April 09, 2014 1:04pm PT by Graeme McMillan
Could 'Star Wars: Episode VII' Be Too Enamored With the Original Movies?
One thing that can’t be said about J.J. Abrams’s Star Wars at this early stage: It’s not reverential enough to the source material. With each new piece of information released about the project, it’s clear that Abrams and his collaborators have the earlier movies -- and, most obviously, the original trilogy from the 1970s and '80s -- in mind as both inspiration and target of aspiration.
This week, The Hollywood Reporter exclusively reported that Tatooine, the home planet of the Skywalker clan, is being re-created for the new movie, and Peter Mayhew will return for the new movie as Chewbacca, the Wookiee, joining the rumored Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher appearances and an R2-D2 role (Somewhere, C-3PO and Billy Dee Williams have to be sitting by their phones anxiously).
The as-yet-untitled Episode VII will also shoot at Pinewood Studios, reportedly eschew CGI for practical effects and bring John Williams in to score the movie. That’s in addition to bringing in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi veteran Lawrence Kasdan to co-write the screenplay with Abrams (replacing Michael Arndt) and including Ben Burtt (Star Wars: Episodes I - VI) to oversee sound design. The only surprise casting choice so far for Episode VII may be Girls actor Adam Driver, who is in talks to play a villain, sources confirmed to THR in late February.
All of these many parallels between projects speak to a continuity between the relaunched franchise and its original incarnation that is likely to calm the nerves of many an anxious fan.
But it also may point to Abrams’ own Star Wars fandom -- he has spoken on numerous occasions about the impact George Lucas’ original trilogy had on him -- and bring a nostalgia to the new series that could overwhelm its forward momentum if left unchecked. (Disney chief Alan Horn, in an interview with THR's Stephen Galloway on April 2, admitted problems with getting the script right and revealed that the film is already shooting.)
As much as it pains older fans of the franchise, the original Star Wars movie is more than three decades old (Return of the Jedi celebrated its 30th anniversary last year). For the new series -- which will be set 30 years after the events of Jedi -- to succeed, it has to do more than comfort existing fans; it must offer new hope to a new generation.
Early rumors about the female lead in the movie -- who would be an active player in the story and not space royalty a la Princess Leia or Queen Amidala in the two earlier trilogies -- suggested a welcome break from Star Wars tradition, as have suggestions that Lupita Nyong'o or another actor of color could play a primary role in the movie; both moves could make the movie more inviting to a wider audience.
Abrams himself has said as much. In an interview with The Times of London last November, he noted that, "The beauty of [the original Star Wars] was that it was an unfamiliar world, and yet you wanted to see it expand and to see where it went." From what little we know about Star Wars: Episode VII, it’s clear that Abrams and Lucasfilm hold what’s come before in high esteem -- what we need now is to know that it’s a movie as interested in the future as it is in the past.