In the future, there will be a list of sci-fi franchise movies J.J. Abrams hasn’t directed, and it will read simply Muppets from Space II. Like most directors and producers, Abrams has done some outstanding work (Alias) and some mediocre work (What About Brian). He's proved through films like 2009’s Star Trek and the Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible films that he can take a preexisting universe and bring out nuances that please both devotees and newcomers. So while I wasn’t disappointed to learn he’ll be directing Star Wars: Episode VII, I’m not exactly jumping for joy.
Is it so wise to leave so many franchises in the hands of one man? And are there other, lesser-known directors who could bring the kind of verve to Star Wars that George Lucas had way back in '77?
Neill Blomkamp, who directed 2009’s critically acclaimed District 9, has a background in visual effects, and could have brought back some of the grittiness of the original Star Wars trilogy. Fortunately, I don't have to wait long to see his next release Elysium,starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster.
Call me crazy, but Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright could’ve made for a strange but fun choice for a Episode VII. In 2010's Scott Pilgrim vs. The World he showed he could direct big action sequences with heart. If your favorite line from A New Hope is "Get this big walking carpet out of my way," Wright is the director who can give you funny, sweet and stabby all at the same time.
According to rumor, Ben Affleck was a frontrunner to helm the new Star Wars, and there's no word yet as to why he wasn't selected. Affleck hasn't directed a sci-fi movie, but until the Oscar-nominated Argo he hadn't directed a film set outside of Boston. The Star Wars universe is full of unsavory characters and seedy planets where the rule of law doesn't apply. The director of The Town and Gone Baby Gone might have given us some truly vile villains to root against.
Is Abrams a bad choice? No. Is he a safe choice? Certainly. The stakes are high for this film, and I don't blame Disney for making a safe bet. But in an alternate universe, I'm imagining Greedo with a South Boston accent.