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5 Things We Could Expect From J.J. Abrams' 'Star Wars: Episode 7'

Features
by Drew Taylor
January 25, 2013 10:57 AM
12 Comments
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J.J. Abrams, Star Wars

With the news arriving yesterday that "Lost" co-creator and "Star Trek" director J.J. Abrams will take over from George Lucas and direct "Star Wars: Episode VII," the first in a planned platoon of new "Star Wars" features from Disney, it inevitably means speculation about what, exactly, such a decision will mean for the franchise.

This is, after all, a series that has been almost exclusively under the control of a single man since the original debuted back in 1977 (the two sequels from the original trilogy were directed by journeyman filmmakers under the tight authorial control of Lucas, who exerted his influence more extensively with his constant fussing on the "special editions"). So it seemed like a good moment to start to guess what a J.J. Abrams "Star Wars" joint will really look (and feel and sound) like, based on his earlier work and a general sensation of where the franchise is headed – back to a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away....By the way, in case you missed it here's five directions we suggested the series could go back when it was announced in October of last year. 

Star Trek Lens Flares
Lots of lens flares and whip pans? Maybe not so fast.
It birthed a million Twitter jokes, and it is true that Abrams has a trademark visual style, but will he bring the same tools from "Star Trek" to "Star Wars"? The original films had a certain "look," it's one that isn't exactly easy to pin down – a combination of psychedelic '70s album art, pulp magazine covers, and various sci-fi conventions. (The shiny robot! The floating barge lair! A city in the clouds!) By the time the prequels rolled around, Lucas had firmly planted himself in the director's chair and any sense of visual distinction had been blasted into the deep recesses of space. Instead, Lucas relied on extensive green screen work with an emphasis on computer-generated environments, characters and creatures. While seemingly cutting edge, it made the actual human actors seem like they were walking through some elaborate videogame. Nothing felt real or emotionally identifiable – the heart got lost in the pixels. Abrams has a style he honed on both his television series (most notably "Alias," still his crowning small screen achievement) and in the three high-profile features he directed ("Mission: Impossible III," "Super 8" and "Star Trek"), and while it feels like a safe assumption that we'll see some whip pans and lens flares, we're not so sure. One of the biggest concerns among certain segments is having the same guy behind "Star Trek" taking over "Star Wars." We're sure Abrams will want to put a new visual stamp on this franchise not only to assuage fans, but to honor where the series has been while also taking it in a new direction in addition to ensuring it stands apart from Captain Kirk and the gang.

Star Wars Green Screen
Actual environments!
Along similar lines, one of the better aspects of Abrams' "Star Trek" is that no matter how much computer-generated embroidery was on display, a large majority of the movie was created practically. The movie utilized expansive sets that took up whole soundstages along with actual location photography, like the Budweiser bottling plant that doubled as the spaceship's engine room. He even filmed the skydiving sequence by getting Chris Pine to roll around on a mirror in the Paramount parking lot. Sure, there was a shitload of CGI, but most of that work was done for stuff that Abrams and his talented creative crew couldn't physically build, like the giant snow monster that chases Kirk down an icy hill. "Mission: Impossible III" and "Super 8" too, for all their widescreen spectacle, aren't completely bogged down by ones-and-zeroes, either. We can see Abrams returning to actual location work, ditching much of the smothering green-screen aesthetic, and insisting on props and creatures that were actually built and controlled on set. You know, like how Yoda used to be an on-set puppet before he was turned into a pin-balling tree frog with a lightsaber.

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12 Comments

  • S.Z. Slack | January 28, 2013 10:55 AMReply

    I like where this movie is headed and I feel comfortable with the writer and director. I have faith that they will create rich characters with deep backgrounds unlike the prequels. However, as much as I like Chloe's acting, we already got a young character that was ultimately annoying and ruined an icon in the process. Yes, I am talking about you Hayden and your cringeworthy performance. Though, I blame Lucas more than Hayden because he's not such a bad actor. So, I'll take a seasoned Jedi or Bounty Hunter who somehow falls into protecting a younger character. (Let's bring back the Fett while we are spinning this tale) Give me some Dark Jedi & Have the new Sith baddie throw out that Rule of Two and give me an army of red lightsabers. Also, with the Jedi being restored, let's see some orange, yellow and even that famed purple lightsaber flicked on by a robotic arm and bring back Jackson who somehow survived the fall and went into hiding. Giacchino should provide the music. Imagine a haunting score that plays at the beginning revealing the Sith Lords' resurrection.

