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The news broke on Friday, and was quickly confirmed by many sources close to the project. Across the nation, joyous fans raced for their Han Solo vests and Boba Fett masks, joining together in one perfectly executed, countrywide Wookiee roar.
J.J. Abrams has agreed to direct the new “Star Wars” movie.
For a group of fans that spent many years being disappointed, this should be a welcome change. Abrams, a brilliant director with a cultish following, has directed films like “Super 8″ (2011), “Mission: Impossible III” (2006) and (probably not coincidentally) the wonderfully revamped “Star Trek” franchise (“Star Trek” in 2009 and the upcoming “Star Trek Into Darkness,” set to release in May).
Abrams’ TV work, however, was what developed him the loyal following of fans. Starting out with actress-driven shows like “Felicity” and “Alias,” Abrams then moved on to sci-fi-heavy series like “Lost,” “Fringe,” “Person of Interest” and “Revolution,” all of which bear that notable Abrams touch: likable characters, fast pacing, great writing and high-quality special effects (but only when they add to the story).
This will be a welcome change of pace from the direction the “Stars Wars” empire has been taking. George Lucas, the original “Star Wars” creator, lit the world on fire with the first three movies, but got seriously lost somewhere along the way when he put together the three newer films. Armed with an unlikable protagonist (Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader), negatively memorable side characters (like the buffoonish CGI alien Jar Jar Binks and Samuel L. Jackson’s poorly written and overly serious Jedi Master Mace Windu) and virtually no recognizable human dialogue, Lucas disappointed nearly every fan of the franchise.
The films were criticized for their heavy reliance on computer-generated imagery, putting the actors in front of gaudy and unbelievably ornate green-screen scenes, while forgetting to link those scenes with any character development, humor or script. Many fans thought Lucas was simply getting too old for the business and was focused too heavily on the technology side of movie-making, rather than the human one. Like a kid with a bunch of new toys, Lucas inserted scenes inside volcanoes or mammoth droid factories, or alongside scenic pod-racing routes (the worst part of all three movies).
With the $4.05 billion sale of Lucasfilm to the Walt Disney Corporation being finalized in October, the unspoken rumors seem to be that, if the franchise is to be rebooted, Lucas would have no more than a consulting role. And that seems to be more of a “don’t call us; we’ll call you” situation.
Lucas, however, did have a hand in selecting the new director of “Star Wars: Episode VII,” which is expected to hit theaters in 2015. He endorsed the choice of Abrams.
“I’ve consistently been impressed with J.J. as a filmmaker and storyteller,” said Lucas in his statement, released after the selection of Abrams was announced. “He’s an ideal choice to direct the new ‘Star Wars’ film, and the legacy couldn’t be in better hands.”
The new film will also be helped by Michael Arndt — the Oscar-winning writer of “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Toy Story 3″ and the upcoming “Hunger Games” sequel — who is now writing the screenplay. Between Abrams and Arndt, the new franchise should at least meet the same impressive standards as the rebooted “Star Trek” franchise.
And it had better not be anything like the last “Star Wars” reboot.