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For A More Civilized Age

J.J. Abrams Might Not Get to Keep Star Wars a Secret…

J.J. Abrams is infamous for secrecy. Whether it was his hand in Lost, the biggest secret keeping show of all time, or perhaps most prominently now, the basic identity of Benedict Cumberbatch‘s villainous character in Star Trek Into Darkness, the director likes to keep his spoilers spoilery. The only other person in Hollywood who comes close might be Christopher Nolan.

But Abrams’ deal to make Star Wars VII isn’t just any old deal. He’s working for Disney now, and if there’s one thing they’re going to be watching very closely, its their historic revitalization of the Star Wars franchise. You should know what’s coming next: Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy talking about the need to embrace the fan culture that demands detail upon detail before the release of a movie.

Kennedy was recently interviewed by Screen Slam, and this exchange occured:

Now how important is secrecy for the company [while making Star Wars VII], and how do you try and keep secrets considering how fast things are traveling?

We talk about that all the time. I think the whole issue of confidentiality is gonna be fascinating as we move into making the movie. If we’re shooting anything outside, it’s almost impossible to not have things end up on the Internet. So my feeling is, you need to embrace that, especially with the fans around something like Star Wars. You need to recognize they’re important to the process and acknowledge there are things you’re gonna want to make sure they get to know. So I think that’s something we’re going to monitor, pay attention to and think differently about.

Does this mean that J.J. Abrams will have to relax some of his usual standards of secret keeping? Quite possibly. This will be good news for some, bad news for others. I’ve heard the argument that stories should ascribe to be just as compelling whether or not you know their “spoilers,” and I think while that makes sense and is a laudable goal for creatives, it’s equally as laudable for a viewer to strive towards that lovely frission of having a twist revealed for the first time.

In the context of Star Wars, though, this debate gets even more interesting, I think. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know that Darth Vader is Luke’s father and that he and Leia are brother and sister, but I do remember watching the Star Wars movies for the first time. It’s a demonstrable fact that those movies succeed even after their most fundamental realizations are broad and established cultural knowledge. Lets hope that, regardless of how close they keep their production secrets, Abrams and Disney can give us a good addition to that cultural knowledge.

(via Blastr.)

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  • 2nihon

    I deliberately avoided watching any trailers or rumors about Episode 1. After watching Episode 1 twice and trying my darnedest to force myself to like it, I finally got honest with myself and ignored 2 and 3.

    I will do my best to avoid any spoilers on Episode VII, hoping to be pleasantly surprised. I’m keeping my expectations deliberately low, though I’m comforting myself with the fact that there really aren’t any directors I can think of who could ruin Star Wars more than George Lucas.

  • Mary Kirk

    And I know that Lucas worked very hard to keep the movies a secret before they were released originally. Why should that be different now. Doesn’t seem fair.

  • feanna fey

    Well, I think a good story should be able to be just that, a good (and entertaining) story no matter how spoiled you are: AKA: It has to be watchable more than once (or twice, with the second time getting clues for the spoiler).

    I do try to not watch too many clips and elaborate trailers, because I want the story to unfold as a whole. (And I’m not totally immune to the spoiler thing, I still think they shouldn’t have given away the Hulk catching Tony, that would habe been a nice in-movie-relveal, but it’s still cool even when you know it.)

    SO many stories we go into spoiled. Some because of certain storytelling conventions (if it’s a tragedy/a certain type of play etc.) and so many classics etc. and yet they’re still awesome. (Modern example: Secretariat, that movie was so good at creating tension and emotion even though most people going in knew who’d win.)

    BUT: Much more important than Spoler/notSpoiler for me is the basic attitude towards the fans. Because I’m getting SO tired of the Star Trek stuff where Abrams is all: This is NOT like that other Star Trek with those ikkie Trekkie people!!! I can undestand wanting to get away from the stupid stereotype, but maybe do it by embrcing the actual awesome that exists and disproving that stereotype AS stupid… (Also, way to alianate a lot of very passionate people who would also be likely to spread word of your movie and also you know pay lots and lots of money for stuff.)

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s sad that we live in a day where artists (of any medium) aren’t allowed the freedom to conduct their creative process without fans feeling entitled to scrutinize every single step along the way (oftentimes taking ugly personal shots for things as trivial as how test makeup looks, casting an actor with different hair color as a fictional character, and having the audacity to want audiences to see the movie as unspoiled as possible). It speaks to the supposed need for fanboys and fangirls to assert as much control as possible over their favorite properties for fear that they won’t get exactly what they want.

    None of us would be comfortable with being scrutinized as we prepared for our work day – our bosses standing over our shoulder giving disapproving looks as we selected our wardrobe, showered, prepared breakfast, etc. All we owe them – and all artists owe us – is their best effort; and that can, ultimately, only be judged by the final product they give us. I think it’s a shame that JJ Abrams gets as much hate as he does, largely because he likes to do what every single artist in the history of art has tried to do, keep people out of his studio so that he can create freely. Just as we want studios out of the process, we should also stay out of the process.

    And, no, the fact that he’s working on Star Wars doesn’t change that fact. We don’t own the property, we don’t get to set the rules as to how it’s handled. [/rant]

  • James J.J. Carter

    Lol… that’s pretty much what I’ve been saying to folks who are disappointed about Disney buying it: it can’t be any worse than having Lucas at the helm. Even Disney’s merchandising tactics aren’t as disruptive to the films as Lucas’s are.

  • Squirrel

    Disney does own the property. And they set the rules for how its handled. Disney has its own share of fanboys, having dealt with Marvel movies for a few years now. Dont get the oppinion that The Mouse is going to lay down to fanboy demands. But, Abrams isnt going to be able to keep things like casting roles a secret.

  • 2nihon

    Plus we won’t get ‘special editions’ every ten years that mess with the plot of the movie. Disney may do a new transfer and clean up the image once a decade or so, but they don’t screw with the films themselves (aside from airbrushing out offensive elements that naughty animators snuck in here and there) and they tend to add nifty new behind-the-scenes things. Abrams strikes me as a ‘been there, done that’ guy when it comes to his films: if there was a mistake, oh well, the film is done and let’s move on.

  • Anonymous

    I didn’t suggest Disney didn’t own the rights, rather I stated that the fans don’t. Disney, as per Kennedy’s interview, is already considering how to go about production while keeping the info-hungry fans appeased, which is rather sad. So I’m already rather concerned that every piece of detail about production will be leaked and scrutinized and rejected ad nauseum until the movie’s release. As for the cast, of course that won’t be a secret, nor would I expect it to be. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that items typically revealed during production shouldn’t be (casting, for instance), but that it shouldn’t be expected that plot details, final designs, etc should be. I wouldn’t shake down Adele for the songwriting particulars of her next album while she was in the process of creating it, and I wouldn’t shake down Disney or Abrams for Star Wars particulars while they’re making it. When the trailers, previews, and critics’ reviews emerge, then I’ll decided whether to purchase a ticket, but I won’t look for justification this early in the process.

  • Tanya Taylor

    What Disney should do is honor the spirit of the Star Wars movies… ALL of it and keep their damn yaps shut!