Is director J.J. Abrams still committed to Star Wars: Episode VII? The answer is a definite yes. After rumors emerged during Comic-Con that he might be pulling out of the potentially career-defining project, Lucasfilm released a statement on Monday assuring the world that Abrams is still in the director’s chair.
But maybe Abrams isn’t the guy for the job after all. On top of Star Wars, he’ll also be busy working on a third Star Trek film, and that’s a lot of epic storytelling and intergalactic spectacle to handle for one man. With so much anticipation and pressure, a Star Wars reboot is a project that requires one’s undivided attention, and things won’t turn out well if Abrams gets so busy that he starts mixing his Romulans with Rodians.
In our humble opinion, what Star Wars might need is a fresh pair of eyes, one unconcerned with the trials and tribulations of a completely different sci-fi saga. Abrams can handle Episodes VIII and IX, when he doesn’t have other things to work on. But for now, let’s consider a few directors who’d better suit the project.
To take on a saga that’s as simultaneously awe-inspiring, game-changing and close to our hearts as Star Wars, well, that’s got to be tough. But nobody could pull this off better than Matthew Vaughn, who is so qualified and respected that at one point it seemed he actually had the job.
A director with great breadth, Vaughn has taken on the origin stories of Professor X and Magneto in X-Men: First Class, crafted a hilarious and brutal action flick in Kick-Ass and even explored fantasy romance with Stardust. He can work with visual effects and gripping action sequences, but he can also bring out the personality of a character who has a of history. Plus, since he’s opted out of directing X-Men: Days of Future Past, he has some time on his hands.
Guillermo del Toro
It’s unclear what will actually happen in Episode VII – Lucasfilm hasn’t shared any details yet. But if the story finds Luke Skywalker and Co. going back to the old question of good vs. evil, Guillermo del Toro certainly has something to offer. With Pan’s Labyrinth, the auteur plunged into a similar Empire vs. Rebels scenario – only with a fascist Spanish military captain instead of a Darth Vader – producing a stunning, cathartic film.
Granted, Pan’s Labyrinth is also surreal, terrifying and utterly heartbreaking, and Star Wars is none of those things. But as he demonstrated with Pacific Rim, del Toro knows how to please a crowd with lots of awe-inspiring battle scenes (and he isn’t opposed to a little humor, either). His version of Star Wars might be more nuanced and unique, but there’d still be a big payoff, and respect for what the audience wants.
Star Wars has always been a family-friendly affair. The violence isn’t too graphic, and there are plenty of Wookies and Ewoks around to lighten the mood. But, seriously, who hasn’t wished for a rawer, darker, more Game of Thrones-y take on the series? Who hasn’t dreamed of seeing the obnoxious Jar Jar Binks get stabbed through the eye with a light saber? Though it’s an intriguing thought, never in a million years would this project land in the lap of Zero Dark Thirty‘s Kathryn Bigelow – she’s just too edgy, and besides, her only excursion into sci-fi was the overwrought cyberpunk flop Strange Days.
If the executives at Disney ever got it in their heads that it’d be smart to go gritty, Christopher Nolan would be the guy to call. With his acclaimed Dark Knight trilogy, Nolan didn’t simply put a darker spin on a classic superhero story – he brought out the darkness that had always festered in the twisted minds of Gotham City’s villains, as well as in Batman’s own tormented heart. Nolan could do something similar with Episode VII, highlighting all the visceral texture and detail of the story where once the rough edges had been smoothed out.
Of course, rebooting Star Wars isn’t about going gangbusters with a solid franchise. The right director for this enterprise has to give the series something new while simultaneously respecting its legacy. There are narratives and themes to uphold (and multiple generations of fans to please). So maybe Abrams – who’s been a fan of Star Wars since he was a child – is the right guy for the job.
Just don’t mess it up.