The film world was riveted with the news that J.J. Abrams, perhaps the most logical successor to George Lucas for the Star Wars franchise, would direct Star Wars: Episode VII. As it’s been widely (and breathlessly) reported, Abrams has already successfully rebooted a space franchise with the release his 2009 Star Trek, which was a critical and commercial success.
Abrams admitted to Entertainment Weekly that he was more of Star Wars fan growing up. “All my smart friends like Star Trek,” he said, “I preferred a more visceral experience.” Abrams went on to tell EW that he took on the reboot of Star Trek in hopes of creating a film that “grabbed me the way Star Wars did.”
Now there is word that Disney has confirmed there will be stand-alone Star Wars films, and so a new dash for directors begins. Walt Disney Co. chairman and CEO Robert Iger confirmed in an interview with CNBC yesterday that as well as the release of Star Wars: Episode VII, Disney will also be distributing a few stand-alone films that are not part of the continuous saga of the previous six films.
First, note the plural—this is not one film, say, about Boba Fett (one can dream), but rather multiple films, written by Lawrence Kasdan (the man who wrote the original Star Wars IV: A New Hope as well as Return of the Jedi) and Simon Kinberg, who has written a slew of films, including Sherlock Holmes and X-Men: Days of Future Past. The interwebs were immediately abuzz with who these films could focus on (right now it seems as if many people are convinced it will be Yoda), but there has been no hint as to the subjects of the film or who would direct them.
Abrams bona fides are clear—he has been a successful, savvy, and smart director for many years, yet of course that didn’t stop a host of conflicted responses from fans over his selection. There have been cries for the Star Wars franchise to be helmed by a wholly different kind of director, one who doesn’t come with the block buster pedigree of Abrams but does come with a specific style, and, often, a darker palette from which he creates (so far not many people have suggested a female director, but one can imagine Kathryn Bigelow, arguably the greatest living action director, doing something magical with the universe of Star Wars). Some of the dream-directors longed for were David Lynch (who famously turned down George Lucas’s offer to direct Return of the Jedi) and Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy wizard Guillermo del Toro. Both of these directors have the chops, and the imagination, to reboot the franchise, but would they have been able to carry the original spirit of Star Wars into a new direction without completely changing the core DNA of the series?
That’s a question that won’t be answered through the Star Wars franchise, but perhaps a director with a considerably darker and stranger IMDB resume will helm one of the stand-alones. There can be no question that the choices made by Christopher Nolan when he took the Batman franchise and reconstructed it into a dark, brooding three-film epic have colored what gigantic film franchises like Star Wars can be. Yet it is often forgotten, due to the agita created in the Star Wars-verse by George Lucas’s three Star Wars prequels, that the original creator of Star Wars had gone over to the dark side of his writing soul. Recall that his Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, we bear witness to Anakin Skywalker’s inexorable slide towards the dark side and, although we never see it, we do watch Anakin, in the process of becoming Darth Vader, enter a temple filled with young Jedis, his light saber drawn. This was perhaps the darkest moment in the prequels, and one of the darkest in the whole series (along with the destruction of Alderaan by the Death Star). Revenge of the Sith came out a month before Batman Begins.
So Abrams takes over the franchise, and a few new stand-alone films will be born and directors chosen, and the Star Wars universe, perhaps like our own, continues to expand.