It’s been nearly two years since Disney acquired Lucasfilm and set in motion an entire new chapter for the Star Wars universe – and streamlined the official canon storyline. In the months following, speculation ran rampant: Who would direct Episode 7? Which young actors would be considered for starring roles? Would original cast members Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher return?
While we have answers to many of those questions – plenty more remain. J.J. Abrams is in the director’s chair, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, as well as Oscar Isaac have been tapped for lead roles, and Hamill, Ford, and Fisher are set to reprise their roles as Luke, Han, and Leia – but we still know very little about the larger Episode 7 plot (not to mention how it will compare to the original film trilogy).
Recent set photos have suggested that Abrams is taking a more practical approach to filmmaking, even teasing a return to some familiar locales, but in a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, Oscar Isaac confirms that the production team is hard at work trying to avoid mistakes from the prequels – channeling Episodes 4-6 to deliver a film that is both “fiery” but still a bit “messy”:
Yeah. [Laughs] I’m constantly looking for a cheesy line to say to harken back to the old ones. No, what they’re trying to do and what’s really great is J.J.’s been loosening it up a little bit and trying to make it alive and energized. It’s not formal. They’re messy, energized people. We’ve all intentionally tried to do that. Just make it a little more fiery and messy.
No doubt, many longtime Star Wars fans would consider the oft-begrudged prequels as “messy” but it’s clear that Isaac isn’t addressing film quality here – he’s talking about the believable and lived-in look that made the first Star Wars trilogy such a refreshing, revolutionary, and downright memorable experience. Grungy cantinas, malfunctioning spaceships, and frothy swamplands were all instrumental in selling the Star Wars universe and its residents to uninitiated moviegoers.
As digital technology improved, George Lucas began tinkering with his original creations in an effort to clean-up some of those rough edges – a prelude to relying heavily on pristine CG environments and over-the-top alien characters in his prequel trilogy. In recent years, interest in restoring the “messier” versions of Star Wars Episode 4-6 have resulted in numerous fan recuts, including the impressive Despecialized Edition composite, indicating that most fans will likely be relieved to hear that Abrams is still prioritizing “energized” and “living” environments and characters over convoluted CG visuals – albeit with the intention of delivering a “fiery” film that can live-up to modern sci-fi action movie standards.
In the interview, Isaac praises Abrams’ use of practical effects and also comments on the returning cast members – confirming that his character, who remains unconfirmed at this point, has direct interaction with Han, Luke, and Leia:
Yeah, I have. Both [on and offscreen]. They’re such funny people. Carrie is hilarious and doing such cool work. Harrison is back. He went on hiatus for a little while, but he’s 150 percent back. It’s pretty amazing to see him bounce back. He looks incredible. Everyone’s having a really good time. J.J. sets that tone. There’s a lot of enthusiasm and it’s being done with a lot of heart. There’s nothing cynical about the way we’re doing this. Even the in way he’s shooting it—he’s shooting on film and actually building the sets, so you’ve got hundreds of Stormtroopers or whatever, and hundreds of extras and all the ships. You actually see it. It’s all real. Everyone can interact with the world.
As mentioned, we’ve seen glimpses of several Episode 7 sets at this point – confirming minor plot details and more than one iconic location. When asked about the amount of people clamoring for information about the film, Isaac was sympathetic but also maintains that secrecy is in place to preserve the final viewing experience (and its surprises):
People want to know all those special things and when those iconic moments are going to happen, but if all that gets revealed beforehand I feel like it robs people of that moment when they’re sitting there watching it for the first time.
Of course, Abrams has a tenuous relationship with secrecy and, in recent years, efforts to preserve the final viewing experience have sometimes backfired. In the lead-up to his last feature film, Star Trek Into Darkness, much of the marketing relied heavily on the true identity of Benedict Cumberbatch’s John Harrison – distracting from countless other aspects of the film worth promoting. As a result, when the character’s true name was unveiled – it was a mostly hollow and underwhelming reveal, given that half the audience was simply waiting for the confirmation or, in the case of more casual viewers, had no connection to the classic villain.
As a result, with another iconic sci-fi property in his hands, Abrams will have to walk a very careful line between honoring what has come before and forging a fresh new era for the mega-franchise – and the director has freely admitted that they went too far with Star Trek 2 secrecy. Producer Kathleen Kennedy has even stated that Episode 7 production isn’t going to be very secretive, comparatively – and Episode 8 writer/director Rian Johnson has already assured us that Lucasfilm has hired directors that “really care” about their forthcoming Star Wars film releases (both the episodic installments and spin-offs).
Still, it’s also encouraging to hear from an actual cast member like Isaac, who is on the ground day-today with the filmmaker, that Abrams and his team understand the hurdles they are facing – and have prepared to meet those challenges with smart filmmaking choices and reverence to the series’ history.
Star Wars: Episode 7 will hit theaters December 18, 2015.
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