  • Janet | January 25, 2013 8:01 PMReply

    I actually feel better about Abrams directing after reading this, if only that Giacchino is doing the music. Star Wars has always been its best when someone else directs with Lucas in the "consultant" role. Too bad Kurshner can't do it, but so long as the Big Three come back to "pass on what they have learned" I'll be happy watching the next generation fight with the Force as their ally!

  • Edward Davis | January 25, 2013 3:09 PMReply

    I hope Luke, Leia and Han return and they are all mentors to a new generation of jedis, princesses and scoundrels. They'll then hand down the jedi, princess and scoundrel torch to Miles Teller, Anna Kendrick and Seth Rogen.

    I hope it starts out with a detection and disturbance of the Midi-chlorian count in the universe.

  • Zinjo | January 25, 2013 2:39 PMReply

    I adore Abrams' take on the Star Trek franchise, but I cannot deny I am excited that an old school Star Wars fan is helming he next film! Damn he admits to pacing Star Trek on the original trilogy of SW films, so that says a lot.

    Here's hoping he has some pull to get Disney to release the un-altered Eps 4 - 6 in BD. Lucas' assertion the original prints are gone is Bullshit! Looking forward to this, but first ST 2!

  • Indy | January 25, 2013 1:56 PMReply

    I think Abrams will bring "cool" like he did to Captain Kirk. He.ll put a lot of twists and suspense like he did in "Ghost Protocol" with a perfect amount of light hearted humor. I just hope the story becomes over burdened with suspense. I agree, Ben Burt is a must. I think Abrams would do well following the Jaina and Jacen Solo characters. That would give you the strong female lead. Anna Kendrik looks a lot like Carrie Fisher. Tell me you wouldn't want to see her in a Jabba bikini.

  • hank | January 25, 2013 12:32 PMReply

    one thing I think we can all agree on is that there won't be a jedi knight squaring off against mickey mouse.

  • lane | January 25, 2013 12:25 PMReply

    minor gripe/disagreement: you say 'aliens, robots and creatures became blander and more anonymous,' but i thought the 3 creatures in the Arena finale of Episode II were some of the best of the entire series. And 50% of their magic was due to sound designer Ben Burtt. I'd say Burtt is one of the only really essential people that must return to the Star Wars universe. And he probably will, as he was JJ's guy on Trek and Super 8.

  • DHE | January 25, 2013 12:06 PMReply

    I might get some hate for this but I think Luke really needs to die in this movie. If only to shift the focus on a new Skywalker. Ford also doesn't seem too keen on being Solo anymore so you could use their death's as motivators for the following film. Again just a thought

  • riley | January 25, 2013 12:05 PMReply

    Please bring Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford back!!!
    Please!

  • rodie | January 25, 2013 11:52 AMReply

    I think you HAVE to have Luke Skywalker, and yes, show him as an aged Jedi Master mentor to the new trilogy's main Jedi character(s). Personally I'd like to see Luke be more like Yoda than Obi-Wan, and not even use his lightsaber, but be so powerful he can move any object anywhere, like scary powerful in the force, except that he's good, like a Saint or guru who dispenses wisdom to the central characters. Leia and Han are far less necessary, but I'd be fine with a cameo from each.

  • maicol | January 25, 2013 1:31 PM

    Disney, listen to this guy. He's on to something.

  • cattt | January 25, 2013 11:35 AMReply

    I think that it'd be wise to create completely new villains and heroes for the new trilogy. I don't think that it's a good idea to have Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher or Harrison Ford playing the "Alec Guinness" -role. Just cameos and that's it. New stories, same old universe, that wouldn't piss off the fanatics too much.

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