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Is J.J. Abrams a "safe" or inspired choice to direct S.W. 7? 
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Post Is J.J. Abrams a "safe" or inspired choice to direct S.W. 7?
Do you think J.J. Abrams is a "safe" or inspired choice to direct Star Wars Episode VII?

I would have rather picked someone who is less known but an up-and-comer with a lot to prove. It's like when Chris Nolan was picked to direct Batman Begins or when James Cameron was picked to direct Aliens.


Mon Jan 28, 2013 5:58 pm
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Post Re: Is J.J. Abrams a "safe" or inspired choice to direct S.W. 7?
I think he's a pretty good choice, he did a good job with Star Trek and i'm sure he'll do a good job here as well, though I wouldn't have minded if say Bryan Singer or Joss Whedon ended up as directors as well.


Mon Jan 28, 2013 6:37 pm
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Post Re: Is J.J. Abrams a "safe" or inspired choice to direct S.W. 7?
A totally safe choice would have been someone like Michael Bay. I feel more confident in Abrams handling it than I would say a Paul WS Anderson taking it on.

ck100 wrote:
I would have rather picked someone who is less known but an up-and-comer with a lot to prove. It's like when Chris Nolan was picked to direct Batman Begins or when James Cameron was picked to direct Aliens.


Or when Spielberg was chosen to helm Jaws.

Joss Whedon would be a good choice. Another one: Robert Rodriguez.

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Mon Jan 28, 2013 6:49 pm
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Post Re: Is J.J. Abrams a "safe" or inspired choice to direct S.W. 7?
How about Spielberg.
I had read somewhere that He did hope to direct one several years ago.


Mon Jan 28, 2013 6:54 pm
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Post Re: Is J.J. Abrams a "safe" or inspired choice to direct S.W. 7?
I think he's a safe choice, at least from a business standpoint. He's a known name from his film/television work. He's the kind of guy who'd be willing to play ball with the studio and not let his ego cause problems. And he managed to make Star Trek popular again with mainstream audiences (regardless of your opinion of the film, that's quite an accomplishment).

I haven't seen any other Abrams film besides Star Trek, so I don't feel that I can really judge him as a director. But I felt that the action beats of the film were competently staged, and he had a good sense of pacing and fun. And really, that's all you need to make a Star Wars film. In terms of narrative, not a whole lot happened in Empire Strikes Back. It was really just a whole lot of killer set pieces strung together to form the basis of a plot, with a great ending. And that kind of film making is right up Abrams' alley. Let's just hope the he has a decent script to work with.


Mon Jan 28, 2013 7:00 pm
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Post Re: Is J.J. Abrams a "safe" or inspired choice to direct S.W. 7?
He's a safe choice right now. We will see if he is an inspired one.

Oh, and 1000th post! w00t!!!

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Mon Jan 28, 2013 7:11 pm
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Post Re: Is J.J. Abrams a "safe" or inspired choice to direct S.W. 7?
He's not going to replicate the experience of watching the original trilogy in childhood, so people can put that silly notion out of their heads right now.

They won't, of course. But they should.

We can probably expect exactly what we got with Star Trek: an acceptably crafted adventure story, none too smart, probably too stylistically amped-up, but with enough mass appeal that people would be interested in seeing another.

So yeah. I guess my response to the choice of JJ Abrams is, sure. Why not?

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Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:34 pm
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Post Re: Is J.J. Abrams a "safe" or inspired choice to direct S.W. 7?
A friend of mine forwarded me this link from thesubstream.com and I immediately thought of this thread. You can probably find a million blog entries on Abrams' hiring, but I thought this one entertaining and well-reasoned.

The JJ Abrams Star Wars thing pisses me off. There, I said it. I nearly didn’t bother saying it, because the mood in the room (and by “the room,” I mean “the internet”) since the Wrap improbably broke the story last Thursday afternoon (and finally confirmed nearly 36 hours later, probably because Disney and Lucasfilm were actually behaving responsibly from a corporate perspective and not pushing the press release till Abrams actually signed the deal) has been the usual hash of ecstasy and grief that one expects of pretty much every announcement on the internet these days. Inasmuch as there is no “middle” to any opinion any more – or at least, certainly not on the internet – one can either be overwhelmed with joy at Abrams’ appointment, or boiling with a cold fury unseen since the opening crawl of The Phantom Menace promised us ray-gun action around trade negotiations. But one can never be in the middle, and few commentators have been. (Both sides of the argument, of course, are happy to make lens flare jokes as though they were the first ones to think of them.)

