No doubt you've heard the news: according to Samuel L. Jackson, J.J. Abrams has not been in contact with Mark Hamill about using him in Episode VII. The fallout was typical. Everybody starts screaming foul and declares the entire production to be an unsalvageable wreck before principal photography has even begun.
You gotta love the internet. When they go scorched earth, they don't leave a single solitary inch of real state unscathed.
J.J. Abrams is such an interesting creative conundrum. Based on his two Star Trek films, there shouldn't be a single solitary surprise coming our way. The man has managed to deliver two extremely entertaining movies that somehow simultaneously gush with fan service and yet seem hell bent on abandoning the conventions that made the series so successful in the first place. I would use the word 'polarizing' to describe Abrams, but he delivers such entertaining tripe that no one seems to get rubbed too raw about it.
Star Trek Into Darkness was one of the most fun films I saw all summer, even though it was dumber than a box of broken hammers and was more focused on appeasement than Chamberlain. But if you look at what Abrams did, the framework he set up in his Star Trek films, what we can expect to see in Star Wars Episode VII feels almost pre-ordained.
You're going to get your icon from the original trilogy, but you're only going to get one...
Star Trek brought Old Spock into the mix, but left Old Kirk on the wrong side of the dimensional rift... Or time travel portal... or whatever the hell that red goo from Star Trek did. You got one tether linking the new hotness to the old school, but that was it.
In order to forge something new and untied to what had come before, Abrams was totally willing to wipe the slate clean. I expect Star Wars: Episode VII to live by the same creative cadence. You'll get a return visit from an older, crankier Han Solo. But don't expect a cavalcade of characters to be popping up. Abrams wants to do his own thing. He wants to carve out his own little corner of a galaxy far, far away. And we, the fans, shouldn't be punishing him for that. Instead, we should be celebrating Abrams for exhibiting restraint.
The man has the keys to the geekiest toy chest in pop culture. Any hack could walk into this franchise and deliver something serviceable simply by finishing the sentences George Lucas started decades ago. Taking those same threads and stringing them out even further. But to me, that's boring. That's fan fiction. "What happened to Luke Skywalker after Return of the Jedi?" That's not what I want Episode VII to be. Because that story is small, and limited in scope. If Abrams is as smart as I think he is, he's going to take this somewhere different. And if he isn't planning on doing that, he should.
If Star Wars is ever going to mature, it needs to grow. Sticking to what has come before inhibits the potential for new stories to be told. Frankly, I have no interest in seeing the senior citizen versions of Skywalker and company trotted out in the next installments to appease fans who have a depressingly limited scope and an epic sense of entitlement.
Just like we didn't need to see Shatner in the new Star Trek, we don't need to see Luke Skywalker in Episode VII. If you're enjoyment of the next chapter of this storied saga is dependent on attachments to the original films, you are openly admitting to being part of the problem. Your obsession with what has come before is debilitating to a point beyond reason.
I mean, lets be real honest here. Wasn't all the shoehorning of classic characters into the prequels one of the most labored and lazy bits of filmmaking in the modern era? Carting out baby Boba Fett in Attack of the Clones or seeing Chewbacca in Revenge of the Sith felt so forced. Even the inclusion of R2-D2 and C-3PO felt so useless. I understand the idea of bringing back beloved characters, but I'd like to think the Star Wars Universe has a story that doesn't involve the Skywalkers, or Han Solo, or Chewbacca and at some point I'd like to see a movie that focuses on something creatively fresh.
photo of Abrams standing next to R2-D2. I can tell you on my end, it was anything other than excitement.
"Oh, this again?"
It just made me think of those cringe-worthy moments in the prequels where R2-D2 was zipping around with rocket jets and being crammed in to every epic moment. If Star Wars is ever going to mature beyond the pointless fan service it has become, it will require a creative team that will cut the ties to what has been done before and forge ahead to tell some new stories.
I wonder if Abrams is that bold of a director.
Anghus Houvouras is a North Carolina based writer and filmmaker. His latest work, the novel My Career Suicide Note, is available from Amazon.