about them himself. Fair enough.
Five, he’s been here before, as in, he took a moribund franchise (Star Trek, which plowed into irrelevance with the appallingly forgettable Nemesis) and did exactly what was needed to get butts into seats, delighting both geeks (Yay! More Star Trek! Forever!) and Paramount’s executives (Yay! More Star Trek franchise income! Forever!). Does anyone think Disney, the most relentlessly commercial of all the movie studios, would settle for less? Come on, people.
Six, sure, there are other directors who could possibly do a better and/or more interesting job of it. I would be happy to see Star Wars films from Guillermo Del Toro, Alex Proyas, Alfonso Cuaron, Kathryn Bigelow or Paul Verhoeven (oh, God, Paul Verhoeven). But here’s the thing. At the end of it all, I suspect that most Star Wars fans don’t want interesting, i.e., novel new interpretations of Star Wars. They want their Star Wars to be Star Wars, which is to say, the thing with the light sabers and droids and screen wipes and Campbellian heroes and the Force and Manichaeism on the easiest possible setting. They want to sit down, get blasted by the John Williams fanfare and tear up with joy at the first text scroll followed by the downward pan to a spaceship over a planet followed by Star Wars Star Wars Star Wars Star Wars.
The guy who is going to give them that? JJ Abrams.
So, yeah. It’ll be fine, folks.