Setting foot on the well-tread ground of beloved geek properties is intimidating. Franchise maintenance comes with built-in expectations, both commercial and creative; studios will keep an eye on their bottom line, anticipating a respectable box office return on investment, while fans will look for fealty to the source material. These are understandable needs, of course, but that doesn’t lessen the pressure placed on the poor sucker who signs up to steer the ship.
So when Disney gave J.J. Abrams the keys to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the stakes were immediately high. Abrams came into the Star Wars series as director eight years after Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith left a stale taste in audiences’ mouths; that put him in the position of having to rectify, or more accurately avoid, the prequel trilogy’s mistakes while meeting George Lucas’ original films at least halfway. That’s a tall order for anyone, even a commercial filmmaker of Abrams’ stature.
Unsurprisingly, the former Star Trek helmsman found the experience rather daunting. That’s a pretty way of dressing up comments he made to MTV News in a recent interview, in which he opened up about the peaks and valleys of making Star Wars: The Force Awakens. To hear it from Abrams, dipping one’s hands into the Star Wars universe is a pretty stressful enterprise.
That may sound like a statement of the obvious to some, but Abrams’ positivist remarks make him sound pretty sympathetic. Read the full quote below:
“It is, without question, an intense and terrifying prospect. The opportunity, I think, is greater than the fear, greater than the risk. I’m more excited about the work that everyone has done in the movie and the incredible cast.”
Hey, at least he’s looking at the bright side. Admittedly, Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘ bright side looks pretty bright 12 months out from the film’s December 2015 release; keeping chipper is easy when the first teaser is one more thing to be grateful for on Thanksgiving, and when the already uniformly terrific cast is expanded to include the badass bona fide martial arts stars of The Raid 2.
Abrams isn’t simply putting on a happy face, though; he’s speaking the truth. Is the upside to shooting a new Star Wars picture greater than the potential downside? Absolutely. A Star Wars film, no matter how good or bad, is guaranteed bank, so when Abrams mentions “risk”, he’s probably not referring to financials. Even if Star Wars: The Force Awakens sends Star Wars diehards into a frenzy, he and Disney stand to make a killing.
But if the film doesn’t pass muster among that crowd, well, just look at what happened to George Lucas after Star Wars: The Phantom Menace came out and go from there. Taken in that regard, Abrams’ anxiety makes a lot of sense, but given that he’s just an interloper in the series and not its progenitor (and given that he’s really clearly trying to make a great Star Wars film, whether through reliance on practical FX or through his casting picks), it seems unlikely fans will sharpen their daggers for him quite so keenly as they did with Lucas so many years ago.
The days are ticking down slowly, but we’ll see if Abrams has made the most of his opportunity before too long. Maybe in the meantime, we should all give him the benefit of the doubt to ease his nerves?
Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens on December 18th, 2015.