If such a thing as a geek heaven exists – complete, perhaps, with a grand pantheon reserved for those who delivered the greatest fanboy thrills – we can be fairly sure that a flock of angels is up there right now furiously polishing a plinth reserved for JJ Abrams. Having already rescued the Star Trek film series from a downward spiral into deadly dullness, the creator of cult TV shows Lost and Fringe is reportedly about to get his hands on the ultimate space opera prize, Star Wars.

It is, frankly, a thing of wonder that there is anything left of this once-proud franchise to be revived after George Lucas spent the past 15 years systematically destroying all goodwill towards him with dodgy CGI retrofits of the original trilogy and a lifeless, prosaic second triptych of films. Yet, miraculously, there is still a lot of love out there for Star Wars, and Abrams would have been at the top of most fans’ lists to take charge of Episode VII and its two proposed sequels. On past evidence, we can expect a movie that holds true to the spirit of its predecessors but delivers a fresh and imaginative take on well-worn themes.

As well as 2009’s Star Trek, in which he magicked up a new generation of fans while also giving acolytes something to cheer about in the shape of Leonard Nimoy’s Spock Prime, we should remember that Abrams also revived the Mission: Impossible series in 2006 after John Woo’s lukewarm second instalment. That his Mission: Impossible III managed to achieve such a feat by nastying up the screen with added extra Phillip Seymour Hoffman should help assuage the concerns of those who fear Disney’s overlordship of the project (after buying the rights from Lucas for $4bn in October) might result in an overly kid-friendly take.

Unless Abrams has insisted on rewriting the screenplay for Episode VII assigned to Toy Story 3’s Michael Arndt – might the film-maker’s announcement last year that he was not interested in the job have been a ploy to garner greater creative control? – we should also be saved from the worst excesses of the new man’s regular collaborators. I enjoyed Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s pseudo-prequel to Alien, but the thought of Damon Lindelof filtering his fascination with grand but utterly impenetrable themes into the greatest space opera series of all time would be enough to have most of us hitting the jump-to-lightspeed button tout suite. The new LucasFilm, Disney-owned and under Kathleen Kennedy, appears to have mapped out its plans for the new trilogy meticulously, with screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back) and Simon Kinberg already on board to pen episodes VIII and IX. Fingers crossed, Abrams need only concern himself with making the best of what he has before him, just as the otherwise unheralded Irvin Kershner did with Lucas’s stirling script for Empire in 1980.

On the other hand, Abrams is far from a hired hack. If necessary, he has the clout to shout louder than anyone else to ensure that Episode VII retains the vim and verve of the original trilogy. And he understands that making a film that is ostensibly for children does not mean papering over all the nasty cracks. The director’s self-penned paean to Spielbergian 80s sci-fi, Super 8, delivered bucketloads of nostalgic warmth while refusing to veer away from the jagged edges of preteen existence. Simply put: one cannot imagine him having let loose the horrors of Jar Jar Binks on the Star Wars galaxy.

There are concerns of course: Abrams’ Star Trek has a crystal clear, heavy-on-the-lens-flare look that might not fit fans’ view of how Star Wars should be done (especially given the appalling use of CGI in Lucas’ prequel series). But it is now 36 years since Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo first hit the public consciousness, and a retro-style refit is not the only available direction for Episode VII. A little carefully crafted CGI – the technology was used spectacularly well on Star Trek – shouldn’t ruin matters this time around.

Of the choices out there – Ben Affleck, Matthew Vaughn and Guillermo Del Toro are also said to have been considered – Abrams is simply the best equipped to deliver a Star Wars film that transcends its forebears while doffing its lightsaber respectfully to the past. May the Force be with him.


Source – Guardian film blog

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