Why J.J. Has Already Saved the Star Wars Franchise
One of the biggest and most prominent criticisms of the abominable Star Wars prequel trilogy was how fake, how clean and plastic it looked (one of the many valid points made by Mr. Plinkett). Part of that was the intergalactically sized hubris of the series’ proprietor and part of it was the technological limitations of the time. That is to say, polygons are hard to make and no one quite knew how to do it in the late 90s.
J.J. Abrams of Alias, Lost and that cute Bad Robot logo fame was given the chance to helm the seventh (and possibly ninth) episode in the Star Wars canon after his resume that was in the form of a Star Trek movie. For as much as he is known for his lense flares he is known for his fondness (and apology for) of practical effects, and that is why he matters.
It was a wonderful day when District 9 came out, not only because it was made relatively close to where I live, but because it was one of the first movies to come out that felt lived in. While Neil Blomkamp’s latest two movies were nothing to write home about, the fact that they looked amazing has never been debated.
I call it dirty sci-fi because, well, it is. Not the dirt itself, of course, but because a dirty sci-fi world is a well-lived one, and if a director or product designer cares enough about their story to make it look lived in, then I am willing to give it a shot. Giving a shit is what makes a bad movie like The Room more entertaining than a bad movie like Transformers: Age of Extinction.
You hear that? It’s the shit, the shit that makes movies good — shit.
It was beautiful days in the neighbourhood when the Force Awakens teaser trailers were released, (especially the latest one) and not just because we got to see Harrison Ford smile for the first time in three decades, but because it garnered conversation (72 minutes for the first 90 seconds, 96 minutes for the second 119). Part of this, of course, is because we already knew where the prequels were headed, but also because for the first time in decades (or however long it had been since you first saw the original trilogy) it felt real.
The destroyed X-Wing and fallen Star Destroyer feel like the real wreckage of some outrageous war between overpowering Nazi imagery and references to Zoroastrian and Taoism. The wreckage of Vader’s helmet feels like a genuine artifact of war, Luke’s mechanical hand shows that he has been living outside of the help his hand required, while the (likely) female Jedi handing the (likely) female Jedi a lightsabre shows not only how our society has evolved, but how theirs has.
The X-Wings skirting the ocean (or lake, I am equal-opportunity bodies of water) shows the fight coming closer to home, to not being stuck in space in which working against a black backdrop is a whole lot easier. The hooded, masked sith shows that the Jedi did not quite finish their job in returning. The scene with newly-helmed Stormtroopers standing before a very Nazi-propagandish First Order logo shows that, while the Empire was indeed defeated, there are still enough dick-wads to order these people around.
While, of course, Darth Vader and The Emperor were not the only people behind the war, the Chrometrooper with his cape of micro-fibre cloth shows that there are new ranks being formed. The
BB-08 shows that there are new adorable robots to be turned into Valentines day cards and charming campaign banners — a very practical and adorable robot.
As previously stated, the problem with the (and a, really) prequels is that we knew what did happen and will happen, now we get to find out what happened. It was a war, it was a series of wars within the stars — a series of Star Wars, if you will. Wars are big, in case you didn’t notice, and 30 years is not that much time for a galaxy to have recovered, and with The Force Awakens, J.J. showing not just how the Skywalkers reacted, but how their world did.
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What more perfect a way to depict the character and situation of the Tusken Raider’s (or a Tusken Raider equivalent) than to show them hoarding an AT-AT for parts and building a home in it’s husk? What better a way to illustrate the vast and impossible discrepancies between The Empire/ The First Order and the people they claim to protect other than having them live in their refuse? Socioecological criticisms aside.
I know that everything J.J. does is not perfect (after all, he gave Jennifer Garner a career and gave Lost to Lindelof), but if there is anything that J.J. has proven himself able to do, it’s start something fascinating. While the Star Wars EU has since been snipped, there are potential decades of directors that have some very interesting stories to tell.. The fact that Disney gave Rian Johnson (director of Looper) Episode VIII to direct just goes to show that they really know where they are going.