J.J. Abrams and Star Wars: Has the Lightsaber Been Passed to the Right Director?

Star Wars

The Death Star is totally becoming a big red ball, isn’t it? And just imagine the lens flares that’ll result from Tatooine’s twin suns!

Now that J.J. Abrams has all but officially been confirmed to be the director of Star Wars Episode VIILucas’ son Jett tweeted that Abrams “will do wonders” so it must be true! — fan speculation is reaching a fever pitch about what he’ll bring to the franchise. Oh, and inspiring a lot of jokes too. (Get Greg Grunberg in a suit of stormtrooper armor, stat!) And suddenly casting into doubt the future of the reborn Star Trek franchise, if Abrams really does choose to swap the 23rd century for a Galaxy Far, Far Away after his next film Star Trek Into Darkness. But the thing fans seem to be forgetting amidst all the speculating, rumormongering, and joke-telling is this: Abrams is perfect for the job.

It’s in Abrams pedigree, for one. Alias and Lost have more Star Wars references than there’s sand on Tatooine. Abrams even imagined Lost‘s roguish castaway Sawyer as a version of Han Solo. A life-long fan of George Lucas‘ universe, it was only with some reluctance that he took on 2009’s Star Trek. Quite simply, he never had the emotional relationship to Star Trek that he has to Star Wars, and he depended heavily on über Trek fans Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof for guidance on that project. You could even argue that his Star Trek has a lot more to do with Star Wars than it ever did with classic Trek. It’s all about archetypal themes with mythological heft — Kirk trying to establish himself in relation to his father’s legacy — Star Trek transformed from a heady inquiry of moral and scientific quandaries into propulsive good vs. evil pop. It’s slick, technological blam-blam filmmaking.

But far from being a watered down Trek, Abrams brought Gene Roddenberry‘s vision out of the geek ghetto and imbued it with universal emotional resonance. His Star Trek, like his TV work on Alias and Lost, is about strangers thrown together and forced to become a surrogate family while facing impossible odds and dire threats. Isn’t that the thematic core of Star Wars? A young farm boy goes on a starry-eyed quest with an old man to rescue a princess from insensate evil and discovers he’s the heir to a legacy he never even knew about. At heart, that’s also the kind of story Episode VII screenwriter Michael Arndt told in Little Miss Sunshine and Toy Story 3.

Someone else will end up steering the revived Star Trek franchise after Star Trek Into Darkness is released. It’s survived across multiple media for 47 years and it will endure. But now Abrams will get to apply his storytelling skills to the largest canvas yet. Will he be absorbed into that Galaxy Far, Far Away and lose his own distinctiveness? It’s actually an irrelevant question. Though he faces a no-win scenario with Star Wars greater than any Kobiyashi Maru test — how will we possibly satisfy all the fans? — fans of Lucas’ universe should recognize that one of their own has inherited the mantle of their beloved franchise.

Do you feel the lightsaber has been passed to the right person?

Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt

[Photo Credit: Lucasfilm]


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