The Star Wars story line is one of the most beloved things in science-fiction, period. So much, that some refuse to acknowledge the existence of the prequels. The Force Awakens is now a little more than a month away from release, and, for the fans, the pressure is on. Not just from the excitement of finally seeing a new movie, but to see what has been done to their beloved franchise.
“We wanted to tell a story that had its own self-contained beginning, middle, and end but at the same time, like A New Hope, implied a history that preceded it and also hinted at a future to follow. When Star Wars first came out, it was a film that both allowed the audience to understand a new story but also to infer all sorts of exciting things that might be. In that first movie, Luke wasn’t necessarily the son of Vader, he wasn’t necessarily the brother of Leia, but it was all possible. The Force Awakens has this incredible advantage, not just of a passionate fan base but also of a backstory that is familiar to a lot of people. We’ve been able to use what came before in a very organic way, because we didn’t have to reboot anything. We didn’t have to come up with a backstory that would make sense; it’s all there. But these new characters, which Force is very much about, find themselves in new situations—so even if you don’t know anything about Star Wars, you’re right there with them. If you are a fan of Star Wars, what they experience will have added meaning.”
What Abrams talks about here is something that could have been easily overlooked in any discussion about The Force Awakens. It could have been that some of us were expecting all of our questions to be answered right away in the movie. If that were the case, then this would have just been another one-night-stand in the world of sci-fi, but instead, fans can look forward to two more movies of the same potential caliber. Which means that fans could also be in for several more years of speculating. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Maybe Kylo is someone’s kid, but fans may never know until the end of the second movie.
“As a fan of Star Wars, I can look at those movies and both respect and love what they’ve done. But working on The Force Awakens, we’ve had to consider them in a slightly different context. For example, it’s very easy to love “I am your father.” But when you think about how and when and where that came, I’m not sure that even Star Wars itself could have supported that story point had it existed in the first film, Episode IV. Meaning: It was a massively powerful, instantly classic moment in movie history, but it was only possible because it stood on the shoulders of the film that came before it. There had been a couple of years to allow the idea of Darth Vader to sink in, to let him emerge as one of the greatest movie villains ever. Time built up everyone’s expectations about the impending conflict between Luke and Vader. If “I am your father” had been in the first film, I don’t know if it would have had the resonance. I actually don’t know if it would have worked.”
Simply put, he gets it. You don’t hire someone for a job because they look like they can fill the part. You hire that person because they’re knowledgeable and passionate about what they do. Abrams has also showed off that he’s not an idiot when it comes to these films.
“The script for VIII is written. I’m sure rewrites are going to be endless, like they always are. But what [Larry Kasdan] and I did was set up certain key relationships, certain key questions, conflicts. And we knew where certain things were going. We had meetings with Rian and Ram Bergman, the producer of VIII. They were watching dailies when we were shooting our movie. We wanted them to be part of the process, to make the transition to their film as seamless as possible. I showed Rian an early cut of the movie, because I knew he was doing his rewrite and prepping. And as executive producer of VIII, I need that movie to be really good. Withholding serves no one and certainly not the fans. So we’ve been as transparent as possible.”
First of all, let’s all take a moment to remind ourselves that episode VIII is currently filming. Second, let’s applaud Abrams for being smart, working towards the bigger picture, and not just soaking up the spotlight while in the director seat. The most incredible part is how he and the next director, Rian Johnson (Looper), have collaborated to make sure that the follow-up is exactly that…a follow-up; a movie that will continue to tell the new story that began in episode VII and will end in episode IX.
Star Wars The Force Awakens opens in theaters December 18th.