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With all of the recent buzz regarding Star Wars: Episode VII, it’s quite apparent that there has been both positive and negative feedback towards J.J. Abrams being the choice director to revamp the franchise. Abrams, who also recently directed the reboot of Star Trek (as well as its sequel Star Trek Into Darkness), managed to nab critical acclaim for his work on the Trek franchise, but again seemed to be split half-and-half in the fandom department.
It will have been a full decade since Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005) when Episode VII hits theaters next December, and some fans are still cautious and feeling “betrayed” over the mediocre job George Lucas showed us with the prequel trilogy. However, as far as Abrams goes I can honestly say that after looking at the pure facts; I cannot think of a better director to take the reins in this case than J.J.
By the way, I should probably say this now so that it doesn’t confuse the rest of the piece; I do not hate the Star Wars Prequels as so many others care to share. Personally, I grew up with the prequels being released in succession while watching the VHS tapes of Episodes IV-VI. That was my version of the experience fans of the original trilogy got to live 20 years earlier. Though in my complete personal opinion, I am able to recognize the faults in the prequels while still holding a place for them in my heart. (Is that so hard to realize, internet?). Let’s continue…
The way I see it, you watch all six Star Wars films enough times and you start to realize not only the qualities and themes of each individual installment, but also the different feel each movie offers up. It was ultimately right of Lucas to offer up the director’s chair to Irvin Kershner for The Empire Strikes Back. After seeing how Lucas handled the prequels, you can’t help but wonder how Empire and Return of the Jedi would have turned out had he directed the entire original trilogy. Would the sequels have held up in 2014?
Like I said, the biggest problem with the prequel trilogy is clearly Lucas’ directing job. Instead of bringing the best out of the A-list actors he hired- such as Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman and Samuel L. Jackson- we are presented a group of one-sided characters who show little-to-no emotion throughout the entire trilogy (cough Hayden Christensen). The concepts are there; politics, transformation and an expansive galaxy. So much is crammed into seven hours of film out of what was originally created as a massive universe, that you realize why the demand is so high for the “Expanded Universe” material (comics, novels, etc.).
That being said, I recently thought up a list of which three directors I think could have made Episodes I-III all the better, with their unique and tasteful styles who would be worthy of creating a Star Wars film. Mind you I am ultimately creating “What If” scenarios.
Episode I: The Phantom Menace – Steven Spielberg
Examples of work: Indiana Jones franchise, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park
Steven Spielberg, thought of by many as the king of filmmaking, has been suspiciously absent from the Star Wars saga after nearly 40 years. He has worked closely with George Lucas and Lucasfilm on all four Indiana Jones films between 1981 and 2008, and has tested his hand at several different genres. Whether it be sci-fi, adventure, historical pieces or crime dramas; Spielberg has done it all. His sense of wonder in E.T., action in Indiana Jones, suspense in Jaws, and creatures in Jurassic Park are just a few stellar examples of why this man could and should have directed The Phantom Menace. Perhaps he could have made Jake Lloyd a little less annoying (or even JarJar, if possible). Either way you look at it, Episode I is full of elements similar to what Spielberg has built his career off of; making the audience astounded by what they are watching.
Episode II: Attack of the Clones – Jon Favreau
Examples of work: Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Cowboys & Aliens, Zathura
Maybe not twelve years ago, which is what makes this choice a bit different; but the Jon Favreau who has now become an established director, producer and actor would have made a great fit to direct Attack of the Clones if we knew what he was capable of back in 2002. His adventurous seen in the first two Iron Man movies, as well as even-pacing and mysterious tone of the critically-bashed Cowboys & Aliens, is everything someone should want in a Star Wars movie. Favreau’s witty, lovable characters in his films like the previously-mentioned Iron Man and his newest movie Chef also seem to have the unique personalities you’d expect from any Wars-related project.
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith – James Cameron
Examples of work: The Terminator, Aliens, T2: Judgement Day, Avatar
Without question, Revenge of the Sith has the largest scale of all six films. We are brought to multiple planets, introduced to several races of aliens and creatures, and hands down the darkest story of the saga so far. Revenge is truly a movie of suffering, hatred and loss, and unfortunately set the prequel trilogy on a decent track just a little too late. The writing may not have been much better, and the characters seemed to have a hard time developing; but it was definitely the most promising of the prequels. James Cameron has had plenty of experience with the sci-fi genre, and would have been the perfect choice to direct Episode III. He can jump from the largest of scales, i.e. Avatar, to tight and confined action sequences like in Aliens. Not to mention his creative abilities when it comes to creatures and iconic characters. Cameron’s broad and adventurous tone of directing would do Star Wars some serious justice if given the opportunity.
While the Star Wars prequels may not have been everything the average fan had hoped they would be, they do exist. George Lucas created three films that simply did not sit well with audiences, though it does give a lot of hope to J.J. Abrams now that he has his time in the franchise’s spotlight. Even though I think Abrams will do a stellar job jump-starting the saga, I honestly hope Episodes VIII and IX are tested with two different, equally talented directors.
– Josh Sazin, 6/15/14