Given that it arrived at the actual dawn of what we now consider the internet, I can’t help but wonder if The Phantom Menace itself is directly responsible for “our” current intransigence in the realm of complex thought, at least in the world of movies and pop culture. I have very complex thoughts about The Phantom Menace, but the world has long since stopped wanting to hear them; that The Phantom Menace is Just Fucking Bad – Nay, The Worst is now a pillar of common belief so ancient and important that to even marginally defy it in any medium is tantamount to burning an upside-down cross. I also have very complex thoughts about Star Wars: Episode VII, some of which I’ve expanded upon elsewhere, some of which I have yet to work out for myself, and some of which I will hold private, likely, forever. (The latter category includes the “I’m Han Solo” dance routine from Kinect Star Wars.)

A brief history of Abrams, whose history is not, in fact, brief: wunderkind screenwriter who, in his second year of university, mind you, straight up sold the script for one of the more memorable slices of early-‘90s melodrama, Regarding Henry. Skip forward a couple of years and he’s concocted the only legitimate successor to the best television series of that decade, My So-Called Life, with the Keri Russell-starring college soap Felicity. Felicity is terrifically instructive in the Abrams whole, in fact, because not only did it bake off his approach to group character writing – babbling, riffy, somewhere between Whedon’s Buffy and whoever-they-were’s Friends – but the series concluded with the most impressive act of creative suicide that has probably ever aired on network television, when the college soap became, for its final episodes, a time-traveling adventure series. I watched Beverly Hills 90210 when it did its “past lives” runner with the Luke Perry character, and I assure you, the last few episodes of Felicity were way weirder.

Alias followed, which is instructive on the Abrams whole for another reason: a brilliant premise, categorically destroyed by an inability to keep things going. Alias, for its first season and a half, was probably the best thing on television; undercover operative Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) discovered that the spy agency for which she worked were bad guys instead of good guys, and then with the help of the actual good guys, started trying to bring the agency down from the inside. Problem: she brings the agency down from the inside halfway through the second season, following which Alias had pretty much no idea what to do with itself for the ensuing three and a half years. It’s from here that we can work out another key piece of the Abrams puzzle: he’s an idea guy, not a follow-through guy. Flash forward a couple of years to LOST, and he’s become the ultimate idea guy: he wrote the premise, directed the pilot (brilliantly), hired Lindelof and Cuse (the Lennon and McCartney of television – no really), and then – no matter how the press said otherwise for the ensuing six years – walked away.

So all of a sudden, we have a television entrepreneur who is mentioned in the same breath as Joss Whedon, but whose projects, I’d argue, are far weaker from a whole-piece standpoint. Look, Buffy and Angel (and certainly Dollhouse) had their creative ups and downs, too, but Whedon stuck with the work and consistently pushed the material. (Firefly, as everyone knows, is perfect. Short, sad, and perfect.) And at roughly the same time as Whedon was headed off on the kamikaze strike that was the Serenity feature film – which grossed a lean $25 million and died in relative ignominy while nonetheless pleasing every single one of Firefly’s fans – Abrams headed to the majors with Mission Impossible 3, which would prove to be prescient as well. All of Abrams’ big-screen work has been pastiche of other peoples’ creative projects: two 1960s television series, one of which I’ll get into in more detail, and a “loving homage” to the works of Steven Spielberg that so completely misunderstands how Steven Spielberg movies work that it reeks of a kind of creative stupidity that is more than slightly alarming.

But let’s talk about Star Trek. Star Trek is, for better or worse, where all this Star Wars stuff comes from; Abrams is repeatedly on the record saying that he’s a huge Star Wars fan and only passingly familiar with Star Trek. Aside from being more than a little bit insulting to any Trekker, Abrams’ choice in the endless Trek/Wars slapfight shows itself unabashedly in the feature film he made, which grafts Luke Skywalker’s entire arc – with the exception of Using the Force – onto the life of one James T. Kirk, formerly the best Captain the fleet ever saw, now a roustabout loner and bar-room brawler who, improbably, gains command of the Enterprise in a single mission and puts the Avengers together down to the last red shirt, in order to go off and blow shit up in space. Aside from the Spock/Uhura makeout session – which, you gotta admit, is surprising and scintillating in a whole way that Star Trek has never been – Abrams’ Star Trek movie succeeds entirely because it is calmly, even innovatively, familiar: Star Trek all Star Warsed up, with explosions, and gunfights, and a Campbellian Hero’s Journey. The trailers for Star Trek Into Darkness promise, at least, substantially more explosions.

