Is J.J. Abrams The Right Guy For Star Wars: Episode VII?

In what undoubtedly has become the biggest story of 2013 (and possibly the most important announcement since the last news item related to the Star Wars franchise), it has been reported that J.J. Abrams will helm the wildly anticipated Episode VII for Disney and Lucasfilm, switching gears from Star Trek to Star Wars to place his fingerprints all over two cherished sci-fi properties.

The Wrap broke the story, and the Internet nearly swallowed its own tongue in a race to comment on Abrams’ hiring. A cursory scan of Twitter revealed more of a schism in the sci-fi fanbase than we would have expected. Abrams, after all, is the guy who helped launch “Lost,” reboot Star Trek and idolize Steven Spielberg in the largely supported Super 8. He’s the perfect guy for this new gig … right?

Katey and Sean jumped right into the fray to discuss Abrams’ place at the forefront of the relaunched Star Wars movement. And in a bit of a shock, the cynical Sean raved about Abrams’ hiring while Katey took the cautious wait-and-see stance. Why? We’ll let them explain it to you.

Katey: Sean, part of me is still completely skeptical that this J.J. Abrams/Star Wars news, if only because it seems to break all logical assumptions about how many franchises a single man can handle. But for now, at least, it seems to really be happening. And I think you're far more psyched than I am.

Sean: Well, I am ... for so many reasons. But before I gush, are you not excited? Do you not think he's a good choice? Because I'd go so far as to say he is the best choice, but I'd counted him out because I simply felt there was no way they could possibly get him to do it, and now that it appears that Disney and Kathleen Kennedy have convinced him, I think we're in for something magical.

Katey: I think Abrams is a stellar director, and I'm generally happy to hear about him getting to play on a big palette. But I'm nervous about him jumping into an entirely different franchise, and I'm genuinely skeptical that someone as controlling and precise as Abrams can slip seamlessly into this previously created world, with someone as powerful as Kathleen Kennedy having the final call.

Sean: OK, but here's the thing: Abrams isn't a controlling as Lucas. (At least, not that I'm aware of ... maybe he's a monster behind the scenes!) And Star Wars NEEDS a fresh, open-minded and creative shepherd to take it in a new direction and re-establish it as a film property fans can worship with the same fervor that we did the original trilogy.

As far as I was concerned, Abrams was never coming back to Trek for a third movie. I'm actually surprised he did the sequel. Very few directors continue to have original, innovative things to say by the third film. He needed to move on. And Abrams is a devout Star Wars fan. He's a late 1970s, Spielberg and Lucas-worshipping, sci-fi geek. He has all of the sensibilities of making a Star Wars movie that fits in tone and texture with the original trilogy. He's a smart, creative filmmaker AND a fantastic storyteller. I think he has all of the tools to make a brilliant Star Wars movie, and I'm 900% more excited for the potential of an Episode VII now that we know his name will be next to the title.

Katey: That's all fair enough. And I'm not particularly invested in the idea that Star Trek has been burned, though I do like those films a whole lot. I did actually expect Abrams to finish out the trilogy, if only because-- come on, dude, finish what you started!

And while I don't doubt Abrams's passion for the franchise, hearing about him growing up as a Spielberg-worshipping super-fan makes me think of just one thing: Super 8. That movie was so caught up in its reverence for Spielberg that it failed to exist on its own. Don't you worry the same could happen for Abrams and Star Wars?

Sean: Yes. You have to. Because you are right. Super 8 had flaws, and "Spielberg worship" is one of them. But Abrams isn't tackling Indiana Jones 5. If he were, I'd object. But, if Lucasfilm and Disney have a great idea for the next Star Wars movie, and if Michael Arndt -- a fantastic screenwriter -- is shaping it for Abrams, I think he has all of the right tools (to repeat myself) to make a fantastic, action-packed but character-driven Star Wars movie. I think he managed to bring heart and humor to the Mission: Impossible franchise, which was floundering after John Woo's chapter. I think he repeatedly delivered the goods on Alias. And his Star Trek reboot was light years beyond what people -- even die-hard fans -- thought that it could be. I'm super excited to hear that Abrams has been hired for this. I honestly think he's the perfect person for the job ... and I'm Captain Cynical!!

Katey: Yeah, it's weird to me to be in the position of the Abrams hater, since I adore the Star Trek reboot beyond all reason and, like you, think he can do pretty much anything. I just think I'm nervous about the idea of consolidating these two big franchises under the same person, since blockbusters are already way too similar to each other as it is. I'd rather see what a newcomer might bring to Star Wars, and I'd rather see Abrams use that giant imagination to try something actually original.

Sean: But we've danced around the name of a man who has had multiple franchises under his belt, and we don't bat an eye. I'm not saying that Abrams is the next Spielberg. But "The Beard" -- in his prime -- bounced from Indiana Jones to Jurassic Park to E.T. to Schindler's List, and few batted an eye. I honestly think Abrams can and will make a Star Wars movie that's in line with Star Wars ... and not "Trek 3, Only With Lucas' Characters." Don't get me wrong. There will be lens flares. But aren't you happy that wer'e not Great Debating Simon West's Star Wars right now? I think we're allowed to get excited by this. I think Abrams has the talent to juggle as many franchises as Hollywood's willing to give him. And while I do not want to see him get stuck in a galaxy far, far away for the rest of his career, I think he can do one SW film, get the new trilogy off on the right foot, and then hand it off to another stellar director. The Wrap says Ben Affleck almost got the gig. Lock him up for the sequel right now, and I just might die of joy. Absolute, unfiltered joy.

Katey: I will stick with your joy and put my skepticism aside for now, because you know what? Your way is much more fun.

Katey Rich

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend