For some fans, the last great “Star Wars” film was “Return of the Jedi” in 1983. So stakes couldn’t be higher for J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy and Lawrence Kasdan.
The trio want to make good on their promise to deliver audiences on a return mission to that cherished galaxy, “far, far away,” and if recent trailers are any indicator, the first film in this highly anticipated triumvirate won’t disappoint. George Lucas has handed the baton to a younger, successful filmmaker, and in doing so, may quell the worried camp of fans who don’t accept the last three prequels as “Star Wars” canon.
Admitting to skepticism, J.J. Abrams revealed to Entertainment Weekly that he wasn’t always on board to direct:
“[They] had just been hypothesizing and throwing out a bunch of what-ifs, but there was no story in place … It was, without doubt, a formidable assignment. There were so many options and so many paths that could be taken. Even when we were in debate — and sometimes it was frustrating and heated — it was always thrilling, because it seemed almost everywhere you looked there was something potentially extraordinary, which felt very much like the DNA of Star Wars itself.”
In fact, it wasn’t until Kathleen Kennedy spoke to Abrams about the origins of Luke Skywalker that things finally went into place. For Abrams, Skywalker still felt like an enigma of sorts. He was fascinated by the idea that after 30 years, the dark side could find a way to overpower the no-longer-young hero. After all, a lot can happen in 30 years — just look at the careers of Hamill, Fisher, and Ford. “Star Wars” launched Ford into mega stardom, but not so for the others, with scarcely any work in Hollywood and a drug and alcohol problems on the way to rock bottom.
“Any good story has conflict,” Abrams told EW. “And if all were rosy 30-some years post-Jedi, we would be hard-pressed to find an interesting story to tell.”
Abrams knew he wanted to he get around the idea that Luke could sustain a headstrong path unlike his father. Abrams wanted to dig deeper into the soul of the character, simply by unearthing aspects of his childhood, psyche, and most importantly, the mental cost of fighting an endless war against the evil Empire.
“Those four words — Who is Luke Skywalker? — created a disturbance in the Force for [Abrams]. After all these years, we thought we knew him, but what if there was more to that Tatooine farmboy? Or… what if there was less? The answer could alter not just how audiences look at the original trilogy, but the arc of a planned universe.”
Evidently, Kasdan (who had no role in Lucas’ much-maligned prequels) and Abrams needed to venture back in order to look forward, and spend many days walking (for miles at a time) discussing the fragmented world they were inheriting. Their tape recorder captured every conceivable outcome, and helped mold the character into a possible dystopian antihero.
“War distorts any soul, and getting older always comes with compromises. Each one takes a piece of you — parts that can’t be replaced like a cybernetic hand.”
While it’s still impossible to guess whether these discussions have bear any weight when the film opens December 18, the intent is to build upon a revered figure that justifies the gang’s return after all these years. Otherwise, we’d get another Holiday Christmas special. And nobody ever wants to see that again.