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January 25, 2013

‘Star Wars’: A new hope? 7 things we want from a J.J. Abrams film

Posted in: Movies

J.J. Abrams, who has made a name for himself writing, directing and producing such hits as "Lost" and "Star Trek," was tapped in January to direct "Star Wars: Episode VII." (Tracey Nearmy / European Pressphoto Agency)

Abrams made his first foray into television in 1998, co-creating the coming-of-age drama "Felicity," which starred Keri Russell as the title character. The show won a Golden Globe and an Emmy. (The WB)

Abrams created the Jennifer Garner-starring spy thriller series "Alias," which won four Emmys and a Golden Globe. (Norman Jean Roy / ABC)

J.J. Abrams on the set of "Mission: Impossible III," the first feature film he directed. The film earned nearly $400 million at the worldwide box office. (Paramount Pictures)

Director J.J. Abrams and star Tom Cruise on the set of "Mission: Impossible III." (Paramount Pictures)

Director J.J. Abrams and star Tom Cruise pose atop Shanghai's historic Bund 18 building after wrapping up filming in China for "Mission: Impossible III" on Nov. 30, 2005. (Associated Press)

Abrams co-created "Lost" with Jeffrey Lieber and Damon Lindelof. The suspense-filled show followed a group of people after their plane crashed on an island. The massively popular series became a cultural touchstone, with millions of viewers tuning in for twist after twist. (ABC)

J.J. Abrams is photographed in Los Angeles in April 2006. (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

J.J. Abrams, second from left, poses with the cast members from "Fringe," a sci-fi television series he co-created with Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. (Rich Lam / Getty Images)

J.J. Abrams reveals his first casting for his 2009 reboot of "Star Trek" during a 2007 Comic-Con panel in San Diego. (Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times)

A scene from Abrams' 2009 film "Star Trek," which raked in more than $385 million worldwide. (Paramount Pictures)

Steven Spielberg, left, co-produced the 2011 film "Super 8," which J.J. Abrams wrote and directed. The pair are shown here at a 2009 dinner honoring Spielberg in Beverly Hills. (Michael Kovac / WireImage)

J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg on the set of "Super 8." (Paramount Pictures)

Director J.J. Abrams and actor Kyle Chandler on the set of "Super 8." (Paramount Pictures)

Young actors Joel Courtney and Riley Griffiths discuss a scene with director J.J. Abrams on the set of "Super 8." (Paramount Pictures)

J.J. Abrams, left, and Eric Kripke executive produce the post-apocalyptic adventure series "Revolution." The pair are photographed here at Abrams' company Bad Robot in Santa Monica on Aug. 20, 2012. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Abrams, second from left, shares the stage with "Star Trek Into Darkness" actor Benedict Cumberbatch, star Chris Pine and producer Bryan Burk during a December 2012 press conference for the sequel to their 2009 blockbuster. (Koji Sasahara / Associated Press)

J.J. Abrams and his wife Katie McGrath are co-chairs of the Children's Defense Fund of California. They're photographed here in December 2012. (Mark Davis / Getty Images)

J.J. Abrams is photographed in Beverly Hills in June 2011. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

J.J. Abrams is photographed in Beverly Hills in June 2011. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

It’s no secret that J.J. Abrams knows his way around a mystery. So maybe fans shouldn’t have been quite so surprised to hear the news that he’ll be the guiding force behind the camera for the next big-screen “Star Wars” film — maybe all those publicly issued denials were simply an expert act of misdirection?

The man who most recently has been spending the bulk of his time guiding the latest incarnation of “Star Trek” on the big screen had insisted for weeks that he wouldn’t be jumping franchises to board “Episode VII,” though he did reveal to Empire in an interview late last year that he’d been approached about the project.

“I quickly said that because of my loyalty to ‘Star Trek,’ and also just being a fan, I wouldn’t even want to be involved in the next version of those things,” Abrams told Empire. “I declined any involvement very early on. I’d rather be in the audience not knowing what was coming, rather than being involved in the minutiae of making them.”

PHOTOS: ‘Star Wars’ at the box office

Although reaction to Abrams’ selection has been mixed, he’s certainly demonstrated his way around a sc-fi blockbuster — 2009′s “Star Trek” pulled in upwards of $385 million worldwide and anticipation for the May sequel, “Star Trek Into Darkness” is high.

This seemed like an opportune moment to pull together our wish list for what we’d like to see in Abrams’ “Episode VII.”

Feel free to weigh in with your own ideas in the comments section below.

A simple, straightforward story: “Star Wars” is about big, mythic arc, the triumph of good over evil — trade disputes, political maneuvering, not so much. Let’s just see great heroes, intriguing, complicated foes and a righteous quest that would make Joseph Campbell proud.

A bad-ass leading lady: Leia set fan boy hearts aflutter — yeah, yeah, slave bikini, blah, blah — but for a whole generation of young girls, she was a smart, independent, resourceful character, a woman of principle to look up to. Natalie Portman is a terrific actress who’s turned in some astonishing performances in genre fare, but her Padme Amidala just never inspired the same sort of devotion.

An all-new cast of characters: With so many stories to tell in the universe, let’s leave the canonical characters in the past. Yes, there would be a certain wonderful nostalgia in seeing cameos from Luke, Leia and Han Solo, but perhaps something a little too distracting too. Here’s to exploring new galaxies, though if Artoo and Threepio wanted to tag along on that journey, that might be all right.  Those droids age well. And speaking of droids…

Limited CG: Please, please use prosthetic makeup to design creatures that occupy actual physical space. Vividly rendered alien worlds are great, but they’re better when they’re populated with beings that exist in three real-world dimensions. Call us old-fashioned, but we’ll take a giant walking carpet over a CG phantom any day.

Benedict Cumberbatch: So, we still don’t really know much about his “Star Trek Into Darkness” character but, seriously, just listen to that voice. Is there anyone who could make a better Sith Lord? The chameleonic British actor already is beloved by genre fans. He’d be a great addition to the cast in really any role. As would Simon Pegg. Maybe not as a Sith Lord, but there’s no question he could be the cool teacher at, say, a Jedi Academy?

Humor: Bring with the funny. It doesn’t need to be a comedy, certainly, but in its best moments, “Star Wars” warmly embraced action, adventure, romance, pathos and humor, especially with the artfully placed one-liner (preferably delivered in a dry, world-weary manner by a scoundrel-type with a heart of gold who wouldn’t hesitate to shoot a Rodian first). Ahem.

Time travel: It’s a part of nearly every Abrams project. Surely, there must be a way to use the Force for good and erase Jar Jar Binks from existence?

– Gina McIntyre

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex

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