Despite claiming – to this magazine’s editor’s face – that he wasn’t going to be directing Star Wars, JJ Abrams is reportedly in negotiations to do just that. And we’re happy he is. Here’s why…
2009’s Star Trek reboot was a superbly entertaining ride that re-introduced the characters of Kirk, Spock and the rest for a new generation and told a fun story along the way. It also managed the supremely sneaky trick of rebooting the timeline to avoid the usual prequels-can’t-surprise-us problems without disrespecting the original series (thank you, alternate universe!), a move of pure chutzpah we’re still marvelling at. While we imagine Abrams won’t have quite as much latitude with Star Wars, Trek proves that he knows how to deliver the effects, the story and the characters of a major space opera in one thrilling package. What we’ve seen of Into Darkness makes us even more convinced he’s the man to go to War(s). And just think: if one director manages to reboot both Trek and Wars, it could unite these warring fandoms and bring peace to the galaxy.
Abrams’ determination to keep a tight lid on spoilers will fit right in with Lucasfilm’s secretive nature. As he’s said on the subject before, “The real damage isn't so much that the secret gets out; it's that the experience is destroyed. The illusion is diminished – which may not matter to some. But then what's the point of actually seeing that movie or episode? How does knowing the twist before you walk into the theater – or what Lost’s island is really about before you watch the finale – make for a richer viewing experience?” So while we know someone will be mining for every last nugget of news, there’s reason to hope that Abrams will be able to keep some things back to surprise us once the iconic words are finished crawling across the screen. Maybe a paternity test will prove that Darth Vader wasn’t Luke’s father after all!
Sure, he produced Cloverfield rather than writing and directing, but Abrams’ paw prints were all over that monster mash – and consider the giant beasts he had Cloverfield designer Neville Page conjure up for just a quick segment in Star Trek. Star Wars has a long history of spawning great creature creations, so imagine what Page might do if Abrams hires him to work on Star Wars. Plus, while Star Wars itself is really enough of a lure for any talented types, Abrams’ name stencilled on the director’s chair should ensure a great crew. Incidentally, he also has a good reputation as an actor’s director, so should bring in a good cast. Not least, he could bring auld mucker Simon Pegg, another long-time Star Wars fan whose approval would augur well for the reinvigorated franchise.
Directors like Michael Bay can talk all they want about “channelling” the Transformers story or other properties. But Abrams understands storied mythologies on an instinctive level; he’s created several of them with, for instance, Alias and the work he did on the Lost pilot. With Star Trek, despite not even being a particular fan of the original series, he’s managed to produce something that kept fans and newcomers happy. In contrast, he’s such a Star Wars fan that he said his love was one of the reasons he didn’t want to take on George Lucas’ universe, for fear of disappointing, er, himself. But that deep love and knowledge should be a plus when it comes to helping Star Wars take its next cinematic step. And he’s never been afraid to tackle big subjects...
Some directors get the brass ring and either make a hash of the first one or burn out by the time the sequel arrives. Abrams has played in franchise territory for years and has yet to put a foot wrong – and he’s managed to mix real emotional heft in with, for instance, Keri Russell’s fate in Mission: Impossible III or the opening sequence of Star Trek. Even if he does step aside after making one Star Wars film, chances are he’d oversee the following movies in Disney’s new planned trilogy, and we know that can help keep the quality levels up. Case in point? Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is even better than Abrams’ own M:I III. Hmm… Maybe Brad Bird can be called up for a second Wars film after 1952 is done?
With Super 8 Abrams showed the chops to direct an original story, but it’s a film seen through the filter of one of his own favourite directors, Steven Spielberg. While we don’t exactly want Abrams copying George Lucas (Lucas himself tried that with the prequels and couldn’t re-discover his eye), his baked-in knowledge and appreciation for the original trilogy could see him managing something like Irvin Kershner did when he so memorably turned The Empire Strikes Back into the best of the movies. Splicing together what worked about the originals with his own skills could make Episode VII something truly special.
No, this is not damning with the faint praise of scheduling. We simply mean he’s not busy on some other huge project that he’d need to be dragged away from. Abrams is a busy man, particularly as a producer, but his only directing task is the nearly done Star Trek Into Darkness. Other huge and likely names are largely committed to other things. Brad Bird’s making 1952. Joss Whedon’s directing the Avengers sequel. The only possible loser here is the Star Trek franchise, which, if Into Darkness is another hit, will need to find someone else to direct a third outing.