By: Samuel James (@SJM91)
Just when we thought we saw the end of the space opera franchise in May 2005 with the final prequel Revenge Of The Sith and George Lucas’ ‘retirement’ in 2011. However, that all changed in October 2012 following Disney’s purchase of LucasFilm for $4 billion and the quick announcement of a Star Wars: Episode VII, and possible new trilogy, in the works. This news caused a great deal of controversy within the media. This could be because that fans of the original trilogy had become disappointed by the prequels, there would not necessarily need to be another in the series. In addition, knowing Hollywood throughout recent years with their continuous release of sequels, remakes and reboots, the idea of producing another Star Wars film could just be another way of money-grubbing. In that sense, the concept of Episode VII could be taking credit from the financial success of both previous trilogies. At the same time, the announcement of Episode VII has raised a high level of curiosity and anticipation. Throughout the development of Star Wars: Episode VII, the script has been written and Disney are scheduled to shoot the film soon for a December 2015 release. Now during the pre-production process of the seventh instalment, it has been the subject of many film-related articles and it seems the media are following its every step. Therefore, they already know how big this film is going to be. This essay will be examining certain concepts of Star Wars: Episode VII’s pre-production process before filming begins and whilst doing so, will illustrate how and why it could surpass Avatar as the greatest blockbuster in cinema history.
It may be a strong statement to say that Star Wars: Episode VII could become the biggest film of all time. James Cameron’s Avatar went beyond anything we’d see before with its breakthrough in technological effects and cinematic experience in watching 3D on the big screen. As already stated, we are experiencing rapid technological changes and practically everything has a link to technology. From what we have seen in the Star Wars franchise so far with the original and prequel trilogies, technological effects have become vital for the time of each film’s release that have become visual landmarks, not only in the science-fiction genre but cinema as a whole. Although we know that the original trilogy was approximately 30-40 years ago and the fact that visual effects have changed so rapidly, the distinct realism of mise-en-scéne in those films, such as using actual props, provided the audience with a sense of visual pleasure that drew them even closer to what was seen on screen. Meanwhile, after 15 years, technological effects changed for the prequels due to the excessive use of computer-generated imagery. The two trilogies have shown so far different and more advanced visual scale for two different generations. This is where Episode VII comes into it. We all know that technology is currently at the prime of its time due to the re-birth of 3D and invention of higher frames and high-definition. Due to audiences having experienced the space opera franchise in two different eras, Episode VII could combine the use of actual props in mise-en-scéne and CGI effects. The ability to do this in Episode VII would certainly satisfy fans of the series by providing them with a balance of originality in mise-en-scéne of Episodes IV, V and VI, particularly if it’s aiming to grasp the realistic follow-up impression of Return Of The Jedi after approximately 30 years. In addition, computer-generated images would provide the series with a technologically updated Star Wars film for yet another different generation and to enhance the fantastical experience of space and science-fiction even more.
Selecting the director of Star Wars: Episode VII has been be a very decisive, narrowed decision and having the responsibility to handle so much weight on their shoulders would have to be very decisive and certain. After months of speculations and countless rumours, the choice of director went to J.J. Abrams. When you look back at his filmography, you’ll notice that he has already directed the two Star Trek reboots, two other science-fiction films and perhaps the enemy series of Star Wars. Both Trekkie films had been met with critical and commercial acclaim with some critics and fans stating that Abrams has provided the best Star Trek instalments in the series so far. Plus, the success of Star Trek and Star Trek: Into Darkness perhaps caught the attention of those who did not necessarily appreciate or not watch the older, original Trekkie films and judging from what Abrams has already done with Star Trek, imagine what he is capable of doing with Star Wars: Episode VII. So, although we are currently facing two science-fiction franchises releasing instalments from the same director, it seems that they could have been handed to the right one.
Furthermore, Abrams likes to be secretive with plot and character details when writing his screenplays and during production. Out of all of the news reports since the announcement of Star Wars: Episode VII’s release, Abrams has provided us with only minor details. He has not been telling us much at all the plot summary or principle character information. The audience would be extremely keen and curious to know what Abrams and the rest of the crew have in store for us. In fact, there have already been multiple plot theories about whether Episode VII will be an entirely new instalment or whether it will feature certain elements of Episodes IV, V and VI, particular recurring characters and actors. Similarly, we have seen a tremendous amount of fan art concerning Episode VII’s poster. Some are deliberately referenced from the prequels and originals but we have also seen that there are some which are not. This creates the impression that Star Wars still has a timeless legacy of cultural fandom and maintains an impact on society. Nevertheless, Abrams’ secretive strategies and his current approach to science-fiction cinema have established his status as an auteur. These methods, therefore, enhance further anticipation. It has worked twice so far with Star Trek and Super 8, so it could work with Star Wars. Only time will tell, though, of course. Even the end name of the film’s title will be vital to how audiences will feel about it, especially when it will relate to the plot in just a few small words. So, even the anticipation for that is intensely high and will create further discussion when it’s announced about what we’ll see in the film.
