the force awakens
INTERVIEWS WITH JJ AND THE STARS, PLUS ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE BIGGEST MOVIE IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE
We’ve been here before.
It was supposed to be the seminal moment for a generation who’d grown up feeling the Force, but instead we got trade disputes, senate chambers, a whiny kid and Jar Jar Bleedin’ Binks. It was as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and refused to be silenced because the increasingly influential internet gave them the chance to vocalise their criticism of every little detail.
While the Star Wars prequels aren’t actually the disasters many people will tell you, they did get a hell of a lot wrong, tarnishing the unconditional love many felt for the Star Wars series. A cynic might argue that The Force
Awakens, aka Episode VII, is destined for a similar fate to The Phantom Menace. It has no god-given right to be brilliant, of course, and thousands of Christmasses may turn out to be a little less amazing than we’d hoped for if the most anticipated film in the history of, well, forever turns out to be a bit of a damp squib.
But we don’t think there’s much danger of that. Okay, we’ve just about come to terms with the fact Episode VII probably won’t be the best movie ever – it’s unlikely to even be the best
Star Wars movie – but right now there are enough good reasons to get excited about The
Force Awakens to fill a space cruiser.
It’s been three years since Disney handed George Lucas a cool $4 billion for the keys to his Star Wars Empire. Even though we’re yet to see a movie, it’s looking like the bargain of the century. There were moans back in 2012 that the move would lead to the Disneyfication of that galaxy far, far away – Jar Jar with Mickey Mouse ears, perhaps, or Chewbacca singing “Whistle While You Wookiee” – but that hellish vision doesn’t seem to have come to pass. In fact, as they’ve done with Marvel, Disney seems content to allow Lucasfilm to make Star Wars the way it wants to, with minimal interference from above – the trailers haven’t even carried Disney branding. Disney are savvy enough to know that they mess with the Star Wars fanbase at their peril, that they could throw away a whole lot of good will (and Continued on page 52
potential dollars) if they get it wrong. (Let’s not forget that the Marvel movies since the Disney buyout have generally been better and more adventurous than the ones before.)
If that fan-focused approach was ever in doubt, look at the choice of director for The Force Awakens. When Disney bought Star Wars, JJ Abrams was attached to the Star Trek movies, and initially turned down their approach. “I quickly said that, being a fan, I wouldn’t even want to be involved in the next version of those things,” he said at the time. “I’d rather be in the audience not knowing what was coming, rather than being involved in the minutiae of making them.” Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy refused to take no for an answer, however, and eventually got her man. The lure of Tatooine, TIE Fighters and the Millennium Falcon was just too much for a guy whose solution for rebooting Star Trek was to make it more like Star Wars.
Like the other directors hired for the Star Wars movies coming between now and 2020 (Episode VIII’s Rian Johnson, Episode IX’s Colin Trevorrow, Rogue One’s Gareth Edwards, and the Han Solo movie’s Phil Lord and Christopher Miller), Abrams is a huge Star
Wars geek. He doesn’t have to guess what someone might love about a Star Wars movie because it’s part of his DNA, the original movie being one of the formative cinematic experiences that shaped his desire to become a filmmaker. Even George Lucas, the man who created the franchise, didn’t have that hotline to the fans when he came to make the prequels – that’s arguably one of the reasons the films he wanted to make were so far removed from what the Star Wars faithful desired. And if JJ ever wanted to get back to the spirit of the original trilogy, he had the good sense to draft
The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi scripter Lawrence Kasdan to co-write when Oscar-winner Michael Arndt departed.
Abrams – and Lucasfilm as a whole – appear to be using the prequels as a guide of “what not to do” with a Star Wars movie. Much has been made of the decision to film as much live action as possible, with real sets, costumes and props. When even BB-8, the physics-defying ball droid, was revealed as a live-action prop – even though it would have arguably been easier to create on a computer – it was clear we were stepping into new territory. It’s real, it’s dirty and a welcome return to the used-universe chic that reinvented screen sci-fi back in 1977, and a much-needed departure from the
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computerised, cartoon sheen that made sure the prequels have dated faster than movies two decades their senior. And on paper the story after Return Of The
Jedi has much more appeal than prequels whose Empire wins/Darth Vader rises conclusion was never in doubt. We’re in virgin storytelling territory here, every plot twist taking us somewhere new and unexpected. It makes complete dramatic sense that the death of the Emperor and the destruction of Death Star II didn’t actually lead to century after century of jubilant Ewok dancing. The names of the factions may have changed in the 30 years since the “Yub-Nub” (the First Order and the Resistance subbing for the Empire and the Rebellion), but the battle continues. And Star
Wars is more exciting when there’s conflict at its centre.
It’s a chance for ordinary people on forgotten planets to come to the fore and become heroes. The prequel movies were completely lacking in characters to relate to, humans and aliens battling the odds, and engaging character arcs – the Jedi were more-or-less indestructible, had limitless resources and were effectively superheroes. We may not know much about Finn and Rey (not even their surnames), but it’s clear that they’re cut more from the Han/Luke/Leia outsider template than Obi-Wan or even Anakin.
This baby’s got a few surprises left in her, sweetheart.
Could this be Maz Kanata’s castle?