Commenting on the Critics with Simon Columb:
Most UK film sites have released articles this week discussing Lucasfilm’s decision to film Star Wars: Episode VII in the UK. Russ Fischer over at /Film decided to focus on a different part of the story…
“The news that Star Wars: Episode VII will shoot in the UK isn’t a big deal, as the series has always had a production home in Britain. But in announcing plans to film the new Episode at one of the UK’s major studios (which one is not specified), LucasFilm president Kathleen Kennedy has issued a statement that some fans might find promising. Specifically, she says that the origins of Star Wars have been a big inspiration on the new film.“
Read the full article here.
Fischer assumes that this “origin” focus can only be good news for Star Wars fans as it means that “the prequel tendencies aren’t the primary influence on this film”. It could also mean that it may become reference-heavy as every throwaway line from A New Hope will suddenly become core to the upcoming sequels. I love Tatooine as much as the next Star Wars fan – but we don’t have to visit the planet again do we?
In fairness to Fischer, it’s not the Star Wars references I’m worried about. In fact, many elements of the prequels were brilliant additions to the Star Wars universe: Qui-Gon Jinn, Darth Maul, Podracing – and that’s just Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. The bigger concern is J.J. Abrams’ own experiences and filmmaking skills he has learnt on Star Trek.
Prior to this weekend’s release of Star Trek Into Darkness, I re-watched the predecessor and that single film justifies Kennedy’s choice in Abrams. In one sequence Jim Kirk (Chris Pine) is jettisoned off the USS Enterprise by Spock (Zachary Quinto), only to land on an ice-planet and meet another Spock (Leonard Nimoy). This planet has creatures and dangers and – for better or worse – owes a lot to Hoth and the opening of Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back.
But, Star Trek isn’t Star Wars and the easy mistake J.J. Abrams could make is in transferring what skills he regularly uses, overpowering what he has been tasked to complete. Consider the range of similarities – aliens, space, planets of different colours and complexities with weather of varying natures … and before a frame has been shot, the comparisons between the two film series is inevitable.
J.J. Abrams is renowned for his use of lens flare, but this will be the least of his worries when Episode VII hits theatres. The comparisons will cover every element and plot detail – is a villain modeled on Benedict Cumberbatch? Is the structure and action sequences playing out in the same manner? If you squint a little – or freeze a shot – can you tell which is Star Trek and which is Star Wars? If not, then it is possible that both franchises will lose credibility and quality because, as viewers, we will become accustomed to a clear mechanical-style of filmmaking that, by 2015, will have been used on our favourite franchises.
Controversially, I enjoyed Red Dragon – the prequel to Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs, which was directed by Brett Ratner. An incredible cast, a Thomas Harris story and a director who clearly modeled his filmmaking-style on Jonathan Demme’s direction of the 1989 Oscar-winner. For all of Ratner’s flaws (X-Men: The Last Stand…), he directed Red Dragon in a manner that was clearly respectful and aware of the ‘Hannibal’ series’ tone and style.
J.J. Abrams needs to consider the look and filmmaking methods of the original films directed by George Lucas, Irvin Kershner and Richard Marquand because if it looks too much like Star Trek, we will then ‘know’ what his science fiction looks like. To make matters worse, in a world whereby critics often dump all responsibility on a director, it’ll be Abrams in the firing line if the story borrows too liberally from sci-fi films. Yes, we want to see a new, up-to-date Star Wars film – but I don’t believe it needs a complete reboot in the manner that Star Trek needed… so the two films should look completely different. Suffice to say, unlike Fischer, though I want a better-told narrative, I would rather Abrams looks to Lucas’ prequel trilogy than his own Star Trek for visual references.