Skip page navigation

Elisabeth Rappe

| e-mail | twitter

Elisabeth Rappe is a regular contributor to Film.com, CHUD, and The Spectator's arts blog. She spends her off-time with comic books, her pug, Elliot, video games, and Clint Eastwood movies.

J.J. Abrams Can’t Save ‘Star Wars’: A Fangirl’s Reaction

I was a Star Wars fan.

This isn’t a remarkable confession. It doesn’t mark me as unusual or special. The only thing that makes me slightly special (and that’s by a tiny margin) is that my fandom fell rather awkwardly in the great span of “Star Wars” history. I was slightly too young to have seen them theaters, but I owned a lot of the “Return of the Jedi” toys. I knew the story and the characters, but I honestly have no memories of seeing the films outside of television.

Instead, my total absorption with the franchise came when I was 13 and read the Timothy Zahn trilogy, which plunged me into an obsession with all things Skywalker for years. It was a weird period — “Star Wars” wasn’t really cool, but it was beginning to be talked about more and more and flourishing thanks to “Star Wars Insider” and the baby Internet. Once the original trilogy was re-released in theaters, “Star Wars” was back in a big way (at least in my world). Then came the announcement of the prequels … and, well, you know that story. We all lived through that.

I haven’t been able to get excited about any of the latest “Star Wars” developments. The news of the Disney/Lucasfilm merger and the announcement of “Star Wars: Episode VII” left me with a feeling of emptiness. Actually, it’s more like weariness — were we really going to do this again? How much abuse and disappointment are we “Star Wars” fans going to take? When will we finally walk away from this toxic relationship of anticipation, anger and disappointment? (And yes, that is a gloomy view for a film that lacks a script and a cast, but it’s so common with popular franchises that it’s hard not to hedge your bets as a fan, and prepare for the worst.)

While I indulged in a bit of speculation — all stemming from the dorky Jedi Academy dreams of my teens — I ended up brushing the news off. Whenever I see a headline about “Star Wars: Episode VII” I have to shake off the cobwebs and remember that it’s really happening. It feels like an April Fool’s headline that keeps on being recycled. I told myself I would probably feel something (perhaps even a real heart flutter) when they announced a director. “Darren Aronofsky Tackles ‘Episode VII’!” Now that could get a fangirl’s heart going!

Star Trek

Now, news has broke that J.J. Abrams — reviver of “Star Trek” — has been offered the director’s chair, and that sense of utter ennui has resumed. I don’t dislike Abrams, exactly. But I feel I know what to expect: a glossy, sexy and flimsy piece of science fiction that I’ll think I liked more than I did, and barely remember a week later. His slick fingerprints are all over current sci-fi filmmaking, and it’s disheartening. The reason people are confused and angrily assuming this means Damon Lindelof will be involved is because no one can tell the difference between a film he writes and a film Abrams makes. If tomorrow we found out Abrams had actually directed “Prometheus” or “Cowboys and Aliens,” it would all make sense.

Picking Abrams for “Star Wars” when he’s already applied his vision — such as it is — to “Star Trek” feels like the ultimate cheat. In fact, it feels worse than that. It feels like that Disney/ Lucasfilm are secretly as bored with “Star Wars” as I am and that no one involved even remembers what made the original trilogy so exciting and fresh. “Star Wars” was a rebel. It was a shaggy, pulpy homage to Sergio Leone and Akira Kurosawa and not shy about wearing its earnestness on its sleeve. No one had seen anything like it.

Now we have. And all we have to look forward to is a revision of the same, a polished-up vision that will be hailed as the fans — via the biggest fan of all, J.J. Abrams — finally getting to have their time to play in the universe. That was something I thought I wanted once, but now I find myself desperate for anything that’s not “Star Wars” and hungering for a galaxy I haven’t seen.

Where is the new “Star Wars”? The new George Lucas and Steven Spielberg? The filmmaker coming out of nowhere with his genre fusion of everything he loves, but dished out with innovation and enthusiasm? I don’t want the guy who is consciously aping Spielberg — to the point of making a movie about being a mini-Spielberg. I want someone who stumbles into that title without meaning to. Put that guy on “Star Wars” and I might be excited. Put Abrams on, and I immediately suspect an alternate timeline, hollow motivations and beautiful explosions.

Star Wars

If 13-year-old Elisabeth could meet 30-year-old Elisabeth, she would probably be frustrated and angry enough with her to throw her Kevin J. Anderson novels at her head (because, frankly, we never liked them) and demand to know what was wrong with her. Isn’t this what we wanted? Hadn’t we spent hours dreaming of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia building a New Republic, paying the price of war and peace and bringing up a new generation of Jedis and diplomats? Didn’t we want to see Luke Skywalker as an Obi-Wan figure, restoring the glory of the Jedi? Hadn’t we secretly hoped for more scenes in grimy cantinas with mercenaries who shot first?

Yes. I did. But that was before the garbled continuity of the prequels and revisions of the original films … and a realization that you shouldn’t keep going back as a fan, only forward. While that seems like a contradiction when speaking of a franchise boldly going onward with fresh blood, it isn’t. Today’s news says nothing so much as that we’re still wrapped up in our “Star Wars” comfort blanket and so fearful of shaking up our action figures that we’re excited they brought in someone we knew could play safely with our toys.

Now, we wait for the familiar names and faces to appear — Tatooine, Skywalker, Hoth, Kenobi — and convince ourselves that it’s really going to be good this time and that we’ll finally get what we want out of the “Star Wars” universe, willfully ignoring that it’s not an exploration of what “Star Wars” could be but an exploitation of what we already know it is.


Categories: Features

Tags: J.j. abrams, Star wars, Star Wars: Episode VII