J.J. Abrams On Spoilers, Pacing, and Advanced Planning For Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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J.J. Abrams has already mapped out the plot for the next few Star Wars films: “The script for VIII is written,” he told Wired in a surprisingly spoiler-free interview about how he had painstakingly planned, plotted, and placed the narrative arc for the upcoming trilogy. Abrams also emphasized that any credit for the narrative should be shared with his co-writers Lawrence Kasdan, co-writer for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and Michael Arndt, writer for Toy Story 3 and Little Miss Sunshine.

With that many talents on board, and with so much careful planning, it seems worth daring to hope that The Force Awakens will meet expectations — although, like everyone else, I’m trying to keep mine in check. Abrams spoke at length about the difficulty of knowing what to hype and what to leave hidden:

There’s a really positive side to keeping quiet. You can protect the audience from spoilers or certain moments that, in a way, obviate the movie experience. But on the other hand, you risk being seen as coy or as a withholding shithead …

I don’t want to destroy too many illusions. We’re walking a tightrope. If you fall on one side it’s no good, because we’re showing too much. If you fall on the other side it’s no good, because we’re not showing anything and we look like arrogant jerks.

Abrams seems self-aware about his own shortcomings, as well, remarking that he’d wished he’d had a better handle on the narrative in some of his past films: “I remember starting to shoot Super 8 and Star Trek: Into Darkness and feeling like I hadn’t really solved some fundamental story problems.” For this film, Abrams seems more confident about the result, perhaps because of all the planning and help from his co-writers.

“I find that I am most happy when I have boundaries,” Abrams clarified later in the interview, referring to the first season of Lost. The Star Wars project thankfully had boundaries in terms of expected scope and length — yet it is also “boundless,” in Abrams’ words, due to the massive opportunity offered by its story, characters, and world. How did Abrams pin down what would be most important, then?

I asked questions like “How do we make this movie delightful?” That was really the only requirement Larry and I imposed on each other: The movie needed to be delightful. It was not about explaining everything away, not about introducing a certain number of toys for a corporation, not about trying to appease anyone. This has only ever been about what gets us excited.

“Delightful” sounds like a good place towards which to strive — although hitting that balance while simultaneously navigating the massive amounts of pressure from both fans and corporate entities? That’s gotta be tough for any creator. It sounds to me like Abrams has the stress well in hand, though. What do you all think?

(via The Verge, image via Movie Pilot)

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Maddy Myers
Maddy Myers, journalist and arts critic, has written for the Boston Phoenix, Paste Magazine, MIT Technology Review, and tons more. She is a host on a videogame podcast called Isometric (relay.fm/isometric), and she plays the keytar in a band called the Robot Knights (robotknights.com).