Although George Lucas is the creator of Star Wars, his reputation as a filmmaker and writer had been severely jeopardised by the critical reception of the prequel trilogy. He will not be the screenwriter or the director of Episode VII but he will have a role in the telling of the story which in the original trilogy, except Episode IV as writer and director, the storyteller was almost the only role he took. So, these basics of Episode VII already create a difference between it and the prequels. Episode VII seems rather promising in terms of screenwriter choices. Abrams is collaborating with Michael Arndt, an Academy-Award winning writer for Little Miss Sunshine in 2006 and Oscar-nominated screenplay for Toy Story 3 in 2010. Arndt has already shown that he is capable of writing a powerful script with Little Miss Sunshine but more importantly, Toy Story 3 was another serious project with the makers of the film having a tremendous amount of weight on their shoulders. Therefore, Arndt is capable of single-handedly penning a generation-defining project onto the big screen. Abrams and Arndt have also collaborated with Lawrence Kasdan, who co-wrote Empire Strikes Back, arguably the greatest Star Wars film, and Return Of The Jedi. This immediately provides the audience with a sense of reassurance that there will be a vital piece of the original films part of this new instalment even after so many years.
The major difference, between the prequels and originals, other than visual effects and technological changes, compared to these new Star Wars films is that the former two trilogies were independently produced under LucasFilm. However, after Disney’s purchase of LucasFilm in October 2012 for $4.6 billion changed that and consequently the Star Wars universe. Disney already caused controversy after purchasing Marvel, another huge corporation, in December 2009 for $4 billion and has since produced some of the highest grossing films of all time. Similarly, each of the Star Wars films have been financial hits and have all provided the audience with a spectacle experience. So due to Disney’s purchase of LucasFilm, it seems like Disney have all the money in the world to make another new Star Wars film for a new generation, and perhaps on a visual scale the most spectacular one to date.
Since the announcement of Episode VII, we have been hearing speculations of central cast members in the original trilogy returning to the Star Wars series after 31 years. After Return Of The Jedi, Harrison Ford has made his presence well known in films, such as the Indiana Jones series, The Fugitive, Patriot Games, Air Force One and is expected to star in The Expendables 3. However, it has been sometime since we have seen Ford in a hit film so his appearance in Star Wars: Episode VII would not only extremely satisfy fans of the original trilogy but will reinvent his acting career once again, whilst he still can even at 71 years old. Meanwhile, other cast members Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker have yet to provide any stand-out on-screen roles since Star Wars originals, except the latter two in the prequels. Hamill may have voiced the Joker, an iconic comic book character, and Fisher may be an award-winning author but within society and in the film industry, they are only really known for their involvement in the originals. So, to see them return in blockbusters, especially to reprise their roles after so many years will surely attract more fans of different ages.
Disney already know about how important Star Wars: Episode VII will be to the audience upon its release. This is perhaps why they have made the decision to allow open auditions for casting. This strategy allows the audience to become closer to the film, whether they are serious about starring it for their acting talent or purely out of fandom. Either way, spectators will clearly become attracted to this gesture. Interestingly, open auditions break off type-casting with stars being cast for possessing certain qualities that draw them into a role and interestingly, witnessing someone providing their breakthrough appearance in a role could work. No, I didn’t work with Hayden Christensen in the prequel trilogy but apart from the supposed appearance of Leia, Luke, Han, Lando, C-3PO and R2-D2, we will meet brand new characters. So, I don’t think casting decisions will be as dangerous, intense or as controversial compared to the prequels. Nevertheless, whoever will be taking on big responsibilities of starring Star Wars: Episode VII will have the audience on them like a ton of bricks. On a similar note, Adam Driver has been announced as the first cast member of Star Wars: Episode VII in the role of the yet-to-be-named antagonist. Driver, who has been in very minor roles in film but is currently a star in HBO series Girls. He has yet to make a name for himself in cinema, and a vital appearance in Star Wars: Episode VII could be his chance. After all, the majority of actors in the original Star Wars trilogy were not huge stars in the film industry until 1977 when A New Hope was released. So Driver’s role as the villain, who looks like he could pull off an interesting evil antagonist, could take an interesting twist in his career. Nevertheless, it appears Disney are being extremely selective with the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII and, therefore, reliable. So whoever else they decide to cast could, at least up until the film’s release and everyone watches it, become an interesting decision.
The point in this essay is made clearly that Star Wars: Episode VII could surpass Avatar as the highest-grossing film in cinema history. Every aspect of the film’s production has increased intense attraction and publicised fandom within both the media and the audience. Star Wars: Episode VII could become the start of a new era for not only the series but Disney’s possession of LucasFilm and for the science-fiction genre in this generation. Only time will tell, of course, in December 2015 of whether an Episode VII was a good idea or not but until then whilst it is still in production today, we can hope for a special Christmas treat with not only a new Star Wars film but with the biggest blockbuster of all time.
Color Out of Space – a terrific adaptation of Lovecraft’s story
While watching movies, we experience a lot of emotions, from happiness to nostalgia, depending on what movie we are enjoying....