Which brings us around to Star Wars: Episode VII. I’ve maintained till now that whoever got the directing gig on the biggest suicide mission in Hollywood history (because it certainly is: there is no loftier bar to jump, even post-prequel trilogy, than a good Star Wars movie) would not be someone we would immediately think, “Yeah, that’s the guy.” For one thing, all the A-listers – and Abrams must now be counted among them – would be wise to turn the project down; and they did: Spielberg, Del Toro, Bird, Snyder, and yes, even Abrams himself all came out in the press in the last two months to say that they’d be there on opening day, but had no designs on directing the film themselves. (The fact that Abrams’ first entrée into this conversation was an outright lie? Unsurprising given his pathological fixation upon keeping secrets, but hardly an encouraging start, either.) I’ve also maintained that anyone with a career to protect wouldn’t take the job because of the consequences of failure, but once the Abrams announcement was made, I realized that my proviso does not, in fact, apply to him. JJ Abrams doesn’t have a career to protect, because he’s never actually ventured forth in the movie landscape with anything of his own design. He adapts or simulates the work of other people, a game at which the only measure of success is in how close he comes to the genuine article. In that regard, he’s perfect for this job, where the letter grade will be handed down entirely based upon his ability to make a movie that’s like Star Wars. (The critical press, and the mob, will hand out additional merit based on his ability to make a movie that’s not like The Phantom Menace.)

There’s another way in which Abrams is perfect for the job: if his core strength lies in pastiche and simulation, than Star Wars, as Lucas originally conceived it, is right in his wheelhouse. The original films were always an update of older, somewhat venerable, somewhat schlocky periods of the development of serialized storytelling in science fiction and fantasy on the big screen. Star Wars – and by that I mean the original film, which I never, ever, ever call A New Hope – hip-checks multiple pulp influences while simultaneously finding its way down the middle to a new, energizing synthesis. It’s the latter category that Abrams’ big screen work, to date, has lacked. He’s the Guitar Hero of filmmaking – he sure knows how to push the right fret buttons in the right sequence to stay ahead of the multimedia orgy on the TV in front of him, but no one would mistake him for a guitar player.



<<Continued>>


Last edited by Johnny Larue on Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:58 pm
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Post Re: Is J.J. Abrams a "safe" or inspired choice to direct S.W. 7?
And if the name of the game for Episode VII is mere simulation, then I’d argue the conceit has an in-built structural flaw, sort of like turning filmmaking into a game of horseshoes: if the best you can do is to get as close to the peg as possible, then there is no space left in the design for overachievement. I recognize that expecting overachievement from the first truly corporatized Star Wars movie is ridiculous. (Say what you will, but the prequels were still bought and paid for by a single person. Licensed and merchandized up the yin-yang, certainly, but they were, in their way, the biggest independent films ever made – and probably always will be.) Purchased by Disney, the Lucasfilm model going forward is clearly Marvel-inflected, and we can expect the choice of directors for Episodes VIII, IX, X and beyond to be cut from the same stripe as the Marvel movies: occasionally innovative (Kenneth Branagh for Thor), more nominally safe (Jon Favreau for Iron Man), and sometimes bargain-basement (Louis Letterier for The Incredible Hulk) because at the end of the day, the director doesn’t matter. People talk about Irvin Kershner a whole lot, and he certainly did have a demonstrable impact on the shape and outcome of The Empire Strikes Back. (Don’t believe me? Read this book. Read it anyway, actually - it's an amazing book.) But – and I think this is important – George Lucas hated Kersh's impact, and worked his ass off to remove any similar impacts from any future Star Wars projects, even returning to a process - directing - that he claimed to loathe. With a four-billion-dollar investment to protect, and a brand based on family-friendliness and an absolute inability to offend, we cannot expect Disney to do otherwise.

Perhaps, though, my problem with Abrams is simply one of merit. Abrams is a three-star creative, being consistently handed four-star honours. I’m old enough to know that merit of the type I’m describing doesn’t have much play in Hollywood. Can Abrams land a multi-hundred-million-dollar special effects picture on a guaranteed release date at a high level of polish? Of course he can. With his eyes closed. Can he make a film that is better than is strictly required, and is even inspiring to a new generation of moviegoers – i.e., a real Star Wars movie? No, probably not.


Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:58 pm
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Post Re: Is J.J. Abrams a "safe" or inspired choice to direct S.W. 7?
At the end of the day, you have to start to wonder why anyone is making a big deal about this. Where was the hype for Mendes doing a Bond flick? Certainly not this high. Does Star Wars really deserve this much attention? People are acting like he's helming a remake to 2001: space odyssey or citizen kane. Maybe if George Lucas had been the only director of the series, but he ain't. Abrams is a zero-trick pony, yet he's been fed lumps of sugar by fans as though he were Seabiscuit. Maybe my hopes would be higher if I thought Abrams could take his ego out of the equation, but it doesn't seem like he can, and let's face it, he has no reason to do so. There's a lot of presumptions flying around about this whole thing. It mostly depends on the actors. If they can get the original cast back, it'll be a huge deal. If not, who's to say how much attention this will get at all in the long run? Anyway, my opinion is, Abrams is certainly not an inspired choice, but no one's been able to come up with a better alternative, so I agree with "sure, why not."


Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:44 pm
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Post Re: Is J.J. Abrams a "safe" or inspired choice to direct S.W. 7?
MGamesCook wrote:
Where was the hype for Mendes doing a Bond flick? Certainly not this high.


I was hyped as hell. But Star Wars is one of the biggest franchises of all times. You can't ask people to stop caring about a franchise they're obsessed with. It doesn't work that way. Does it deserve this much attention on a purely creative level? No. But this is popular culture, and Star Wars still has a huge influence on that culture, so people will invest a lot of their interest in this stuff.


Mon Jan 28, 2013 10:17 pm
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Post Re: Is J.J. Abrams a "safe" or inspired choice to direct S.W. 7?
Johnny Larue wrote:
So all of a sudden, we have a television entrepreneur who is mentioned in the same breath as Joss Whedon, but whose projects, I’d argue, are far weaker from a whole-piece standpoint


In other words, Abrams is the Donovan to Whedon's Dylan.

MGamesCook wrote:
Abrams is a zero-trick pony, yet he's been fed lumps of sugar by fans as though he were Seabiscuit. Maybe my hopes would be higher if I thought Abrams could take his ego out of the equation, but it doesn't seem like he can, and let's face it, he has no reason to do so.


A common criticism I saw leveled at Super 8 is that Abrams more or less took the tropes of 70s and 80s Spielberg but had no real understanding of how to make them work. The end result was less a genuine standalone movie than a homage that didn't work as well when viewed separately from the movies that inspired it.

I enjoyed Super 8 when I watched it during its original theatrical run, yet now I wonder if maybe that complaint was more accurate than I initially thought. Not necessarily that fine wine turned into vinegar. But from the standpoint of two years, the movie feels more like a direct imitation than something that can stand on its own. Not bad. But I strongly suspect that it will be pretty much forgotten in another 10 years.

As far as the ego point goes, that might be the main reason why Abrams signed on and why the likes of Del Toro and even Spielberg opted out. They all realize that if this fials, it will most likely be a career ender (or at least a career slower)

So I agree with the "why not?" mentality, even as I wonder what Whedon could have done with it.

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Tue Jan 29, 2013 12:05 pm
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Post Re: Is J.J. Abrams a "safe" or inspired choice to direct S.W. 7?
Regardless of Abrams's suitability for the Star Wars gig, I am kind of sad that the same guy is going to be responsible for both the Star Trek reboot and the Star Wars reboot. It just seems wrong.


Tue Jan 29, 2013 12:51 pm
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Post Re: Is J.J. Abrams a "safe" or inspired choice to direct S.W. 7?
Alex wrote:
Regardless of Abrams's suitability for the Star Wars gig, I am kind of sad that the same guy is going to be responsible for both the Star Trek reboot and the Star Wars reboot. It just seems wrong.


It seems to indicate a not so healthy industry.


Tue Jan 29, 2013 5:18 pm
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Post Re: Is J.J. Abrams a "safe" or inspired choice to direct S.W. 7?
MGamesCook wrote:
At the end of the day, you have to start to wonder why anyone is making a big deal about this. Where was the hype for Mendes doing a Bond flick? Certainly not this high. Does Star Wars really deserve this much attention? People are acting like he's helming a remake to 2001: space odyssey or citizen kane. Maybe if George Lucas had been the only director of the series, but he ain't. Abrams is a zero-trick pony, yet he's been fed lumps of sugar by fans as though he were Seabiscuit. Maybe my hopes would be higher if I thought Abrams could take his ego out of the equation, but it doesn't seem like he can, and let's face it, he has no reason to do so. There's a lot of presumptions flying around about this whole thing. It mostly depends on the actors. If they can get the original cast back, it'll be a huge deal. If not, who's to say how much attention this will get at all in the long run? Anyway, my opinion is, Abrams is certainly not an inspired choice, but no one's been able to come up with a better alternative, so I agree with "sure, why not."

