What we know so far about “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” after a couple of really cool trailers, is still not very much. The plot continues to be held under wraps, though we do know that a lot of familiar elements, from characters to vehicles and more, will be in the seventh movie in the series. While the movie does take place 30 years after “Star Wars: Episode VI — The Return Of The Jedi,” director J.J. Abrams reveals that there will be hints and references to the earlier movies, as well as what happened in the three decade gap between films. At one time, he had so many of these, he had to pull it back.
“…we’ve obviously had a lot of time [during the development process] to talk about what’s happened outside of the borders of the story that you’re seeing. So there are, of course, references to things, and some are very oblique so that hopefully the audience can infer what the characters are referring to,” he told Vanity Fair, in an interview that’s not yet online. “We used to have more references to things that we pulled out because they almost felt like they were trying too hard to allude to something. I think that the key is—and whether we’ve accomplished that or not is, of course, up to the audience—but the key is that references be essential so that you don’t reference a lot of things that feel like, oh, we’re laying pipe for, you know, an animated series or further movies. It should feel like things are being referenced for a reason.”
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Indeed, it seems Abrams consciously weighed serving his own fandom versus the needs of the narrative, and allowing the movie to stand on its own, as he put it all together. “That, to me, has been the constant struggle: to make sure that none of these things are treated like either they’re a museum piece and we’re trying to honor them or they’re gratuitous and thrown in because, well, it’s a ‘Star Wars’ movie so you’ve got to put these things in. Everything has got to be essential to the characters in the film,” he said.
These are heartening words from the director, who took great pains to avoid falling into the trap of just delivering on nostalgia. We’ll see whether he succeeds or not on December 18th. At least there won’t be any Jar Jar Binks, but if there were, it might look something like this….