The news that JJ Abrams is all but signed on to direct Star Wars Episode VII has set the internet alight with chatter. Despite George Lucas' insistence, you can't hear blasters or exploding X-Wings in space. What you can hear are the sounds of a bloody battle between Trekkies and Star Wars fans (is there a correct noun for a collective of Star Wars fans? Starries? I doubt it). With Abrams responsible for both Star Trek and Star Wars there's a lot of pressure on his shoulders, not least the pressure of keeping fans of both franchises on track and the fans happy and on side.
Abrams is, of course, the right man for the job (He would not have been handed the keys to a multi-billion dollar franchise otherwise). So far Abrams has been involved in some top fare: Mission Impossible 3 was notable for a lot more than Tom Cruise's character having a haircut after John Woo's MI:2, Super 8 was a wonderful film that made me feel nostalgia for a time some twenty years before I was even a twinkle in my father's eye and Lost...well, it started out with the best intentions.
Add this to the Michael Arndt-penned script and the chances of Star Wars Episode VII taking a wrong turn are about equal to the chances of Oliver Stone replying to my emails. To paraphrase John McClane (because Die Hard is my ultimate cultural touch-point), the only fly in the ointment, monkey in the wrench or pain in the ass, might come in the form of a certain George Lucas. Lucas has famously sold his baby to Disney, but is still on board as 'Creative Consultant'.
Whatever his role as 'Creative Consultant' entails, you'd hope it doesn't involve another Jar Jar Binks style cock-up. But what about Star Wars Episodes II and III, you ask, they weren't so bad? Well, more on that in a minute, but for now, let's take a look at Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull. In 2008 there was not a more highly anticipated film. Across the world people rubbed their hands in excitement as the date of Henry Jones Jnr.'s 4th outing neared. A cultural icon, comparable only to James Bond, a new Indy film was huge news. Unfortunately, that year, both tough guy's films left a bitter taste in the mouth across cinemas worldwide.
Both were films you wanted to like. Life-long fans turned up to both with the best of intentions, but something was amiss. George Lucas is not to blame for Bond's failure (unless he's a secret agent/director himself) but he certainly had a hand in Indy's downfall. However, the blame must be shared with a certain Mr Speilberg and a certain Shia LaBeouf (but not you Harrison Ford, never you). Despite its failings, die-hard Indy fans gritted their teeth and did their best to enjoy Crystal Skull, but not even fan-boy-faith could repair the damage done.
The same can be said of the Bond/Indy cross over and Speilberg-produced Cowboys and Aliens. This was a highly anticipated film with a plot crazy enough to work that somehow failed to ignite critics. Ford and Daniel Craig tried their best but there was still something lacking.
Unfortunately this label of 'films we want to like' can be applied to this January's Gangster Squad. This highly-anticipated and highly-delayed film was at the top of everyone's list of New Year's Resolutions, but despite the likes of Josh Brolin and cutie-of-the-moment Ryan Gosling's involvement, the film whimpered into cinemas with more of a misfire than a tommy-gun blast. As Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers pointed out in his review, Gangster Squad felt more like a pastiche of superior genre films LA Confidential, Scarface and The Untouchables than a decent and original take on the gangster tale.
So, JJ Abrams after the last three Star Wars films, please make Episode VII, a film we already want to see and want to love, a film that blows away the memory of the prequel trilogy. To paraphrase Obi-Wan in Revenge of The Sith, 'I loved you like a brother Lucas! You were meant to glorify the Star Wars films, not destroy them!'