I’m influenced here by the fact that the best “Star Wars” movie, “Empire Strikes Back,” was directed by Irvin Kershner, a filmmaker who combined a distinct absence of sci-fi experience with an appropriate skepticism toward the man whose vision he was charged with translating into mass-market entertainment. When he set to work on “Empire,” Kershner’s previous two films were “The Eyes of Laura Mars” and “Raid on Entebbe,” both contemporary thrillers with nary a blaster to be seen. Yet the movie he made is the only “Star Wars” installment that transcends genre, and approaches art.
-NYT’s Ross Douthat on why Ben Affleck should be directing the next Star Wars movie instead of J.J. Abrams.
Another excellent article on why Abrams, Bird, Whedon and other “geek” directors aren’t not the droids we’re looking for can be found on Grantland.
Wanna know who my pick was? Matt Reeves. Heard of him? Exactly. He’s an Abrams protege who directed Cloverfield and the American remake of Let the Right One In.
The trouble with directing Star Wars is that you need to direct “Star Wars,” which means it’s not “your next movie,” it’s Star Wars. That’s why directors with already recognizable visual styles are bad ideas. All we’re going to get from Abrams are either lens flares OR the conspicuous absence of lens flares. We’re undoubtedly also in for a deluge of unwanted easter eggs–y’know for the fans. Well, fellas, I’m a fan and guess what? I HATE EASTER EGGS. I don’t hunt for them, I don’t enjoy picking them out, and when they happen to be so directly in my brain’s way that I cannot avoid them–these large, pink and yellow bulbous masses of hollow recollections and repeated lines–then all I get is a a brief charge of “oh I remember that” and a chuckle. Then I try to explain to my wife why I chuckled. I do and then she doesn’t care. And then I realize that I don’t care either and that I just missed two or three lines of dialogue trying to care. If I want inside jokes I’ll go hang out with my nerdy friends and we’ll make them later. When I go to the movies, I want a good story. Easter eggs should probably be the subject of its own post, but I’ll close out this tangent with a thought: are we really so incapable of earnestly enjoying popular fiction that we have to embed irony and meta-awareness into our fiction? This is proof that fan-culture needs to go away. Yep. No more comic con. No more T-shirts. No more message boards. Why? Because they’re starting to write us into the fantasy stories we love. When I go to see Star Wars, I do not want the characters to talk to me, I want them to talk to each other. Earnestness is key. There needs to be something inside of his “mystery box” this time, and that’s a trick he has yet to pull off.
Reeves seems like a guy who’s geek conversant enough to know what he’s dealing with, he can use special effects creatively instead of liberally, and he hasn’t developed any distinctive visual style yet. He could have stepped up to the plate and made a really original Star Wars movie without leaving any fingerprints. And while it may be that Abrams will make an enjoyable film, I feel that his very involvement will make it forgettable for the reasons just mentioned. I’ll close with a short quiz question.
What do you think when you hear the phrase: “The Empire Strikes Back.” Check a. or b.
a. “I Am Your Father”
b. Irvin Kirschner
I thought so.