A short time ago, in a galaxy really close by, a king was anointed. On January 25th, 2013 it was announced that J.J. Abrams will direct what’s sure to be the next most highly anticipated Sci-Fi film of the century, Star Wars Episode VII. The official announcement came, after a week of rumors and speculation, that Kathleen Kennedy the new Lucasfilm President (or as I like to call her, George Lucas Episode 2) and her staff had selected the next director for the first of three Star Wars sequels. J.J. Abrams is best known for his involvement in the TV series Lost (exec. producer), Alias (exec. producer) and Fringe (exec. producer) as well as his exploits as movie director in Mission Impossible III, Super 8, and the most recent Star Trek films. Okay, let’s nip this issue in the butt right now… CALM DOWN … Yes, you! You who on some level is somewhere between appalled and dumbfounded that the new leaders at Lucasfilm have already resorted to borrowing something from the rival Trek universe for this revival of the glorious legacy that is Star Wars!! Just close your eyes, take a deep breath and then do the following. Open up IMDB, scroll down the list of J.J. Abrams’ involvements and as you read, count out on your hands the number of things that sucked on that list. If you somehow managed to tally enough to need two hands, go over the list again and this time, count how many things REALLY suck. Down to one hand or less?… I thought so. With that helpful exercise out of the way let’s take a step back.
While the above paragraph may have led you to believe that I’m convinced Abrams will do a great job in his new directing role, think again. In fact, in my mind, J.J. Abrams has just placed his head on the Guillotine block for all to see. Whether or not the executioner (me and the collective Star Wars community) decides to drop the blade will be determined by his actions as a director in what is likely to be the most important movie of his career. As he awaits his judgment day I will remain cautiously and skeptically optimistic. I thought a good deal on how I was going to write this piece. And while I must join the hoard of bloggers and fans crafting lists of demands that Abrams must follow should he wish to make good movie and spare himself decapitation, I’ve done my best to refrain from such rigid thought processes. Instead I thought this: If I, a die-hard fan, could give J.J. Abrams one piece of advice or pose a single request, I would do so in one sentence. Two words in fact: Irvin Kirshner.
For those of you who don’t know who Irvin Kirshner is, he was the brilliant mind and talent that directed Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back. For those of you who don’t know me, know that this film is my favorite of all time – not just of the six films, but of ALL films. Let me make my best attempt to tell you why Empire is my favorite movie of all time in just a few sentences. Empire has it all. From action and drama, to comedy and suspense, to romance and despair, Episode 5 is a shining example of what is great about movies. This film, whose predecessor appealed largely to a Sci-Fi community, took another step out of the proverbial box and caught the interest of everybody. For those who weren’t satisfied with repetitive action and adventure, we found thought provoking themes in the teachings of Yoda and the lost legion of ancient Jedi. For those who were tired of the good guys always winning, we found a story of darkness and a bleak conclusion. For those who were weary of predictability, we found utter shock at the terrifying truth of Vader’s identity. For those who didn’t want to take their girlfriend to the latest chick-flick found compromise as the love story between Han Solo and Princess Leia was just as compelling as the action sequences.
But what was it that made these parts stand out? What made them so enthralling that it would be viewed by most as the best of the entire series? The characters. It was more than just the story, and the ships, and the giant space slug. It was watching a three-foot green doll emote like it was real. It was watching Leia and Han softly kiss each other for the first time in the confines of the Millennium Falcon. It was watching the horrified reality dawn on Luke’s face as he came to learn that the most evil and feared man in the Galaxy was his father. It…was…acting. Acting at its very finest. And it was Irvin Kirshner that brought this out of our heroes (and villains). Kirshner knew what it meant to be a director. He was dedicated to his audience through his characters. Without concerning himself with fitting his characters into the world Lucas had created, he let the world fall in around the actors. It wasn’t forced or contorted for the genre – it was one of the most organic and consuming portrayals this Husher has ever seen. It is this mind frame that I hope Abrams adopts in his new role. No matter who casters hire, what plot is composed, how much CGI is used, or if we have to suffer through Gungans and Ewoks again, Abrams has the opportunity to immerse his audience in the same way Kirshner did 33 years ago. The pressure is on and any degree of egomania is sure to result in a disaster worse than the Hindenburg and Casey Anthony combined. But there is time and resources. Disney and its impressive little empire will do well to recognize their role in this undertaking and allow and encourage Abrams to play his accordingly. In three-years’ time I want to write about how I could feel Abrams commitment to me, the viewer, the fan to taking me back…A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. J.J. Abrams, may the Force be with you.
written by Taylor Lowe