Why Star Wars Will Be Fine With J.J. Abrams
J.J. Abrams is returning to c-write and direct Star Wars: Episode IX.
“What?! Are you serious?!”
“So long Star Wars! Abrams is garbage!”
“Now I’ll never see it!”
These are some of the things I hear repeatedly from much of the Star Wars faithful over the announcement. I understand there are concerns, but most of it is unwarranted.
So my response?
The common complaint is that Abrams focuses too much on action sequences and neglects plot and character development. That he’s a shill for the Hollywood blockbuster, offering generic mass appeal for broad audiences. Maybe there’s some degree of truth to that (though I hate to break it to you, but Star Wars is a Hollywood blockbuster with mass appeal for broad audiences). But there are plenty of reasons to believe that Episode IX will be just fine.
Did you like The Force Awakens? According to the 92% score on Rotten Tomatoes and $2 billion it made at the box office, it’s likely that you did. That was an Abrams film.
If the final product of Episode VII wasn’t enough to earn your trust, the other overlooked announcement by Lucasfilm should. Screenwriter Chris Terrio will be co-writing the film with Abrams.
This is an important announcement. Terrio is a gifted writer who won an Academy Award for his screenplay of Argo. He co-wrote Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (which gets a lot of undeserved flak), but I blame most of that film’s flaws on the director, not the writer.
Terrio has learned by co-writing with two of the comic book movie giants, Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon on Justice League. Which brings me to my next point. Disney does their homework. They have probably gotten their hands on a cut of Justice League already and were pleased enough with Terrio’s work to entrust him with Episode IX. This is also a good sign for Justice League, but we’ll save that for another day.
Disney saw the potential flaws of an Abrams-penned script and nipped it in the bud by bringing in Terrio. Abrams can deliver the thrills you’d expect in a sci-fi action flick, and any weaknesses he may have with story can be addressed by Terrio.
Maybe Rian Johnson was offered the job and turned it down; that hasn’t been confirmed. But if it’s true, it would make sense. Johnson helmed the most recent Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, coming out in December. Maintaining continuity, especially in the wake of replacing your current director-screenwriter team, would make sense. It wouldn’t mean the studio was unhappy with Abrams’ previous work.
If Johnson was unwilling or unable to do it for whatever reason (of which there could be plenty)? Abrams, as the director of the next most recent installment in the franchise, would make the next most sense. After the apparent differences between the studio and previous director Colin Trevorrow, they wouldn’t want to bring in someone new to start over. Abrams is familiar with the brand and can get it back on the right track.
Looks to Abrams’ successful work, whether it be as director or producer, on the ongoing Mission: Impossible franchise and the critically-acclaimed Star Trek reboot trilogy. The latter in particular proves that he can deliver exactly this kind of movie to satisfy both diehard fans and a mass audience.
J.J. Abrams has the pedigree for this type of film. Chris Terrio is a talented writer who has learned from two of the greats. The Force Awakens was a huge success and if what we hear about The Last Jedi is true (in which Abrams was also involved) it will be a success as well.
The Star Wars franchise is abound with disasters at the moment. Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy brought in Ron Howard to replace the fired directors of the Han Solo film late in production to save that movie with reshoots. Howard isn’t a trailblazer but he’s a solid director. Now she’s decided to bring back Abrams. Kennedy is taking the approach of “do no harm”. Does that mean she’s playing it safe? Absolutely. The one thing they can’t afford is to mess up a franchise like this when you’ve got other heavy hitters like Marvel and DC stepping up their game.
Yes, the release date will be delayed from May of 2019 to December of that same year. Such is to be expected when you replace your director, screenwriter and major script changes are needed. But it’s better to take a few extra months to get it right than to rush it to hit a certain release date (see Suicide Squad).
Fear not, Star Wars fans. Your baby will be just fine.