At the risk of answering a question with a tautology, I'd argue that Star Wars has proven over the years that it deserves the attention it gets because it gets that attention. The fact that the original movies have remained appealing for so long and weathered so many whiplash ups and downs is an indication that they're fundamentally in touch with things people care about almost universally in a story.

Or, to put it another way, the reason people are making a big deal out of this is that it's fucking Star Wars. It is a self-evident truth. Any major development, regardless of its nature, is going to get people chattering.

It is my number one hope that he'll realize that what he's doing demands that he work in the house style. Star Wars does not need and has no room for his distinctive fingerprints.

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Tue Jan 29, 2013 5:47 pm
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Post Re: Is J.J. Abrams a "safe" or inspired choice to direct S.W. 7?
Abrams could prove interesting as an idea man for Star Wars if he would be willing and able to pull something out of the massive Star Wars history (one of the most complete fantasy world environments created this side of Lord of the Rings) and in the process give us something new. I don't want a retread of what I've already seen, I want to feel like I'm discovering a new part of the Star Wars saga. I'm not sure Abrams the director will reveal a surprising or truly innovative choice. Everything good about Lost and especially Fringe can be found to have stemmed from other sources in the process, while Abrams sole vision has seemed to only recreate the visions of others with better effects. In visualizing his chosen subject he loses the core that originally drove those subjects. With all he's done so far it's perhaps fairly disappointing that his most fully entertaining film remains M:I:III. I don't doubt he could make an excellent Star Wars movie, I'm just not sure he will.

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Wed Jan 30, 2013 12:55 am
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Post Re: Is J.J. Abrams a "safe" or inspired choice to direct S.W. 7?
MGamesCook wrote:
Alex wrote:
Regardless of Abrams's suitability for the Star Wars gig, I am kind of sad that the same guy is going to be responsible for both the Star Trek reboot and the Star Wars reboot. It just seems wrong.


It seems to indicate a not so healthy industry.


I can agree to this.

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Post Re: Is J.J. Abrams a "safe" or inspired choice to direct S.W. 7?
Alex wrote:
Regardless of Abrams's suitability for the Star Wars gig, I am kind of sad that the same guy is going to be responsible for both the Star Trek reboot and the Star Wars reboot. It just seems wrong.

Well, Star Wars does not yet appear to be a reboot but a genuine continuation of the series (why else are they referring to it as Episode VII?). There's definitely something odd about it, though. It also indicates that there seem to be more hacks than genuine talents in the industry still interested in making these kinds of movies. :?

MGamesCook wrote:
Where was the hype for Mendes doing a Bond flick? Certainly not this high.

Considering Mendes' filmmaking style is fairly similar to that of the director who helmed the less-well-received "Quantum of Solace" (Marc Forster), skepticism was the first emotion that crossed my mind, personally. :|


Wed Jan 30, 2013 4:16 am
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Post Re: Is J.J. Abrams a "safe" or inspired choice to direct S.W. 7?
Quote:
the reason people are making a big deal out of this is that it's fucking Star Wars.


Is it? Will what Abrams comes up with really be a Star Wars movie? If people truly are spiritually and culturally connected to Star Wars, then it must be to something deeper than the brand name. And the brand name, at this early stage, is all we're guaranteed to get from Disney and Abrams. Star Wars has, for 35 years, been inextricably tied to the strengths and weaknesses of its creator, George Lucas. To what extent can you alter something before it's no longer what it is? That's the question that seems relevant to me; not whether Abrams is a better choice than anybody else. This upcoming movie may be called Star Wars; doesn't mean it'll actually be Star Wars.


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Post Re: Is J.J. Abrams a "safe" or inspired choice to direct S.W. 7?
That's not really true. While those three movies are definitely the unmovable core of people's affection, those people have also had plenty of licensed novels, video games, tabletop games, and assorted other tie-in stories to hold them over during lean years. Some of it is glorified fan fiction and some of it's pretty good. For better or for worse, the definition of what Star Wars is has been expanded greatly.

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