Star Wars, without a doubt, is one of the most beloved franchises of all time. For years it has proved that it transcends both time and space, drawing in two (soon to be three) generations of fans from all over the world.
It has been almost forty years since the first Star Wars movie came out, and over fifteen years since Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was released. We are now facing an entirely new era of the franchise, with the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens this winter. It is a VERY amazing time for Star Wars fans, with plans for a Star Wars film every year until 2020.
But should we be worried?
Are we doomed to repeat the mistakes of the prequels?
The answer is no!
I don’t think we should worry at all, in fact, I think Star Wars: The Force Awakens will not only be good, but it could potentially be the best Star Wars movie to date.
I would like to point out that the word “best” is totally subjective, and everyone has different measurements of what makes a movie good or bad. When this movie is released, you can decide whether or not it’s your favorite; but in the meantime, we can look at the facts and hopefully see why (or at least why I think) this movie has all the makings of something legendary.
Here are my reasons why…
Collaboration Between Studio and Director:
As a lot of you know, Lucasfilm Ltd. was purchased by The Walt Disney Company for a few billion dollars ($4.06 billion to be exact) in 2012. This creates an entirely new dynamic for the Star Wars franchise. While the original Star Wars trilogy followed a more traditional film making process, the prequels suffered from a lack of collaboration.
George Lucas is a world-builder and a visionary. We should never forget that, even if you agree with the sentiment that he is not a very good screenwriter or director. Though the prequels were beautiful, they suffered from awful dialogue and poor performances from normally great actors. We now have someone in charge… Kathleen Kennedy, who is not only qualified to helm such a huge project, but who is also a huge Star Wars fan and has an enormous amount of respect for the property. We also have a top tier, proven director in J. J. Abrams (who has proved he can handle this genre with his “reboot” of the Star Trek franchise). I would also point out that Disney knows how to make movies. They don’t make crap very often. Just look at their other subsidiaries, such as Marvel Studios and Pixar. Some might not see it this way, but Star Wars being sold to Disney was the best thing for the franchise.
And as for George Lucas…
He is exactly where he should be: a creative consultant.
Returning to Their Roots:
I think the part that makes the original trilogy so amazing is its ability to give us such a fantastical world, but still make it seem realistic. Space travel, artificial intelligence, laser swords, and alien races may seem like craziness on the outside, but when you look a little closer, all it is is a story about a young man who wants to leave his family farm to go fight in the war. It unravels into a beautiful and epic adventure.
Its important that Star Wars: The Force Awakens takes these themes (the humanity) and incorporates them into this new story. From what we have seen so far (though not much) you can tell that they are playing their cards close to their chest. You can see it in all aspects of their work, from the first time we see John Boyega poke his sweaty head into the frame in the first teaser, to the last shot of Chewie and Han in the full trailer. Like Han said, “We’re Home.”
There is an obvious emphasis on returning to their roots. They not only brought back original cast members: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, and Peter Mayhew; they brought in Lawrence Kasdan (who wrote the screenplay for Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi) to pen the script along with J. J. Abrams. John Williams is returning to score the film, along with Drew Struzen returning to paint the posters.
One of the most important changes, however, is the emphasis on practical effects. Don’t get me wrong, I actually am a huge advocate for computer generated imagery (CGI). They are a fantastic TOOL, but where the prequels (and a lot of other movies) went wrong was an overreliance on CGI. I could go on and on about practical vs. CGI, but we will save that for a future article. What is important is that J. J. Abrams didn’t just plop his actors in front of a green screen. They used real sets, in real locations, with real props.
Moving the Story Forward:
New cast, new crew, new story. From every indication, J. J. Abrams and company are going about Star Wars: The Force Awakens exactly the right way. They aren’t just bringing everyone back and rehashing the same story we saw forty years ago; they are giving us a whole new story that pays the perfect amount of homage to the previous films. The elements of the previous films are there to bring us back to the world that we have grown to love, but with new characters, new planets, and new stories that are here to move the story forward… passing the torch to the next generation.
With so much riding on this film, it is crucial that they get this right; and from everything I have seen, I think they have. But who knows maybe I will be wrong, and this movie will absolutely suck.