It's official. JJ Abrams has been chosen to direct Star Wars Episode VII for Disney; the first in a new trilogy schedules for release in summer 2016. This news come despite the fact Abrams appeared to rule himself out of the running recently, saying that he wouldn't want to be involved because of his "loyalty to Star Trek" and fact he's "rather be in the audience not knowing what was coming, rather than being involved in the minutiae of making them." I guess something changed; most likely the money on offer.
The naming of a new Star Wars director was always going to be big news, but it's officially massive given Abrams associations with sci-fi and geek culture. He co-created Lost and Fringe for TV, rejuvenated Star Trek at the cinema, produced Cloverfield, and scored a hit with Super 8 (which traded heavily on the '80s era the Star Wars sequels were a part of).
Below are some of some of my random thoughts about Abrams succeeding George Lucas as creative head of a Star Wars movie:
1. Clearly, this is great news. Abrams is a fan of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, particularly during their late-'70s and '80s heyday as purveyors of smart and popular entertainment—and can even count Spielberg as a close friend after they worked together on Super 8. Spielberg's advice to Disney's Kathleen Kennedy was to hire Abrams for Episode VII, which appears to have swung the decision his way over the unusual but interesting choice of actor/director Ben Affleck (Gone Baby Gone, Argo). Abrams has a similar approach to film-making that Spielberg "the entertainer" has (it has yet to be seen if Abrams has a serious side that could produce films like Schindler's List), and this will undoubtedly help create a strong Star Wars movie.
2. Unlike George Lucas, Abrams can write. He did the screenplay for Super 8, Mission Impossible II, and early episodes of Lost. He also wrote Armageddon back in the '90s, but we'll let that one slide. Point is: there's far less chance of Episode VII having a weak story and characters now. Michael Arndt is actually writing the screenplay, of course, but it's good to have a director that understands the writing process. I'm sure Abrams' advice and notes will be invaluable to Arndt as things are fine-tuned.
3. Abrams likes to re-cast actors he enjoys working with or helped discover. Given how a franchise such as Star Wars works when it comes to publicity and hype (i.e. you want to get the geeks onside quickly), I'd be very surprised if some of Episode VII's actors don't come from Abrams-produced TV shows/movies. This opens up some fun fantasy-casting, with the actors of Lost coming most prominently to mind. How about Josh Holloway (Sawyer) as Han Solo's son? Or Michael Emerson (Ben) as a creepy villain? Terry O'Quinn (Locke) has the appearance of a wise Jedi, right? What about Jorge Garcia (Hurley) as comic relief? And how perfect would Fringe's John Noble (Walter Bishop) be as an evil Sith Lord? Oh, and surely Abrams will give Simon Pegg (Scotty in his Star Trek reboot) a phone call to join the fun, knowing how much of a Star Wars mega-fan he is. I mean, that's almost expected, right?
4. One thing I can't help wondering is who will be scoring this new trilogy? John Williams is obviously still alive, but will he be thinking of retirement soon? Episode IIV's due for release in 2016 and Williams will be 84. He's no spring chicken. It's not impossible for him to compose new music for the movie at that ripe old age, but what if Episode IX doesn't come out until 2022 at the earliest? Williams will be 90 years old! That's pushing things. Maybe it would be best if the responsibility for the music was handed over to a successor now, rather than have someone take over doing the score halfway through (which isn't ideal with a trilogy that needs continuity and on-going themes).
Naturally, one assumes Michael Giacchino will be the composer of choice for Abrams—having already worked with him on MI:III, Cloverfield, Star Trek, Super 8, Star Trek Into Darkness, Alias, Lost, Fringe, Undercovers and Alcatraz. It's a no-brainer. If Williams is stepping down, I just don't see Abrams calling anyone else. Another option is to have Williams and Giacchino collaborate for as long as possible, as Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard did on The Dark Knight. I mean, it is hard to imagine a Star Wars movie without any John Williams flavours whatsoever. In many ways, his music is the best part of the franchise—and certainly the one thing that didn't disappoint about the prequels.
Those were the main thoughts that occured to me after hearing this news, but I'm sure others will tumble through my mind in the days to come. I'm certainly excited for these movies now, which have the potential to erase the stench of the prequels and give Star Wars fans something to embrace with unequivocal love. Of course, there's still that background worry that sequels to Episode VI are wholly unnecessary because the story was over the moment Darth Vader found redemption and died. (Um, spoilers.)
What do you think? Is JJ Abrams the right man for the job, or a predictable choice by Disney to placate fans? Do you even want three more Star Wars movies? And if so, should they be separate to the Skywalker saga told between Episode I and VI? Also, would it be unwise for someone to step into John Williams's shoes if he's still around? And who from past JJ Abrams-affiliated projects deserve to be involved in Episode VII? Anna Torv as Luke and Leia's daughter?