When I recently wrote about modern franchise movies showing signs of fan fiction, Star Wars, of course, weighed heavily on my mind. About a year ago, I had already expressed my fear that The Force Awakens might end up a sort of Star Wars simulacrum, but J. J. Abrams’ answer to an audience question at San Diego Comic Con a few weeks ago appeased me somewhat. Here’s what he said:
I watched Star Wars with my parents, too. It means very much to me as it means to many of you, so I feel like the only answer I can give you is: We love it, we care about it so much. Our job is to not be blinded by that, meaning you can’t just be a fan and then make a movie because you’re a fan. It’s not enough, you gotta really say: What’s the story? I’m gonna tell you from personal experience, when you’re directing a scene on the Millennium Falcon, it doesn’t make the scene good. Now, it’s bitchin’ that it’s on the Millennium Falcon, you want scenes on the Millennium Falcon. If I can make a suggestion, direct scenes on the Millennium Falcon, it’s hugely helpful. But it doesn’t make the scene automatically good. So you have to ask – it’s literally Storytelling 101 – what do the characters want? Who are they? What makes this interesting? What’s unexpected? It has to be fun, it has to be scary. The power of what has come before is so infectious and so deep that you have to harness it, but you can’t be blinded by it. And it’s a constant thing, working with [screenwriter] Larry [Kasdan] and [producer] Kathleen [Kennedy], there were always checks and balances, saying, “That’s really cool, but what does it mean?” You know? Why are we doing this?