Thoughts on JJ Abrams Being Selected To Direct Star Wars VII

Posted: January 26, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

First of all, I have to say this: I’m not particularly a Star Wars or a Star Trek fan. I like the franchises, and I respect them for their place in SFF history, but I don’t get emotionally invested in them, the way I do with Lord of the Rings or pretty much anything by Neil Gaiman or Joss Whedon. So I’m looking at it from a perspective of an outsider looking into the fandom.

That being said, they could do a lot better. But they could also do a lot worse, so there’s that.

First of all, we have to talk about Star Trek. Many old-school Trek fans absolutely hate the reboot. I personally happen to enjoy it, and I take the policy that the NuTrek films are basically big loud action movies in space with the Star Trek characters. That’s not a bad thing, particularly. It just means that it’s going to be different from what Star Trek was in the past. There’s also the matter of big gaping plotholes and scientific inaccuracies. I’ll admit, the whole concept of “red matter” pisses me off too, considering that I’m a relatively scientifically-literate person, but to quote someone on Twitter whose name I forget: Complaining about scientific inaccuracies in Star Trek is like complaining that Diet Pepsi isn’t a very good scotch. They’re completely different things that both happen to fall under the same general banner of “beverage”. I don’t expect scientific accuracy from a franchise that treats the speed of light as no more of a barrier than the speed of sound. That’s not really the point.

And as for Star Wars… there is no science to mess up in that universe. Star Wars is basically an epic quest fantasy with spaceships and lasers and flying cars. If your definition of science fiction means “everything must be completely scientifically accurate”, then Star Wars doesn’t fit it in the slightest. So there’s nothing to worry about. The SW universe itself is a framework for telling a good story, and that’s what most people expect of it. As Tycho Brahe from Penny Arcade said once, “Man, Star Wars is about space wizards who live in the past-future. Believe whatever the fuck you want.”

So, with Abrams already proving that he can direct well (if not excellently) in the Star Trek universe, then I think that he could do a good job in Lucas’ world.

Ah, yes… Lucas.

That’s the key difference between Abrams and George Lucas. Abrams has repeatedly proven that he can work with actors and direct them in a manner that humans would actually behave. Lucas can’t. He may be a wizard when it comes to the technical aspects of filmmaking, but his basic philosophy of directing living flesh-and-blood actors basically comes down to making them do everything “faster and more intense!” It just goes to show you how phenomenally bad he is at directing actors that such talented and brilliant actors as Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman came out like mouth-breathing wooden Keanu Reeveses when they appeared in the prequels.

And that’s the key to it. When it all comes down to it, actors in Abrams’ movies feel like people. Actors in Lucas’ movies are puppets. And while Abrams has some of his own directorial quirks (AAAARGH I MUST PUT TEH LENS FLARES IN ALL THE SHOTS), he’s a better director than Lucas ever was.

It could be a lot better, of course. But it could also be a lot worse.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the person who has done the greatest amount of harm to the Star Wars franchise is Lucas himself.

Now that it’s out of his hands, I’ll be interested to see what happens.

~ Ian

  1. mewling-quim says:

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. In fact, I’m going to link to this in my post for tomorrow, if that’s alright with you. I think you hit the nail on the head when it comes to the weaknesses in the Star Wars franchise as it exists currently: Lucas’ shitty directing. I love that you cite the examples of Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor, because I never explicitly thought about that connection before, but it’s true–these are both incredible actors whose performances in the newest Star Wars trilogy are, to put it lightly, unrepresentative of their talents.

    As someone who was raised on the bread and butter of Star Trek (mostly The Original Series and The Next Generation, and I, personally, loved the reboot), and someone who became at least moderately fond of Star Wars (the original trilogy), I hope I have maybe some authority to voice my opinion on the decision to go with Abrams. Check out my post tomorrow, if you’re interested!

    (In all honesty, Whedon should have gotten the job. There’s no question in my mind.)

    • Ian Johnson says:

      Mate, link away: I love it when people share my writing.

      I’d have loved to see a Whedon-directed Star Wars, of course, but the guy’s clearly got a lot on his plate right now, what with all the Avengers stuff that he has going on. And honestly, it’s probably a good thing that he wasn’t tapped to direct SWVII: I *do* want to see Doctor Horrible 2 in my lifetime, after all.

      It’s always interesting to play the “what could have been”? game. Personally, I think it might have been interesting to see Star Wars as directed by Guillermo del Toro, but that’s probably because Pan’s Labyrinth is one of my all-time favorite films. An anime version by Shinichiro Watanabe would be amazing (although it would be bound to receive comparisons to Cowboy Bebop). And since we’re not bound by the bonds of time and death (this is a hypothetical situation, after all), it could be interesting to see what Star Wars would be like in the hands of late great masters of the art. Since Westerns and samurai movies are part of the lifeblood of the Star Wars universe, why not give the job to Howard Hawks or Akira Kurosawa? If one of them somehow gets magically reanimated, then they could be put in the director’s chair.

      I’m thinking about what directors could have been placed in the Big Chair, now. Star Wars by Quentin Tarantino, perhaps? Or Clint Eastwood?

      I’d be interested to see any of these director’s takes on the mythos. As long as we don’t get Michael Bay, I’m happy.

  2. […] an adequate prequel trilogy, there’s really nowhere to go but up. In particular, as noted on Axolotl Ceviche, at least Abrams has some handle on how to actually direct, while Lucas, despite his aptitude for […]

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