Altstadt: Why Star Wars VII won’t flop

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Altstadt: Why Star Wars VII won’t flop

Jacob Altstadt, Columnist

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Last Thursday will go down in history. No, not because of some crazy story from the Deuce, but because the second teaser trailer for “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” was released. The collective noise you might have heard was fans across the globe, myself included, spontaneously combusting into a cloud of euphoria and excitement.

But somewhere hidden in that concoction of glee and delectation was a hint of doubt. A shred of apprehension. A dash of caution.

Here is why: The prequel trilogy of Episodes I to III was a letdown, and that’s putting it extremely mildly. The three-part sequence began atrociously with the mildly racist, wholly annoying Jar-Jar Binks, ended with an incredibly forced way of leading Anakin to become Darth Vader and didn’t have a lot in the pros column in between. While the action sequences were pretty stellar, there’s enough wrong plot-wise with the first three episodes that I could fill up about 100 other columns and then some, but I won’t go into that. Instead, I’m here to tell you that the sequel trilogy won’t be a repeat of the prequel trilogy’s shortcomings. In short, Episode VII won’t suck.

From a strictly technical side, the biggest reason that the upcoming sequel will succeed is simply that Star Wars creator George Lucas has no power in the making of the movie, and instead serves as a creative consultant to entertainment powerhouse Disney, which acquired Lucas’ company Lucasfilm. While the imagination, vision and creativity of Lucas are unparalleled by any other movie maker, his script-writing and directing are sub-par when put on the relative scale of other writers and directors in today’s world. Some of the dialogue in the prequel trilogy was an absolute mess, and his directing style rarely expands beyond a static camera position. The mind that was ambitious enough to fabricate Jedis and the entire fantastical culture of the previous six films is not nearly as adept at portraying these incredible entities as it is at ideating them. However, Disney has the resources to take Lucas’ ideas, improve them and conceive a better movie than Lucas ever could.

The biggest asset Disney brings to the table is that it has demonstrated it can take over other companies, like it did Pixar and Marvel, while continuing to create incredibly profitable movies that still respect the original material. This is huge for any Star Wars fan. Since “A New Hope” was released in 1977, the Star Wars entertainment universe has expanded so far beyond the movies that it has created its own culture that transcends race, religion and language. You would be hard-pressed to find someone that doesn’t know where “Luke, I am your father” came from.

Disney understands this. It knows there are millions of fans around the world who expect — and deserve — a trilogy that lives up to the precedent of the original trilogy’s magic. It knows  it is creating a movie that’s second trailer was watched 88 million times in its first 24 hours of existence. Disney is fully cognizant of the pressure it faces, and its track record of success with Pixar and Marvel shows Disney can handle the burden of adding to an already massive franchise. This self-awareness is key, and is a sign Episode VII will live up to its name. Disney is able to learn from Lucas’ mistakes in Episodes I to III, and will make an incredible movie because it has to. It knows it can’t mess up. It knows it can’t make a repeat of the prequel trilogy.

If the absence of Lucas and the presence of Disney combine for the biggest reason for predicted success, then director J.J. Abrams’ influence on the movie is an incredibly close second. Abrams has given new life to the visual quality of Star Wars.

In only the 3 minutes and 39 seconds of footage released in the two trailers — a good chunk of which is only title sequences — it is quite clear Abrams has given a modern spin on a cultural classic while still respecting the tradition of the franchise. Whether it’s the tracking shot of the Millennium Falcon, the Abrams-trademarked solar flare, the handheld feel during the Stormtrooper fight scene or the snap zoom used throughout, Abrams has added a modern directing technique never before seen in a Star Wars film.

Gone are the simple, static camera techniques of the previous six movies. In their place stand Abrams’ modern directing skills that create a vastly new look, yet the trailers don’t feel foreign because there remains a sense of familiarity. This is attributed to the nostalgia induced by recognizable scenes — the Millennium Falcon, Stormtroopers, desert planets, etc. — but more importantly it is done by forgoing the computer-generated imagery that turned off so many traditional fans from the prequel trilogy and instead reverts back to the practical effects that made the original trilogy so magical. By employing practical effects, Abrams will not only make the scenes more realistic and believable, but also inherently improve the actors’ acting abilities because they are able to interact with actual objects instead of green screens. The practical effects guarantee a better movie than the CGI-laced prequel trilogies, and the return to the same type of effects used in the original trilogy promise a film that will live up to the grandeur of Episodes IV to VI.

Whether you consider yourself a Star Wars fan or not, get excited for “The Force Awakens.” It’s going to be awesome.

Jacob Altstadt is a McCormick sophomore. He can be reached at jacobaltstadt2017@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com.

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