J.J. Abrams is a great pick to direct Star Wars, Episode VII. PHOTO: Reuters
J.J. Abrams, creator of the hit show Lost, and director of Cloverfield, Star Trek and Super 8 has been signed on to direct the upcoming Star Wars movie, Star Wars Episode VII.
Abrams is an excellent choice, both for his directing prowess and his clear love of sci-fi (and horror) that comes through in his directing. More on that in a moment.
Star Wars Episodes I, II and III were horrible. The scripts had no zip, the acting was flat, the storytelling was weak and Jar Jar Binks was a crime against humanity. Two random details here: it comes out in Star Wars I, The Phantom Menace that young Anakin Skywalker, as an enslaved boy, built C-3PO. That's a charming little connection to the original Star Wars movies (episodes IV, V and VI) until you realize that C-3PO is a protocal droid that is very polite and speaks hundreds of languages, and that's great, but it's probably the last thing a little boy would devote himself to building.
Another thing: the original Star Wars movies had great names: Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, Yoda, Princess Leia. They walk the line between cool and cheesy, but that's the line that Star Wars walked so expertly as to create its own aesthetic. Many of the villain names in Episodes I, II, and III were just negative words or barely altered negative words: Count Grevious, Darth Sidious, Darth Maul. Just one of the many ways those movies subtly insulted our collective intelligence.
Enough hating, I have hope again (a new hope, one might say) because J.J. Abrams has a real touch for storytelling, particularly of the kind that the original Star Wars were concerned with, and a great touch for dropping in sci-fi nostalgia. Abrams greatness comes from how he focuses, not on the other-worldly things that are happening in his movies, but on how it changes the lives of the people it touches. In Cloverfield, we rarely see the aliens terrorizing New York, we mostly just live through it with a scared group of kids. Super 8 is not about a big alien in a small town, it's about a lovable group of kids who stumble on a secret. Both movies are also about film itself--Cloverfield is shot entirely with a handheld camera that one character happens to carry with him the whole time, and the kids in Super 8 are making a movie, which forms the center of the movie the audience is watching. Abrams makes these movies meta in a way that's nuanced and doesn't distract from the plot. His Star Trek was both a strong movie, and a fun tribute.
He's not perfect--Lost was brilliant for two, maybe three seasons, then began a slow descent into confusion, and Cloverfield gets less compelling at the midway point. That said, he seems a perfect pick to rescue the Star Wars movies. The touch I described in the last paragraph was what George Lucas badly fumbled in Star Wars Episodes I, II and III. Let's hope Abrams can deliver an excellent final trilogy.