Director J.J. Abrams is hardly a simple journeyman when it comes to big-budget cinematic epics. With one of his major accolades being the successful rebooting the entire Star Trek franchise, one would think that no particular project could intimidate him. Well, it turns out that his work with the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens has him excited, but also a bit freaked - for one reason in particular. In a recent interview, Abrams candidly revealed his fears about the bevy of spoiler material that has flooded the news cycles, leaving him apprehensive.
During a conversation with Australia’s news.com.au, Abrams discussed the difficulty in ensuring that his work on Star Ware: The Force Awakens remains opaque from the public - something extremely difficult to do in this day and age. According to Abrams,
The level of scrutiny is pretty much unprecedented for me. My dream is that, despite so many rumors — many of which are true, many of which are untrue — when people see the movie, they see something that hasn’t been completely ruined for them by having read spoilers they might not have wanted to read.
Still overseeing post-production editing for the The Force Awakens, Abrams’ candor expresses legitimate concerns regarding how the internet spoiler culture affects the rollout strategy for big budget films. A solid spoiler story can have the possible effect of derailing a film’s long-planned momentum when it comes to that critical element of surprise. This is something that J.J. Abrams knows all too well from his experience with the publicity buildup to 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness, and the waters that were chummed with speculation surrounding true identity of its villain in Benedict Cumberbatch’s "John Harrison."
After fielding some red herring rumors that may have been self-leaked by those involved with the movie, it didn’t take the collective internet blogosphere long to figure out that Cumberbatch’s character was actually the iconic Trek villain Khan Noonien Singh. The revelation, which would ultimately prove correct, was still met with denials from both cast and creative that doubled down claims that were blatantly false, all the way up to the date of the film’s release. Yet, it was all in the name of keeping the most critical secret of the film.
However, with The Force Awakens, Abrams seems to be trying less dishonest approach to squelching potential fires. In fact, in the provided quote, Abrams does his best not to insult our intelligence by admitting the truth to a number of rumors swirling around; some of which theorize about critical deaths of beloved characters. However, while leaked ideas are almost impossible to stop, the Star Wars sequel has clearly taken more effective steps to at least keep a lid on the verifiability of such stories and has left fans with only the most vague confirmed descriptions with a little over 8 months until release.
While coming into a completely new set of films with new characters tends to hinder the kind of speculation that led to the "Khan Harrison" debacle, confirmed spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens would be even more monumentally damaging. Unlike with Star Trek, Abrams isn’t just reconfiguring a franchise - he’s creating an entirely new infrastructure on which the entire new batch of Star Wars films will essentially rest. If key details of THAT were to be confirmed, unfair judgements would immediately be formed that would create a ripple effect for every one of the new Star Wars sequels (one of which he may return to direct) and the spinoff films from this point on. Thus, his apprehension with the property is certainly understandable.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens will do its best to keep secrets and ensure that we don’t figure out that Benedict Cumberbatch plays Salacious Crumb when it hits theaters on December 18th.